NCAA Tournament Preview: Odds, Sleepers And Pick For Midwest Region
Are we destined for an all-Texas showdown in the Elite Eight?
Everything is bigger in the Midwest region of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
The top two seeds in the region are the Houston Cougars and Texas Longhorns, a pair of programs perhaps destined for an Elite Eight showdown in Kansas City. Both teams are shorter than 20-1 to win it all with Houston entering the tournament as the favorite to cut down the nets at NRG Stadium.
Of course, there are 14 other teams planning on ending the Lonestar State’s top teams’ dance before they even get to that game. Coincidentally, one of the teams that could do that before the first weekend is over is No. 7 Texas A&M, a team that has knocked off four top-20 teams this season.
Here’s a preview of the Midwest region, including a pair of picks from NESN betting analyst Sam Panayotovich.
Midwest region field:
(Odds to win region via FanDuel Sportsbook)
1. Houston (+120)
2. Texas (+400)
3. Xavier (+950)
4. Indiana (+1000)
5. Miami (+1600)
6. Iowa State (+2000)
7. Texas A&M (+1100)
8. Iowa (+2500)
9. Auburn (+3500)
10. Penn State (+3700)
11. Miss. State (+7000)/Pitt (+8500)
12. Drake (+7000)
13. Kent State (+8000)
14. Kennesaw State (+25000)
15. Colgate (+20000)
16. Northern Kentucky (+25000)
Player to watch: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
The Hoosiers are one of the teams in this region best poised to knock off the Texas two-step, and Jackson-Davis is a big reason why. His NBA prospects might not be as high as Houston’s Jarace Walker or even teammate Jalen Hood-Schifino, but Jackson-Davis can fill it up. The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 21 points per game this season, going off for 30 four different times. He averaged 25 points per game over IU’s last four games and is a legitimate triple-double threat on top of that. If the Hoosiers can fend off upset-minded Kent State in the first round, the blueblood could make a deep run with Jackson-Davis stealing the show.
Upset alert: No. 12 Drake vs. No. 5 Miami
The Bulldogs have taken care of business this season, especially recently. Drake won 16 of its last 18 games, including the Missouri Valley Conference title game over Bradley. The competition in that run obviously isn’t great, but 12 of those wins came by at least 13 points, including six by at least 20. Miami might be shorthanded, too, after losing big man Norchad Omier to injury in the ACC tournament.
SAMMY P’S PICKS
Pick to win region: No. 2 Texas (+400)
I refuse to go against my guys. After watching Texas throttle Gonzaga in mid-November, I made my burnt orange bed at +1500. The Longhorns have endless talent, an efficient offense and a suffocating defense. And sure-handed senior guard Marcus Carr is the guy you want to have the ball with the game on the line. Texas can beat anybody on its best night, even Houston.
Sleeper: Kent State
The Golden Flashes are no joke. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but they were extremely battle-tested in the regular season. Losses at Houston (by five), Gonzaga (by eight) and Charleston (by two) were impressive and those are the type of games that get you ready for March Madness. Sincere Carry is a special guard who’s capable of guiding Kent State to the Sweet 16.