The Midwest region feels like a wide-open bracket. With all the parity happening in college basketball this season, there’s not a team in this bracket that seems like an overwhelming favorite.

Keep an eye on this region as being one that could feature some bracket busters. Before we can get to the Sweet 16 and beyond, there’s the best bets for the first round in the Midwest region.

1 North Carolina (-24.5) vs. 16 Iona

These are never easy. For the most part, a 16 seed is always going to lose to a No. 1 seed. However, after last year’s Virginia loss, this may be less apparent this year.

Despite the big spread, though, I’m not going to overreact to last year’s results.

The Tar Heels have a high-octane offense that should be able to score at will against Iona. Iona has one of the worst defenses in the country, so that doesn’t bode well in this matchup. — Go Chalk with North Carolina

8 Utah State (-2.5) vs. 9 Washington

Washington may have been one of the better teams in the Pac-12 this season. But I’m still not backing the Huskies in this matchup.

Utah State is a consistent team on both ends. The defense and offense are ranked in the top 30 in offensive and defensive efficiency. The Aggies also have some major wins this season, highlighting their ability to beat good teams.

Good guards generally contribute to solid runs in the NCAA tournaments, so don’t lose sight of Sam Merrill for Utah State. The Aggies should be able to score against a stout Washington defense, so I’m backing the Aggies. — Go Chalk with Utah State

5 Auburn (-6.5) vs. 12 New Mexico State

Generally, a 12 over 5 is a solid pick.

However, in this case, I’m not buying the Aggies.

New Mexico State should be lauded as a success story. New Mexico State pretty much lost everybody from the last few years, but they’re back in the NCAA tournament. They have a gaudy record, but they shouldn’t be considered a 12 seed in this tournament.

Auburn has been hot as of late, and the offense is much better than New Mexico State’s. Don’t think about this too much. New Mexico State has had better teams in the past. — Go Chalk with Auburn

4 Kansas (-7) vs. 13 Northeastern

I get it. It’s tough to pick against Kansas.

But the Jayhawks have been terrible on the road this season. And the Jayhawks are not used to playing in the NCAA tournament this far away from home. Kansas goes too many minutes in-between baskets at times. That won’t work in this game.

Northeastern has a legitimate offense. The defense isn’t very good, but the offense is good enough to keep this game close. Northeastern may not win, but this game will come down to the final possessions. — Go Against The Chalk with Northeastern

6 Iowas State (-5.5) vs. Ohio State

This is a tough one to predict, too.

The Cyclones are one of the most talented teams in this bracket. But they also don’t show up every game, either. The Cyclones won the Big 12 tournament through defense and an ability to shoot really well.

But Iowa State doesn’t always show that ability. That creates a problem when deciding a team’s fate in the NCAA tournament.

Despite my reservations, Iowa State is by far the better team. So I’ll go with the Cyclones to advance by a at least six points or more. — Go Chalk with Iowa State

3 Houston (-12) vs. 14 Georgia State

I hate to keep taking this many favorites, but I just don’t see many upsets in the first round in this region.

Instead, I see a lot more happening in the second round and beyond.

The Cougars are consistent on both sides of the ball, while Georgia State doesn’t play any defense. This game may be close to about 30 minutes, but I anticipate Houston will pull away in the end. — Go Chalk with Houston

7 Wofford (-3) vs. 10 Seton Hall

I can’t believe this game doesn’t feature a bigger spread.

Wofford is by far the better team. The defense is good enough to make stops, and the offense ranks among the best in college basketball.

Seton Hall is a below-average team in many respects. There’s no reason why this spread is this close. Wofford will win this game by double-digits. — Go Chalk with Wofford

John Calipari should lead the Kentucky Wildcats to the Final Four out of the South region. Flickr/Keith Allison

2 Kentucky (-22.5) vs. Abilene Christian

Once again, I hate taking so many favorites.

But I just can’t get over the discrepancy between these teams.

Abilene Christian is lucky to be a 15 seed. They’re not a good offensive or defensive team, so Kentucky shouldn’t have any problems in this game. Kentucky is improving on the defensive side of the ball, so I’m banking on the Wildcats to take care of business. This region will be a fun one, but it should hold chalk for the most of the first round. — Go Chalk with Kentucky

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