Roberto Soltero, 23 Sports

The Midwest region included the least amount of interesting games during the first round of the tournament, it included many teams running away with games and provided little late game drama. Let’s take a look at the teams that are headed into the sweet sixteen in the Midwest region.

Sweet 16 matchups in the Midwest region:

No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 5 Clemson Tigers

The Jayhawks had a little trouble to start their first-round game against Penn but had a good second half that led them to win by 16. Kansas faced Seton Hall in their second-round game and the game went down to the wire. The Jayhawks escaped with an 83-79 win. The Clemson Tigers, the football school, surprised many this season with their tremendous defense. The Tigers won their first game against New Mexico State and later destroyed the higher seeded Auburn Tigers. Don’t get me wrong the Jayhawks are good team but I think Clemson’s defense is really good. I think if Clemson can stop either one of Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman the Tigers might actually beat the top seeded Jayhawks. Of course, they also have to defend the three-point line and limit Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk from draining down the long ball. Another thing that the Tigers need to do is rebound the basketball at a high rate because Udoka Azubuike is a rebounding machine. The players who needs to show out for Clemson is guard Gabe DeVoe. DeVoe scored 44 points combined in the first two rounds of the tournament. It is never easy to beat a Bill Self coach team but this game can go down to the wire. I’m picking the Tigers to win this game based on their defense and because I feel when Kansas plays a tough defensive team they play bad. Kansas also lost two games against a mediocre Oklahoma State team who didn’t even make the tournament. One of those games the Jayhawks lost by 18 points. I like the chances the Tigers have to win this game.

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 11 Syracuse Orange

All those people that believed Michigan State will reach the Final Four may have had the Spartans beating the Orange by a lot. You should never trust on the Spartans when they reach the tournament. They’ve had many different teams in recent years that disappoint in the tournament. They played this year in a really weak Big Ten conference and Syracuse showed the Spartans flaws. Give the Orange credit they battled all game long and their zone defense was spectacular in that game. Michigan State shouldn’t have been a third seed in the tournament. They barely beat Bucknell in their first-round game. Now Syracuse will have a tough time against the Blue Devils. I don’t think there’s a specific player on Syracuse that can stop Marvin Bagley. Duke has been great from the three-point line in their first two games of the tournament. The Blue Devils have shot 45 percent from three in their first two games. They beat Iona by 22 and Rhode Island by 25. With all the upsets that have happen I’m not counting the Orange out. Duke is not Michigan State they are a better all-around team than the Spartans. If Syracuse zone defense is on point against Duke then the Orange have a chance.

Possible Elite Eight Matchup: 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. 5 Clemson Tigers

Again, the Blue Devils will face a tough defensive team in Clemson but I see them escaping with the victory. I think Clemson has more of a chance this game than Syracuse because the Tigers are a better offensive team. I think the key for the Blue Devils to win this game is to move the ball more. They need to create has many chances as possible because if not Clemson will make them pay. I like this matchup a lot because it includes one of the best offensive teams in Duke and one of the best defensive teams in Clemson. If you would have asked me in the beginning of the season that we could see this ACC matchup I would have thought you were crazy. In their only matchup this season, the Blue Devils took the win over Clemson on the road. Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. have to be active on the boards in this game. Key for Clemson again is for their defense to be spot on and their regular scorers need to have good games because if not I don’t see how the Blue Devils lose.

How Duke advances to the Final Four?

Duke needs to knock down the long ball. They’ve done it the first two games at a tremendous rate and they don’t look like their slowing down. Grayson Allen has to be a leader the rest of the way. The best I’ve seen of Grayson Allen is when he dominated Wisconsin 3 years ago in the championship game. If that type of Grayson Allen shows out I wouldn’t give another team a chance. He needs to be smart and provide for others. Gary Trent Jr. needs to be that 41 percent three-point shooter he was during the regular season. Trevon Duval needs to be a facilitator of the bench for Duke. The freshman is good and I think he can impress the scouts with a good showing. Bagley and Carter Jr need to have a knack for the ball to win these next few games. Bagley can score the ball at a high rate and if he continues to do that I see Duke advancing and maybe going to the championship game.

How Clemson advances to the Final Four?

Defense. Defense. Defense. You’re not going to beat Duke by playing sloppy defense, you just won’t. I mean name out a bad offensive team in the Mike Krzyzewski era. You can barely find one because he always has a good offense. Clemson allows 65.5 points per game, that puts them as the 23rd best defensive team in the nation. They need Gabe DeVoe to be the leader, they need their bigs to play as hard as they can and they can’t allow easy baskets. To advance to the Final Four they can’t get behind in a possible game against Duke. Everyone needs to be efficient for the Tigers. DeVoe can’t be your only scorer they need another player to have a good offensive game. I believe that Clemson will do just fine defensively but they need more weapons offensively if there are trying to make the Final Four.