An up-close look at the Midwest Region — which includes No. 1 Kentucky:
Heavy on Hoosiers
The bid by Kentucky (34-0) to complete the first unbeaten, national championship season since Indiana in 1976 may be the main attraction in the Midwest. The Cats, however, will essentially start their drive for a ninth NCAA title in the "Indiana Invitational Tournament."
One year after the basketball-mad Hoosier State went without a single team in the NCAA Tournament, there are five Indiana teams in the Midwest Region.
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■ No. 3 seed Notre Dame (29-5) enters the NCAAs after beating Duke (semifinals) and North Carolina (finals) back-to-back to win the ACC Tournament.
■ No. 6 seed Butler. The Bulldogs (22-10) are making their first post-Brad Stevens trip to the Dance and their first as members of the Big East Conference.
■ No. 9 seed Purdue. The Boilermakers (21-12) lost at home to North Florida and Gardner-Webb early, but Matt Painter's team improved throughout the year. Purdue enters the tournament having won 10 of its last 14 games.
■ No. 10 Indiana. Tom Crean's Hoosiers (20-13) return to the NCAA tourney for the third time in four seasons. IU limped to the end (5-9 in its last 14) but does have wins over SMU, Butler, Ohio State and Maryland.
■ No. 13 Valparaiso. Bryce Drew's crew (28-5) has already set a school record for wins in a season. The Crusaders were also a 13 seed in 1998 when Drew, then the star player for his father Homer Drew, hit the famous game-winning shot that eliminated Mississippi.
If the round-of-64 games break right, the games in the Midwest round of 32 could rock:
■ Kentucky vs. Cincinnati. If UK beats either Manhattan or Hampton and No. 8 UC ousts No. 9 Purdue, you could have the first meeting between the Wildcats and Bearcats since UK beat UC 69-60 in the 2005 NCAA tourney,
■ Kansas vs. Wichita State. KU must beat New Mexico State and Wichita State needs to defeat Indiana, but if seeds hold, you could have your first meeting between the intrastate foes since 1992.
Kansas refuses to schedule the Shockers, with Bill Self saying he sees no advantage in it. Suffice to say, if it happens, this game would be a holy war for Wichita State.
■ Notre Dame vs. Butler. If Notre Dame handles Northeastern and Butler does the same to Texas, the intrastate foes will meet. The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series with the Bulldogs 71-31.
■ West Virginia vs. Maryland. The state universities from nearby states have not met since 2004 when John Beilein's Mountaineers beat Maryland 78-77 in Washington, D.C. West Virginia leads the all-time series 23-14.
■ If Manhattan beats Hampton in Tuesday night's First Four matchup in Dayton, the Jaspers' head coach, former UK guard Steve Masiello (part of the 1997 NCAA runners-up and the 1998 national championship team) will coach against his alma mater.
There will be another familiar face to Kentucky fans on the Manhattan bench. Heshimu Evans — a key player on UK's 1998 NCAA title team — is a strength coach at Manhattan.
■ Butler has a heavy Kentucky flavor. The Bulldogs' coach, Chris Holtmann, was a basketball player at Jessamine County, helping the Colts to the 1990 Sweet Sixteen. Ex-Eastern High School forward Kameron Woods is a starting forward, and former Ballard star Kelan Martin and ex-Lafayette standout Jackson Davis are reserve forwards for the Bulldogs.
■ New Mexico State head man Marvin Menzies is a former assistant to Rick Pitino at Louisville.
Missing a familiar face
Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin, the former Murray State head coach and an ex-assistant at Louisville, has been away from the Bearcats since Dec. 20 while he deals with a medical issue (an arterial dissection). In his absence, associate head coach Larry Davis led UC (22-10) to 15 wins in 22 games and into the Big Dance.
Two coaches whose fan bases have grown restive both have their teams in the Midwest Region.
Indiana's Tom Crean will face Wichita State in the round of 64. That pits Crean against a coach, Gregg Marshall, whose name often comes up in speculation about the IU job should it open.
No. 11 Texas and Coach Rick Barnes will face Butler. The Longhorns were ranked No. 6 in the country and unbeaten (7-0) when they played Kentucky on Dec. 5. Starting with that 63-51 loss in Rupp Arena, Texas went 13-13 the rest of the season.
Can either Crean or Barnes — or both — quiet the jackals with a tournament run?
Things to worry about
■ If Kentucky faces No. 5 seed West Virginia in the round of 16, Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins is 8-2 in his career against John Calipari-coached teams.
■ If UK faces No. 3 Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, the Fighting Irish love the three-pointer (averaging 8.3 treys a game) and are second in the country in statistician Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency rankings.
■ Revenge. If No. 7 Wichita State faces UK in the round of eight, the Shockers will be trying to do to UK what the Cats did to them in the 2014 NCAA tourney — ruin a perfect season.
If No. 2 Kansas and top seed Kentucky face off in the region finals, the Jayhawks will be seeking to avenge a 72-40 beatdown the Wildcats put on them in November.