NCAA Tournament Midwest Region preview.
Get to know No. 1
Kansas (28-4, RPI 3, SOS 23)
The Jayhawks’ Big 12 tournament loss to TCU was surprising, but don’t discount the dominance they displayed this season or the potential they have. They went 8-2 against the RPI top 50 and won their 13th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title. This is the second straight season Kansas is a top seed.
No. 11 Rhode Island
The Atlantic 10 tournament champion Rams were a top-25 team earlier this season but got bitten by the injury bug. They have victories against Cincinnati and VCU and narrow losses to Duke (10 points) and Dayton (three points and one point). First-round opponent Creighton is susceptible.
Best first-round matchup
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State
Both teams have shown resilience. The Wolverines won the Big Ten tournament after their plane to Washington aborted takeoff and skidded off a runway. They’ve won 10 of their last 12. The Cowboys started the Big 12 season 0-6 but rallied to finish 9-9. They need to regroup again after three straight losses.
No. 9 seed Michigan State has been to 20 straight NCAA Tournaments. … The nation’s longest winning streak at 21 games belongs to No. 13 Vermont. … Purdue’s No. 4 seed is its highest since 2011; the Boilermakers haven’t won a tournament game since 2012 with opening-round losses the last two seasons. … The season-ending loss of Oregon’s Chris Boucher to an ACL tear in the Pac-12 tournament is a blow to the Ducks’ chances. He averaged 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
Players to watch
Frank Mason III, Kansas
Few expected this kind of jump out of Mason before the season. The 5-foot-11 point guard went from averaging 12.9 points as a junior to 20.8 and is a national player of the year candidate. Mason shoots 48.7 percent from the field; works his way to the free-throw line, where he connects on 78.4 percent; and doles out 5.1 assists per game.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Swanigan’s story of transforming his body and his life has become as well-known as his imposing play. The sophomore power forward has a chance to dominate in the tournament after recording 26 double-doubles this season and averaging 18.7 points and 12.6 rebounds.
Monte Morris, Iowa State
After the Cyclones fell short in previous seasons, Morris has helped mold them into a potentially dangerous tournament team. The senior has been consistently one of the nation’s top point guards, averaging 16.3 points and 6.1 assists.
(c)2017 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.