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2016 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview

Photo: Mike Carter-USATSI
Photo: Mike Carter-USATSI

We’re continuing our 2016 NCAA Tournament preview by evaluating each region to help you get ready for the fun of March Madness!

We kicked things off by taking a look at the West Region, which is where Duke will try to make its way through the bracket. Be sure to check out our full West Region preview.

Next up is the Midwest Region.

Let’s get to the players and teams you should keep an eye on in this part of the bracket.

Best Opening Game: No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 13 Iona

If you enjoy up-tempo, free flowing basketball with good spacing and shooting, tune in to see Iowa State take on Iona. The Gaels are one of the best shooting teams in the country and they’re led by senior guard A.J. English, who averages over 22 points per game.

Iowa State has possibly the most skilled big man in college basketball in Georges Niang. The Cyclones were upset in their opening game last year. Let’s see if they’ve learned their lesson.

Upset Alert: No. 3 Utah vs. No. 14 Fresno State

Despite being a 14-seed, Fresno State enters the NCAA Tournament on a 9-game winning streak and has tons of momentum after winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament this past weekend. The Bulldogs have the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in Marvelle Harris. He averages 20.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and over two steals per game.

Fresno State will have its hands full with Utah big man Jakob Poeltl, but this is a team playing with lots of confidence, which is always dangerous in March.

Best Player: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Tom Izzo could have the National Player of the Year at Michigan State this season in senior forward Denzel Valentine. He’s one of the most versatile players in college basketball and has a chance to record a triple double every time he steps on the court. Valentine is averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists for the Spartans and has the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways.

Final Four Prediction: Michigan State

As much as I’d love to see Tony Bennett and Virginia get over the hump and reach a Final Four, the selection committee keeps putting Michigan State in their way. I think the Spartans are the most complete team in this region and they have the experience and talent to make another deep postseason run. In my opinion, Michigan State should have been a No. 1 seed.

Last year’s Final Four appearance for Michigan State was something of a shock. This year, anything less than a trip to Houston would be viewed as a disappointment.

Which team is your pick to win the Midwest? Let me know on Twitter at @davidmaldridge. You’re also invited to show off your skills by taking part in our Duke Report Bracket Challenge!