Each day leading up to the first round of the NCAA tournament, The Chronicle will preview one of the four regions in the bracket, touching on the true contenders in the region and potential bracket-busting Cinderellas. On Monday, we broke down the East, yesterday, we looked at the West and today we will analyze the Midwest region—the West quarter will be on its way before the Round of 64 games get under way Thursday afternoon.

The No. 1 seed: Kansas Jayhawks

They say great guard play makes the difference in the NCAA tournament, and if that's the case this year, Kansas could be well on its way to cutting down the nets with another national championship. National Player of the Year candidate Frank Mason—who sunk Duke with an elbow jumper over Matt Jones when the teams met in November—leads the Jayhawks with 20.8 points and 5.1 assists per game and shoots 48.7 percent from 3-point range. Backcourt mate Devonte' Graham is also a capable playmaker, and perhaps most important for head coach Bill Self's team, both players are still smarting from last year's collapse against Villanova.

Mason and Graham make the team go, but the player who makes Kansas special is freshman swingman Josh Jackson. Also a capable 3-point shooter, the 6-foot-8 forward grabs 7.2 rebounds per contest to go along with his 16.4 points and leaves his mark on the game in many different ways, much like Blue Devil freshman standout Jayson Tatum has done late in the season. The Jayhawks' main weakness is up front—losing freshman big man Udoka Azubuike has forced the team to rely on veteran Landen Lucas. But if sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. can step up, Kansas should have enough perimeter shooting from its role players to make another Final Four. 

The other contenders: Several talented teams flying under the radar

Most people are immediately flocking to the South region as the toughest, and rightfully so, but the Jayhawks could see extremely tough matchups in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight if the other top teams in the Midwest play their part. The No. 2 seed is Louisville, a physical team with a trio of capable perimeter scorers and frontcourt depth to wear teams down on both ends of the court. Head coach Rick Pitino is also no stranger to March and will likely have his team chomping at the bit in its full-court press following its late collapse against Duke in the ACC tournament.

Although No. 3 seed Oregon lost senior center Chris Boucher to a torn ACL last week, All-American forward Dillon Brooks is capable of leading the team on a Final Four run by himself. If Tyler Dorsey, Payton Pritchard and Casey Benson can knock down some open 3-pointers, the Ducks should score enough to make up for suspect interior defense. The real intrigue for Kansas comes with the fourth and fifth seeds, with Purdue's big men Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas capable of punishing the Jayhawks inside and high-scoring Iowa State already confident having beaten the Jayhawks on the road this season. 

With the Boilermakers and Cyclones as possible Sweet 16 opponents for Kansas, the Midwest could see some tight games on the road to the Final Four.

The potential Cinderella: Rhode Island

Although the Rams started off slower than most people expected, head coach Dan Hurley's team has won eight straight games and gets to play a No. 6 seed in Creighton that lost its best player to a season-ending injury. What Rhode Island lacks in size it makes up for using ball pressure and drives to the rim, and star guard E.C. Matthews could become the next tournament darling if he can get some perimeter shots to fall. With Hassan Martin and Jared Terrell as other reliable scoring options and a deep bench, the Rams could hold their own against Oregon or Louisville if those matchups arise and pull off a surprising run to the Elite Eight. 

The regional narrative: Run, baby, run

As noted above, this region should see some high-flying action and entertaining battles between teams that love getting up and down the court. Six of the top seven seeds have no problem launching from deep at a rapid rate and winning games played in the 80s and 90s. This is where a team like Louisville could take control against the other contenders—the Cardinals rank in the top 10 in basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency metric and will likely need to control the pace to emerge from the region. But for the casual observer, many of the games in this region should offer plenty of highlights and 3-pointers to enjoy.