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NCAA tournament Midwest Regional preview

The Kentucky Wildcats look to finish their historic undefeated season by running through the NCAA tournament Midwest Regional en route to Indianapolis. Everybody's favorite to win it all, or everybody's nightmare, depending on your perspective, the Wildcats don't have a particularly troublesome bracket ahead of them.

The No. 2 seed Kansas Jayhawks emerged with another Big 12 regular-season title, but with the status of forward Cliff Alexander still unclear, they might not have a frontcourt deep enough to battle Kentucky.

One thing the region does have plenty of, though, is top point guards. From Juwan Staten of the No. 5 seed West Virginia Mountaineers to Yogi Ferrell of the No. 10 seed Indiana Hoosiers, teams in the Midwest are pointed in the right direction.

Five players to watch: It's almost unfair to try to pick through Kentucky's roster to single out one player. While Karl-Anthony Towns might be the most talented of them all, Willie Cauley-Stein is in many ways the heart of the team. Cauley-Stein doesn't lead the team in any major category, but he simply makes the plays that need to be made -- be it a block, steal or an effort play that ignites everyone else.

Compare where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were a season ago to now, and the impact of guard Jerian Grant is extremely evident. Last season Grant missed 20 games and the Irish finished with a losing record and sat home during the postseason. This season Grant led the ACC with 6.5 assists per game and ranked fifth in scoring at 16.5 points per game and the Irish won the ACC tournament. March is all about guard play, and Notre Dame has one of the best.

So do the Wichita State Shockers. Point guard Fred VanVleet is unflappable for the Shockers. This marks his third straight NCAA tournament appearance, and he's handled the spotlight of being in the 2013 Final Four and being a No. 1 seed last season. VanVleet led the Missouri Valley Conference with 5.3 assists per game this season and is a defensive menace, too.

Maryland Terrapins freshman guard Melo Trimble ranked fifth in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.2 points per game and 11th with 3.1 assists per game. His emergence as a scorer is part of how the Terps finished second behind Wisconsin in their inaugural Big Ten season.

A lot of hype followed Texas Longhorns center Myles Turner into the season, and with all eyes on college basketball this month, you can evaluate him for yourself. He led the team this season with 6.4 rebounds per game and was second with 10.4 points per game. He also ranked 18th nationally with 2.6 blocks per game.

Dark horse: Teams making their first trip to the NCAA tournament generally don’t fit in this category, but the Buffalo Bulls could be an exception. Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley has the incredible coaching pedigree of his father, Bob Sr., being one of the most celebrated prep coaches in the nation and winning two national titles as a point guard for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. The Bulls won't be afraid of the competition, as they held halftime leads on both Kentucky and Wisconsin this season. Buffalo forward Justin Moss, who led the team with 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, was the nation's 24th-most efficient offensive player, according to Ken Pomeroy.

Upset alert: Kansas should be wary of Wichita State in a potential round of 32 game (provided the Shockers get past Indiana in the round of 64). This is the scenario in which Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall thrives, and he won't have to manufacture a slight to get his team motivated. Kansas won't play Wichita State. The teams have met only 14 times -- with Kansas holding a 12-2 advantage -- and they haven't played since 1993. They did meet once in the NCAA tournament, though. Back in 1981, the Shockers beat the Jayhawks 66-65 for their first win in the series.

Most to prove: Notre Dame will continue to hear about its NCAA tournament flameouts until it advances into the second weekend. The last time the Irish won at least two games in the tournament was 2003. More often than not recently, they have been the team picked as most likely to be upset. Fresh off their ACC tournament title -- their first championship in 18 seasons of being affiliated with any conference -- the Irish are a confident bunch and believe this team can go far.

Matchup we'd love: Kentucky-Notre Dame: The immovable object versus the irresistible force. The Wildcats rank second nationally in adjusted defense, and the Irish rank second in adjusted offense, according to Ken Pomeroy. Kentucky has great size, Notre Dame has great shooters. Kentucky ranks third nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense; Notre Dame ranks in the top 25 nationally in made 3-pointers per game (8.3) and 3-point field goal percentage (39.2). The strengths versus strengths of these teams would make for an intriguing game.