Road to the Final Four | Midwest

Louisville has plenty of prime competition in Midwest

Russ Smith leads the Cardinals in scoring (18.1).
Russ Smith leads the Cardinals in scoring (18.1).

A look at the 16 teams that make up the Midwest bracket of the NCAA tournament:

Upset specials: Oregon over Oklahoma State, Cincinnati over Creighton

Sweet 16 picks: Louisville, Saint Louis, Michigan State, Duke


Regional champion: Louisville

1. Louisville (29-5)

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When the Cardinals press and run, they’re maybe the best team in the country. You might know about point guard Peyton Siva; you should know about Russ Smith, who leads the Cardinals in scoring (18.1), and Gorgui Dieng, who nearly averages a double-double (10.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg).

2. Duke (27-5)

This is pretty much a five-man team, but they’re all good, and all average in double figures. Ryan Kelly (14.3 ppg) missed 13 games with a foot injury, but he’s back.

3. Michigan State (25-8)

Tom Izzo has taken the Spartans to six Final Fours since 1999, but none since 2010. Guard Keith Appling (13.6 ppg) leads three players who average in double figures.

4. Saint Louis (27-6)

Rick Majerus was supposed to coach this team but he died early in the season. The Billikens are the nation’s best defensive team; they don’t just make it hard to score, they disrupt opponents.

5. Oklahoma State (24-8)


There might not be a better freshman in the country than Marcus Smart, who averages 15.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.9 steals. Oklahoma State has wins over Kansas and N.C. State, and lost to top-ranked Gonzaga by 1.

6. Memphis (30-4)

The Tigers ran roughshod over a weak Conference USA, going 19-0 counting the tournament. When challenged out of conference they came up short, so they’ve got a lot to prove.

7. Creighton (27-7)

The Bluejays are led by 6-8 forward Doug McDermott, who averages 23.1 ppg while shooting 56 percent overall and 50 percent on threes and grabbing 7.5 rebounds.

8. Colorado State (25-8)

The Rams lead the nation in rebounding margin at an amazing plus-12.1. The outside threat is constant motion guard Dorian Green (12.8 ppg).

9. Missouri (23-10)

Six players average in double figures, so the Tigers don’t have much trouble scoring. They also are second in the country in rebounding, and outrebound opponents by nearly 10 per game.

10. Cincinnati (22-11)


The Bearcats’ top three scorers are upperclass guards: Sean Kilpatrick (16.9), Cashmere Wright (12.6), and JaQuon Parker (11.3).

11. Middle Tennessee (28-5)/Saint Mary’s (27-6)

For the second straight year the Blue Raiders blew it in the Sun Belt tournament after dominating the regular season. They got a surprising at-large bid . . . Half of the Gaels’ losses were to Gonzaga so they’ll prove to be a difficult opponent.

12. Oregon (26-8)

The Ducks might be peaking at the right time, winning three games in three days to win the Pac-12 tournament. Oregon relies on E.J. Singler (11.5 ppg), but super sub Carlos Emory (11.0 ppg) provides instant offense off the bench.

13. New Mexico State (24-10)

The Aggies won 18 of their last 20 games en route to the WAC title. They have eight foreign players; the most imposing is Canadian Sim Bhullar, a 7-5, 360-pound center.

14. Valparaiso (26-7)

Second-year coach Bryce Drew got Valpo to the tournament just like his father Homer did. He mostly relies on two imports, 6-7 Aussie Ryan Broekhoff (15.9 ppg) and 6-8 Dutchman Kevin Van Wijk (12.7).

15. Albany (24-10)

The Great Danes won the America East tournament by upsetting top-seeded Stony Brook and then winning at Vermont, taking the school’s third NCAA bid. Two small guards, Mike Black (14.9 ppg) and Jacob Iati (12.1), lead the attack.

16. North Carolina A&T (19-16)/Liberty (15-20)

The top four seeds in the MEAC tournament lost in the quarterfinals. That left it wide open and the Aggies took it . . . Only the second team with 20 losses to reach the NCAAs, the Flames qualified by winning the Big South tournament.