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Midwest Region preview: Kansas and North Carolina on collision course?

Chris Chase
The Dagger

The Dagger previews the Midwest Region of the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Three who can carry their teams:

* Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas

* Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

* Ramone Moore, Temple

Most intriguing second-round matchup: No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 Purdue

The Gaels and Boilermakers meet in a second-round game to determine who will (likely) play Kansas for a berth in the Sweet 16. If you gave Randy Bennett and Matt Painter some truth serum, I bet each would tell you they're not upset with this matchup. Both teams have efficient offenses -- St. Mary's runs through their guards, Purdue's through fifth-year senior forward Robbie Hummel -- and suspect defenses. It should make for a tight 7/10 affair on Friday night.

Best potential third-round game: No. 4 Temple vs. No. 5 Michigan

A throwback game for those who love high screens and backdoor cuts. The combined points in this one may not exceed North Carolina's second-round total.

Ripe for an upset: No. 3 Georgetown

The Hoyas' opening-round opponent, Belmont, is best known for its near-misses against Duke in the 2008 NCAA tournament and earlier this regular season. The up-tempo Bruins could give John Thompson III's deliberate Hoyas trouble. Georgetown's upset loss to Ohio in last year's tournament can't be too far from either team's mind.

Possible Dark Horse: No. 5 Temple

Temple gets a "First Four" winner in the second-round, a possible mirror-image matchup against Michigan in the third-round and, perhaps, North Carolina in the Sweet 16. The Owls beat both Duke and Maryland this year, teams that handed UNC two of its five losses. Like some other middle seeds in this region, Temple prides itself more on offense than defense, which could give Fran Dunphy's team some early-round trouble.

Bound for the Final Four: Kansas

Selection committee conspiracy theorists could see the potential UNC-Kansas Elite Eight game coming ever since the Jayhawks lost to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament. Roy Williams first faced his former team in the tournament in the 2008 Final Four. The Heels were embarrassed on that night in an 18-point Kansas rout. A rematch in the midwest regional final should be a closer affair. Carolina has more weapons in Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall, but Thomas Robinson and the Jayhawks play a steadier game, provided Tyshawn Taylor minimizes his mistakes.

This midwest regional is in St. Louis, a straight shot on I-70 away from Lawrence. With a partisan crowd on it side, Kansas should rock, chalk its way back to the Final Four.

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