Iowa could stay hot in the Midwest

There could be some surprises as Chicago’s Midwest region begins to take shape.

There are several teams that you can use to talk yourself into going deep into the bracket. If Big Ten player of the year Johnny Davis is right, then No. 3 Wisconsin is a major threat. So is Big East Regular Season Champion Providence as a fourth seed. Big Ten tournament winner Iowa, the fifth seed, is piping hot. Sixth-ranked LSU still has plenty of talent, and maybe the firing of coach Will Wade removes a dark cloud that has followed this program. An Elite Eight matchup between No. 1 Kansas and second-seeded Auburn is far from certain. Let’s call this the sleeper region.

Bracket Buster: #9 Creighton

Greg McDermott’s Bluejays were a few games away from winning their first Big East Tournament, but in those three days at the Garden they showed they could make noise in March. If 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner can continue to play at the elite level and Creighton heats up from deep like they did in the first two games in New York City, Kansas will be beatable in the second round.

Angry observation of the first round

No. 13 South Dakota State via No. 4 Providence

Providence was destroyed by Craighton in the Big East Tournament
Providence was destroyed by Craighton in the Big East Tournament
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Was it a bad day the Friars’ ugly 27-point loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament, or a sign that this team had played 25 of their first 29 games overhead? Most likely it was somewhere in between. However, Providence gets a live underdog here in the Jackrabbits, the nation’s top three-point shooter team with 44.9 percent who have won 21 straight games.

Best First Round Matchup

No. 6 LSU vs. No. 11 Iowa State

Intrigue surrounds LSU after it parted ways with troubled Wade on Saturday and made assistant Kevin Nickelberry his temporary replacement. The Tigers still have high-end talent and a defense that ranks among the best in the country, despite their recent struggles that have included losing four of their last seven games. Iowa State, which has nine Quad 1 victories, can make a similar claim. Both teams missed the consistency.

Betting on March Madness 2022?

Unsung player: G Izaiah Brockington, State of Iowa

Selected last of the Big 12, the Cyclones were one of the biggest upsets of the year in coach TJ Otzelberger’s first season, a nod to how well the transfer portal can work when used correctly. Brockington, the former Penn State guard, made it happen, posting career bests in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, and steals.

Player to watch: F. Jabari Smith, Auburn

Jabari Smith and Auburn are #2 in the Midwest
Jabari Smith and Auburn are #2 in the Midwest
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In some circles, the 6-foot-10 Smith is still considered the top NBA prospect in the country. There’s nothing this versatile winger/forward can’t do as he’s averaged 17.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks this year.

The Post’s Choice: Iowa

This is the sleeper region, after all, and Iowa isn’t playing like a fiver right now. It comes from a Big Ten tournament crown in which it overwhelmed Purdue in the finals, and its only loss since Feb. 17 was a two-point setback in Illinois. Creighton does the Hawkeyes a favor by edging out Kansas in the second round, clearing the way for Keegan Murray and co. to head into an all Big Ten Elite Eight matchup with Wisconsin that upset Auburn in the Sweet 16. There Iowa and Murray retaliate for a January 6 loss in Madison to Davis and the Badgers. Iowa could stay hot in the Midwest


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