And then he rested.
The teams have played their games. The Selection Committee has chosen their teams and given them numeric value. There’s no more wondering about who goes where. We know, and now it’s about who wins and who loses. March is fully set and upon us.
The Boilers have been given the Midwest region and a 4 seed. There was concern their loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament would cost them to slip even further, but instead, the B10 regular season champs will get the 4-seed and a matchup against the Vermont Catamounts. It’s barely minutes since we found out, but let’s take a way too quick look at the Midwest Region.
#1 - Kansas
According to Kenpom, clearly the weakest of the #1 seeds. Kansas comes in at the 10th best team according to Ken, and they are heavily reliant on their possible national player of the year Frank Mason. He brings a toughness and control to the game that will be hard to overcome. But the X-factor is Josh Jackson, the soon to be lottery pick and freshman is a combination of size and length and athleticism that Purdue will struggle to contain. But despite all their length and talent, Self has a team with a top-10 offense but the 30th best defense in the country compared to Kenpom. That tells me they’re not the kind of team to make it all the way to the championship game and winning it.
#2 - Louisville
Weak #1 seed? Maybe. Strong #2 seed? Absolutely. Louisville ranks out as the 6th best team in the nation according to Kenpom. They rank as the 23rd best offense and 6th best defense in the country, much closer to looking like a potential National Champion. (It’s very rare a Nation Champion isn’t both a top-20 offense and defense.) Of course, Louisville is a familiar match-up Purdue as the two teams faced off in Louisville back in November. Louisville’s length and athleticism created all kinds of problems for Purdue despite a late surge by the Boilermakers, the Cardinals still won 71-64. It would not shock me if Louisville isn’t the favorite to get out of the bracket.
#3 - Oregon
Oregon comes in as Kenpom’s 16th best team, but it’s hard to know what the Pac-12 champions really are now. They lost starting center Chris Boucher to an ACL injury in their conference tournament and was treated like a team that missed his rebounding and blocking by Arizona in their championship game. Boucher is one of the nation’s best rebounder and has the 10th highest block rate in the country. Before the injury and loss to Arizona, there was talk of Oregon as being a possible #1 team and Dillon Brooks is one of the best players in the nation, but the Ducks will have to realign themselves without their best defensive big man.
Purdue is ranked as the 15th best team by Kenpom. It’s the 24th best offense and 16th best defense in the nation. But numbers don’t matter. Purdue is in Milwaukee to exorcise some demons after back to back heart breaking over time losses in the first round of the tournament.
#5 Iowa State
How close is this bracket? Well, Kenpom has Iowa State just behind Purdue and Oregon as the 17th best team in the country. They’re the 13th best offensive team in the nation and the 43rd best defense. Which means they’re a better version of the team they were last year when Purdue thought they were going to play them in the second round. Iowa St. is the 3rd most responsible with the ball teams in America with the 27th most effective field goal percentage. They’re a dangerous offensive team and Monte Morris is a bona fide stud. He scores 16 points a game and 6 assists while only turning the ball over once a game. He might be the best player on the court on any day. This is not a nice second round matchup.
A solid team, Creighton is ranked 27th in kenpom with the 32nd best offense and 40th best defense. They’ve beat Butler twice, proving they can play with anyone, but they are the midnight line, where Cinderellas start to turn to pumpkins. They’ve struggled to win games late in the season. They finished their season 7-8 for their last 15 games. If they have March success, it’ll be all about them getting hot. They’re one of the best shooting teams in the nation.
Ugh. Kenpom has them at 21. They are a legit national title contender. They have length and playmakers everywhere. They could also get bounced in the first round, but don’t hold your breath. They are a nightmare matchup and have beaten Purdue twice. Boo. This is the committee trolling us.
#8 Miami (Fla.)
They’ve got the 32nd best team according to Kenpom and a top 20 defense, but they struggle to score points. They’re the 68th best offense which makes them the first team with a real weakness in the bracket. They play slow and they defend. They will harass and try to get at every pass and shot. Any game with Miami will be ugly.
#9 Michigan State
It’s an Izzo team, so is a historic run to the Final Four on the line or a first round exit? The truth is, this team just isn’t that good. They rank as the 66th best offense and 34th best defense and Miles Bridges is a stud and Nick Ward has been effective, but they just don’t have the guard play to get buckets when it matters. They lack play-makers and consistent shooting that could lead to a surprising upset in the second round.
#10 Oklahoma State
One of the more fascinating teams in the country. Kenpom has them as the 24th best team in the nation even though they have 133rd worst defense in the nation. How is that possible? According to kenpom, they have the very best offense in the nation. The Cowboys offense relies on 3 point shooting - 8th best percentage in the nation - and getting offensive rebounds. They have the 6th best offensive rebound percent in the coverage. They retrieve 38% of their misses. They might combine with Michigan for 200 points.
#11 Rhode Island
An early pick for one of the favorite Cinderellas. The A10 team was probably an at-large even if they didn’t win their conference tournament and Kenpom has them as the 37th best team in the country. They have the 32nd best defense and 64th best offense. They value possessions - top 60 in both offensive rebounds and turnover rate. What they do well is guard the perimeter, teams have shot the second lowest percentage from deep against them in the nation - a fascinating juxtaposition set up with a sharp-shooting Creighton team.
Nevada is a top-heavy, roster limited squad on the rise with a certain former Boiler sitting out a year on their roster. They’re Kenpom’s 55th best team in the nation with a defense just outside the top-100 and the 34th best offense. They shoot the 3 well and defend it well, but they lack size with no player taller than 6’8”.
A team Purdue is familiar with, having blown them out last year. This year’s Vermont squad is Kenpom’s 63rd best team. They’re consistent on both sides of the ball: 61st on offense, 66th on defense. They play slow and hunt good looks. They shoot the ball well from inside the arc and make 36.7% of their 3’s. But like most lower seeded teams, they lack premiere height. They don’t have a player over 6’8” which is a problem when you’re trying to upset a team with the Alabama version of the bad guy from Rocky.
And now we’re here to the - we’re just here to enjoy the trip because we won a bad conference line. A steep drop in Kenpom rating, Iona is the 118th best team in the nation. They have a decent offense - 69th best - but their defense ranks outside the top 200. Hard to imagine they will have any effect on anyone’s bracket unless someone accidentally misreads the n as a w.
#15 Jacksonville State
158th best team in the nation. They play glacier slow with one 7-footer and a bunch of guys 6’8 or smaller.
Letters will square off against the 1-seed Kansas and we’re almost to 1500 words so I’m gonna sign off.
Here’s the overall view: A bracket without the top-seeded power of the other brackets where the 2-seed might have a better national title chance than the 1-seed, a 3-seed reeling from an injury that might have cost them a 1-seed, but anyone 1-7 could walk out of the bracket. Purdue will have an easy first game and a very tough match-up against one of the best players in the country in the second round. A looming rematch against a couple teams that have beat Purdue could be waiting if Purdue can rid themselves of their first weekend ghosts.
Welcome to March Madness.