Of all the craziness expected from this year's NCAA tournament, I expect the Midwest region to be a bit quieter than expected. 

That doesn't mean you won't have great games, though, since this region has my favorite picks to win the national title. 

The Sweet 16 game between Michigan State and Duke is a national semifinal game many years. Both teams are balanced (Michigan State is top-10 in offensive and defensive efficiency, while Duke is top-10 in offensive efficiency and top-25 in defense). 

And both have the pedigree to make a deep run in the tournament. 

Don't expect me to look at sleepers or upset alerts with those teams. For the rest of the bracket, here's my sleeper and upset alerts for the Midwest region. 


New Mexico State

New Mexico State seems to always be in the NCAA tournament. So I don't have to worry about experience. 

The Aggies have been to the Big Dance seven of the last nine seasons. While that is a nice statistic, New Mexico State still hasn't broken through yet with a win during that timespan.

New Mexico State has one of the better defensive units in the college basketball, with the fourth-best mark in defensive efficiency in the nation. That will be a major asset against a Clemson team that sometimes forgets to play offense. 

I'm really not intimidated by this side of the bracket, with a possible matchup with Auburn in the second round, and a likely date with Kansas in the Sweet 16. 

The offense needs to start clicking more consistently for New Mexico State, but Zach Lofton is good enough to carry this offense for plenty of stretches. There are some weaknesses with New Mexico State, but I like the culture and the elite defense, so they're worth a look as a sleeper in the NCAA tournament. 

First-round upset?

New Mexico State vs. Clemson

This isn't going to be easy, but the Tigers should be on upset alert. 

The Tigers just aren't a consistent unit on the defensive side of the ball. Going long stretches at a time without baskets in March is the kiss of death, especially against teams that you should beat. 

This isn't a guarantee, because New Mexico State also has some difficulties scoring the basketball, but the committee didn't do the Tigers any favors with this first-round matchup. 

College of Charleston vs. Auburn

I don't trust Auburn. The Tigers won the SEC, but lost three of the last four games, including an 18-point loss in the conference tournament to Alabama. 

Defensively, the Tigers are your typical Bruce Pearl team. There's just not enough consistency to warrant much excitement for a deep postseason run. 

Much of why I'm putting the Tigers on upset watch is, well, all about the Tigers. College of Charleston isn't necessarily the best 13-seed of all time. I'm actually surprised the committee seeded the Cougars that high. 

Charleston doesn't play much defense, which is a bad sign against Auburn. The matchup sets up well for the Tigers, but I'm more than reserved about Auburn's future in this tournament based on recent results. 

Best first-round picks

Rhode Island (-2) vs. Oklahoma

Speaking of stumbling to the finish line, how can anybody trust the Sooners? The committee pretty much had to select the Sooners based on the Trae Young hype train, but no matter how many points Young scores, I doubt the Sooners can stop Rhode Island. 

Oklahoma doesn't guard anybody. 

Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews are good enough to score at will for the Rams, so I just don't see the Sooners doing anything to stop them. And Rhode Island is a top-40 defense in efficiency, so I'm favoring Rhode Island in making stops at the end of the game when it matters. -- Go Chalk with Rhode Island

Bucknell vs. Michigan State (-14.5)

The balance of Michigan State is hard to ignore. The inconsistency also is difficult to forget. 

The Spartans have one of the most talented rosters in the country and are probably the most balanced team in the tournament. They also have one of the best coaches in NCAA tournament history at the helm. 

The distractions off the court have probably gotten the most of the Spartans this season. That shouldn't be an issue now, so I'm anticipating a more focused version this month. -- Go Chalk with Michigan State

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him back-to-back Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more at Against The Chalk.

Scott Levine can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH

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