2014 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview

Can Russ Smith do it?

Can Russ Smith do it?

The Midwest Region has the most potential for lottery picks right now with four and is the second most talented region with five more potential first round picks and 11 more draftable prospects in the mix.

As early as the second round of the tournament there are match-ups between first round picks and prospects going head-to-head. Two of the top three picks in the draft are in this region and could make for a full gym of NBA scouts and decision-makers if they both win their first three games.

This region has a mix of really good teams and individual talent. Any one of a half dozen individuals could carry their respective teams for 5-6 games and numerous teams could out weight the play of one individual on any given night.

West RegionEast RegionSouth Region — Midwest Region

Top Rated Prospects (REGIONAL TALENT RATING 2/4)

Potential Lottery: Jabari Parker (No.2), Julius Randle (No.4), Rodney Hood (No.10), and James Young (No.13)

First Round Talents: Aaron Harrison (No.15), Andrew Harrison (No.21), Willie Cauley-Stein (No.22), Russ Smith (No. 29), and Nik Stauskas (No.30)

Best of the Rest: T.J. Warren (No.31), Glenn Robinson III (No.34), Semaj Christon (No.35), Montrezl Harrell (No.36), Rasheed Sulaimon (No.37), Jahii Carson (No.38), Dakari Johnson (No.50), Jarnell Stokes (No.58), Alex Poythress (No.63), Jordan McRae (No.68), and Ron Baker (No.71)

Other Prospects To Watch: Melsahn Basabe (Iowa), Adam Woodbury (Iowa), Amile Jefferson (Duke), Quinn Cook (Duke), Jordan Bachynski (ASU), Jermaine Marshall (ASU), Caris LaVert (Michigan), Cameron Ridley (Texas), Wayne Blackshear (Louisville), Mangok Mathiang (Louisville), Marcus Lee (Kentucky), and Marcus Foster (Kansas State)

Small School Prospects

Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), Fred VanVleet (Wichita State), Langston Hall (Mercer), Jordair Jett (Saint Louis), Aaric Murray (Texas Southern), and Chris Eversley (Cal Poly)

Game To Watch

No. 8 Seed Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 9 Seed Kansas State Wildcats

How fascinating would it be to see one unheralded freshman take out a parade of highly touted freshman that were supposed to cut down the nets? While Marcus Foster is not an “unknown” anymore, he is not looked at in the same regard as Julius Randle, the Harrison Twins, James Young, and the other freshmen that made this another No. 1 Overall Recruiting Class for the Kentucky Wildcats. This season Kentucky as been very inconsistent despite getting to the final of the SEC Tournament during a stretch where they have been playing better overall. If Foster gets going and the Kentucky Blue Wildcats play loose with the ball this one could go in the favor of the Purple and White Wildcats.

Potential Match-Ups

No. 2 Seed Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 3 Seed Duke Blue Devils (Robinson III vs. Parker)

No. 1 Seed Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 4 Seed Louisville Cardinals (Baker vs. Smith)

No.1 Seed Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 9 Seed Kentucky Wildcats (Early vs. Randle)

Most To Gain

If you look at the career arch of Russ Smith it is one of the more interesting ones of any individual in this tournament. Four years ago he was a little used reserve, as a sophomore he was a shot first hit-or-miss liability, then as a junior he was a spark that led the Cardinals to a National Championship. This year he has morphed into a leader that is capable of 42 point scoring outbursts and 13 assist nights leading his team in a variety of ways when called upon. He is the quickest player in the country with the ball and has the ability to carry the team for 4-6 games into a Final Four and a repeat as Champions. With that, added leadership and winning, Smith has the potential to change more minds and become a mid-first round pick.

Most To Lose

The jury is still out on Carson on whether he is a Trey Burke and Isaiah Thomas type of tiny point guard or if he is another score first athlete in a point guards frame. There is no doubting the physical skills in terms of speed and athleticism with Carson, but he has been inconsistent as a leader. The Sun Devils are not the most talented team in the field, but Carson is one of the most talented individuals in this tournament. An early exit, just like with any other fringe first round prospect in any region, could lead to Carson falling out of favor sliding down boards. Early word is that Carson wants to leave early, but that most teams are of the opinion that he could use another year in college.

Elite Eight Representatives

No. 4 Seed Louisville Cardinals over the No. 3 Seed Duke Blue Devils