Bracket Breakdown: Everything you need to know to fill out the Midwest Region



MORE REGIONAL PREVIEWSEast | South | Midwest | West

There’s not going to be a less competitive region than the Midwest this season, which seems like a lock to send Kentucky to the Final Four.

But the irony is that there may not be a more intriguing bracket than the Midwest. The No. 4 and No. 5 seeds could both end up being upset in the opening round of the tournament. Butler vs. Texas and Wichita State vs. Indiana are as juicy as opening round matchups can get. Kansas isn’t a lock to get past their No. 15 seed, and if they do, a matchup with in-state “rival” Wichita State could be waiting.

Things could get wild in this region … until people play Kentucky.

MORERead through all of our bracket analysis here

Three story lines to watch

  • 1. The Chase for Perfection: Kentucky is six wins away from going 40-0 this season. I don’t think there’s a real threat to beat them in the Midwest.
  • 2. Is Rick Barnes coaching for his job?: Depending on who you ask, the end of the Rick Barnes era in Austin may be coming to a close. Let’s assume, for a second, that he needs to make a long run in the NCAA tournament in order to keep from being forced into retirement. If he doesn’t, and Texas does open up, that will be one of the most highly-sought after jobs in the country because Texas is, at the very worst a top ten job nationally. Between the salary, the money the athletic department has and the relative lack of pressure at a football school, there’s an argument to be made that Texas is one of the four or five best jobs in the country. Just wait until you see the names that would get in the mix, which would really throw this coaching carousel for a loop.
  • 3. Indiana owns this bracket: Not the team, the state. There are five programs from the state of Indiana in the Midwest: No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 6 Butler, No. 9 Purdue, No. 10 Indiana, No. 13 Valparaiso.

The Elite 8 matchup is…?: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

Kentucky is obvious here, but I think this is the season that Notre Dame actually puts together a run in the NCAA tournament. That’s how much I like this team. They’re lethal from beyond the arc, Jerian Grant is as good as anyone at creating open looks for those shooters and Demetrius Jackson has been playing great of late. The Irish are coming off of an impressive win in the ACC tournament.

MORE: Did the committee pick the right No. 1 seeds? | What about the bubble teams?

Final Four sleeper: No. 11 Texas

AP Photo

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Texas. Whatever.

But keep this in mind: The Longhorns have the kind of talent on their roster to be a top ten team, and they seemed to finally find their footing late in the season, regardless of whether or not they blew that lead to Iowa State. They have the size to overwhelm Butler and Notre Dame, and anything can happen if they square off with Kansas in the Sweet 16.

Upsets that CAN happen

  • No. 12 Buffalo over No. 5 West Virginia: The Bulls are dangerous. They have a pair of good guards, a requirement against West Virginia’s pressure, and the athletes up front to handle the Mountaineer bigs. Oh, and Bobby Hurley is their coach.
  • No. 13 Valparaiso over No. 4 Maryland: Maryland doesn’t blow teams out, and in March, anything can happen in close games. If Valpo can slow down Dez Wells and Melo Trimble, they’ll have a real shot.
  • No. 7 Wichita State over No. 2 Kansas: The Jayhawks could very well be without Cliff Alexander in this tournament, and there’s no telling if Perry Ellis or Wayne Selden will be back to 100 percent by the time the games kick off this week. And the Shockers were underseeded as a No. 7. More on KU in a minute…

Upsets that WON’T happen

  • Anyone over No. 1 Kentucky: There are six teams that have a real shot of beating Kentucky this season. None of them are in the Midwest.

Feeling like gambling?

  • No. 15 New Mexico State over No. 2 Kansas: This New Mexico State team is a very, very dangerous No. 15 seed. They’ve been to a number of NCAA tournaments in Marvin Menzies’ tenure, and part of the reason they struggled at times this season was that they played with their two best players for a long stretch early in the season. They’re healthy now, and they get that banged up Kansas team.

MORE: All-AmericansPlayer of the Year | Coach of the Year | Freshman of the Year

The studs you know about

  • “The Lexington Skyline”, Kentucky: Karl Towns might be the No. 1 pick and Willie Cauley-Stein is the nation’s best defender. CBS announcer Ian Eagle coined the nickname on a broadcast earlier this month.
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: I’d argue that Grant is the MVP of college basketball this season. No one, and I mean NO ONE, is as important to his team as Grant is to the Fighting Irish. He’s not only a lethal scorer, but he creates so many open looks for teammates.
  • Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker, Wichita State: A year after entering the NCAA tournament undefeated, the Shockers were once again led by Van Vleet and Baker this season, finishing 28-4 on the year.
  • Frank Mason, Kansas: Who had the best player on this Kansas team being the kid that originally committed to Towson? Mason is as tough as they come, and he’s got a habit of hitting big shots for Bill Self.

The studs the nation will find out about

  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: People call the Terps lucky because they’re 11-0 in games decided by six points or less. I call them lucky they were able to get Trimble, because he’s as good of a closer as there is in college basketball.
  • Justin Moss, Buffalo: Moss is a double-double machine for Bobby Hurley’s Bulls, a tough, athletic and undersized power forward that can wear a team down with his energy.
  • Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State: The Aggies got stuck with a No. 15 seed in large part because Mullings was injured for a long stretch this season. Don’t be fooled; he can ball.
  • Alex Peters, Valpo: Peters is a 6-foot-9 stretch four that was the best player on the Horizon League champions.

Best opening round matchups

  • No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Texas: Texas has top ten talent but was one of the most disappointing teams in the country, while Chris Holtmann surprised everyone with just how good and scrappy the Bulldogs were. The Longhorns will likely be favored, and they may need to win to save Rick Barnes’ job.
  • No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 10 Indiana: Two teams built around terrific guard play that couldn’t possibly play different styles of basketball. Indiana relies on Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. to get them up and down the floor, while Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker lead the Shockers in a slower, more deliberate attack.

Matchups to root for

  • No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 7 Wichita State: The two best programs in the state, yet they don’t play during the regular season. If you know a Shocker fan, as them how they feel about this. Now imagine if they play with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Yeah, I know, right?
  • No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Kentucky: The Fighting Irish don’t really do any of the things that a team needs to do to beat Kentucky, but they’re just so lights-out from beyond the arc that I can see them pulling off an upset by hitting 17 threes.

CBT Predictions: Kentucky. Come on. Like I’m picking against them.

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

ncaa charge
Jordan Prather/USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

marquette smart
1 Comment

MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.