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NCAA Tournament West Region

gonzaga basketball
Mike Zoller

NCAA Tournament West Region

The West region is being called the weakest of the four this tournament and rightfully so. There was a lot of discussion on which team would get the final number one seed and Gonzaga beat out Ohio State and Miami for the last number one spot.

Gonzaga by the numbers seems like a strong team. Their 31-2 record is the best in the country and they went undefeated in conference play. They finished the season ranked number one in the polls and easily won the WCC Tournament. But that might just be there downfall, the WCC is extremely weak and Gonzaga’s only signature win was against Kansas State.

To add to the weakness of the conference the three seed in this region is New Mexico. The Lobos finished 29-5 but had no signature wins. Their big loss of the year was at St. Louis, a tournament four seed, by 14. People are calling this the weakest region because two of the top three seeds are from mid-majors.

Mid-major teams are great to have in the tournament because they are poised to have big upsets. But when they are the top seeds it’s not an upset if they win and it’s a big disappointment if they lose. In my bracket I don’t have either team going past the Sweet 16.

 

Intriguing Match-Ups

The most intriguing match-up in this region might be the most intriguing match-up in the entire tournament. Wisconsin vs. Ole Miss is one that has people split down the middle. Both teams are red hot with Wisconsin losing in the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament and Ole Miss shocking the SEC and winning that tournament.

I think either team can go far and by far I mean into the Elite 8 and maybe even further. The winner of this 12/5 match-up most likely takes on Kansas State, which is one of the best all-around teams in the country but has had its struggles this season. Assuming they get past the Wildcats that would mean a match-up with Gonzaga, assuming the Zags don’t fall to Wichita State or Pittsburgh in the second round.

The other match-up in this region to look at is Arizona vs. Belmont. The Bruins are a good shooting team, 49% and 39% from the three. The Wildcats are out of the PAC-12 that has gotten no respect from the selection committee because of the weakness of the conference. This is definitely one 11/6 game to watch. My question is if Belmont wins this game could they defeat New Mexico?

 

Upset Alerts

This region is chock full of potential upsets. In the tournament the team that is hot and with momentum can be very dangerous. That’s why I think Ole Miss will not only knock off Wisconsin but they could potentially take out Kansas State as well. Don’t be surprised if the Rebels make it to the Elite 8.

I’m not a fan of New Mexico at all. I think whether it’s Arizona or Belmont, I think the Lobos will fall in the second round. They haven’t seen this level of competition all year and while Harvard might not provide them a big challenge, after that every game will be a struggle for them.

 

Who Emerges?

The team that will come out of the West is the team I’ve talked the least about in this preview – Ohio State. Again momentum is huge and the Buckeyes just won the Big Ten Tournament beating Wisconsin and Michigan State in the process, five and three seeds in the NCAA Tournament respectively.

Ohio State will benefit from an easy first round game, followed by either Notre Dame or Iowa State, neither can measure up to the physicality Ohio State brings to the court. Assuming I’m right about New Mexico falling early, next up would be Arizona or Belmont, which should be an easy trip to the Elite 8.

Perhaps the best thing going on for Ohio State is that the top half of the bracket will beat itself up. Ohio State will face Gonzaga, Ole Miss, Wisconsin or Kansas State in the Elite 8. All good teams but all four would have played much harder games than Ohio State would have played. Neither team can also match-up well against the Buckeyes. This is where I think Ole Miss’ run will end and Ohio State will go to Atlanta to take on the winner of the Midwest region. Could we see a Michigan State/Ohio State match-up in the Final Four? It could definitely happen.

 

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