NCAA Tournament: West Regional Breakdown

Top Four Seeds

  1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  2. Iowa Hawkeyes
  3. Kansas Jayhawks
  4. Virginia Cavaliers

“Gonzaga hasn’t been tested in weeks.” That’s the take everyone loves to bring up when they talk about the Gonzaga Bulldogs.  The difference between this team and the ones of the past is Jalen Suggs.  The Zags have not had an NBA level talent like him on the roster in the last ten years.  Suggs, along with Kispert, Timme and the rest of the roster are primed for domination and I think they have the matchups to make a long run very possible.  This team was able to beat Kansas, Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia before beginning their dominant run in the West Coast Conference.  This team has only gotten better and will show it on a run to the final four. 

The 2nd seeded Iowa Hawkeyes have their sights set on a run led by Luka Garza, the biggest issue for Iowa will be on the defensive front and that will be exposed in the second round when they have the potential of meeting up with Chris Duarte and the Oregon Ducks.  Oregon will not have an answer for Garza but Oregon brings a real challenge at every other position.  Can Fran McCafferey get his guys ready for upper level offensive units?  He hasn’t proven to do it yet.

The Kansas Jayhawks may have the biggest question mark of the entire bracket.  They are dealing with a recent Covid stoppage that affected their chances to win the Big12 tournament.  The Jayhawks appeared to have found their groove towards the end of  the conference campaign, winning against powerhouse Baylor.   They followed it up with a lackluster performance against UTEP in a randomly scheduled game.  Kansas has the talent to make easy work of Eastern Washington but then they run into the USC Trojans barring an upset and that will be a problem for the Jayhawks.  The length of the Trojans will be trouble for Kansas, they will have to find a way to stop dominant big man Evan Mobley and that is a question that they will not have an answer for.  

Virginia is dealing with a similar issue that Kansas is dealing with.  Coming off of a COVID pause and a season that did not turn out the way they had hoped, the Cavaliers enter a matchup with one of the hottest teams in the country the Ohio Bobcats.  The Bobcats ran through the MAC tournament stomping Buffalo in the final.  The Bobcats have one of the best players in the country in Jason Preston.  Preston has the ability to break down any defense including the vaunted Virginia packline defense.  

First Round Upsets

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos over Creighton Bluejays

The Gauchos come from a conference that doesn’t get much hype unless you are a late night degenerate gambler much like myself.  They however are playing some of the best basketball in the country and could bring some problems to the Creighton Bluejays.  The Gauchos are 56th in the nation in effective shooting percentage as well as one of the most consistent offensive units in basketball.  They are meeting a similar offensive unit led by Marcus Zagarowski.  The Bluejays are similar to the Gauchos with one of the most effective shooting percentages in college hoops. 

The Bluejays were exposed by Georgetown in the Big East final, they have a problem on the boards and a problem at the free throw line. Creighton gives up nine offensive boards per game ranking 242nd in the nation and they are 329th in free throw percentage.  Both of these factors will give you problems in the tournament.

Ohio Bobcats over Virginia Cavaliers

I already explained this.  Jason Preston will be a problem for every team in the tournament if he is healthy.  This is not the same Cavalier team that won the tournament in 2019.

Teams that can make a run- USC Trojans

The Trojans come out of the not so vaunted Pac 12 so some of their ability is getting overlooked.  Everyone has heard of Evan Mobley, likely a top five pick in the NBA draft.  He alone is good enough to get them at least one victory in the NCAA tournament.  If you look at the draw that USC got they should have a few favorable matchups.  They likely will match up with the Kansas Jayhawks that will have problems dealing with the length that USC brings to the table.  The Trojans have the ability to shut down any offense and Kansas will have trouble doing anything.  

If they get by Kansas a potential matchup with Iowa is a juicy spot for all college basketball lovers.  Luka Garza vs Evan Mobley is a matchup that can headline any basketball slate. Mobley and company are an achilles heel for the Hawkeyes.  USC has problems at the free throw line which could end up costing them but Tahj Eddy and Ethan Anderson both shoot over 39% from deep which will open up the middle for the unstoppable force Evan Mobley.  

West Regional Bracket Winner- Gonzaga Bulldogs

NCAAB Play of the day: BYU Cougars at Pacific Tigers

The West Coast Conference is on full display Thursday night.  The matchup between the BYU Cougars and the Pacific Tigers will be the undercard for the Gonzaga/St. Mary’s matchup.  The undercard always has great value and I think this game is a perfect example of it.  The Cougars are 15-5 overall on the season with losses to Gonzaga (2), USC, Boise State and Pepperdine.  All but Pepperdine are likely NCAA tournament teams and all losses have something in common, the opposing team’s prolific athletic talent took away the strengths of the Cougars.  That will not be the case in this matchup. 

Pacific plays at one of the slower paces in the nation ranking 288th overall.  Their pace has hidden a lot of their flaws on the defensive end.  They are efficient according to the analytics ranking 98th overall in defensive efficiency but they still give up 71 ppg. They really have trouble defending beyond the arc giving up 35% shooting.  While this BYU team is the shot-chucking team of the last few seasons they still can hit the three when given the chance making 35% of them on the season.  Pacific relies on leading scorers Daniss Jenkins and Jeremiah Bailey, both average 12 ppg, other than that they don’t have any consistency on the offensive end.  The Tigers got huge performances from their bench in the first matchup from Jabril Price-Noel and Justin Moore, who gave them 34 points in a OT loss.  They can’t assume that they will get that kind of production again.  

BYU guards the interior very well only allowing 44% shooting from inside the three point line this season.  The Tigers are a horrible outside shooting team, they have to force turnovers and drive to get baskets and an offense reliant on that will have problems with the length BYU brings to the table.  The Cougars have a group of offensive threats most notably guard Alex Barcullo who averages 15 ppg.  They have two post threats that are ferocious on the glass in Caleb Lohner and Purdue transfer Matt Harms,.  The interior will be completely controlled by BYU, they average 78 ppg and should have no problem scoring in this matchup.  

The Cougars are not scared of playing on the road.  They are 4-1 ATS on the road this season and they are in need of a win.  While there are no stats that back up the desperation for a win, I like to go with teams on the bubble playing teams with little to play for.  Pacific is a tough team led by a former NBA player and will keep this close in the first half, ultimately the better offense will pull away. 
Play of the day: BYU Cougars -5.5

NCAAB Play of the Day: St. John’s Red Storm at Butler Bulldogs

The St. John’s Red Storm are the talk of the Big East.  Winners of six straight, including victories over UConn, Villanova, Marquette and most recently Providence.  They have also been the talk of the betting community, covering the spread in eight straight games.  The Red Storm are a hurricane, moving fast and causing devastation on the offensive end.  They are the 12th fastest team in the nation according to Kenpom and they are very efficient, ranking 41st in the nation in offensive efficiency.   Their offensive is highlighted by super freshman guard Posh Alexander, he leads the team in assists with 4.4 a game.  He has also picked up his scoring output over the last five games, averaging 17.4 ppg.  Alexander’s runningmate and the team’s leading scoring Julain Champagnie (18.6 ppg), is a matchup nightmare for any team in the Big East.  Champagnie is 6’8” and shoots 43% from three. 

The Butler Bulldogs have had a rough season.  They lost guard Aaron Thompson early in the season, which set them back to start the season.   Even with Thompson the Butler offense seems lost.  As a team they only average 63 ppg (331st in the nation).  The Bulldogs ended a three game losing streak on Saturday when they took down Depaul at home.  Butler cannot find consistent points from anywhere, they are horrible in the paint and even worse from the free throw line. Jaire Bolden leads Butler in scoring with 12.1 ppg, he is coming off of his worst game of the season, scoring just 3 points in their win over Depaul.  In order to keep up with the fast paced Red Storm, Bolden will have to be better. 

The Bulldogs at home in the past would have been an easy cover spot, but this team is having problems on the offensive end that is hard to ignore.  For Butler to win they will have to slow the pace of the game. They also have to defend the three, something they have not done well all season.  Butler gives up 37% shooting from deep, that is a strength for St. Johns who shoots the ball at 36% (71st in the nation).  These two teams met once this year with St. John’s taking the victory at home 69-57.  The Bulldogs were able to play their pace in that game but turned the ball over 16 times.  The game plan for St. Johns will be simple, move fast and force Butler to score.  If you grab a lead early on the Bulldogs they do not have the firepower to come back.  Take the Red Storm.  

Play of the day: St. John’s ML

NCAAB Play of the day: George Mason Patriots vs Dayton Flyers

The Dayton Flyers and George Mason Patriots will face Friday night both trying to rebound from conference losses.  The Flyers were upset on the road against Duquesne while George Mason got rolled by conference powerhouse St. Bonaventure.  These two teams will be meeting for the second time this season, the Flyers winning and covering in their first matchup. 

Dayton could not find their offensive flow in their last game shooting just 40% as a team.  They are one of the better teams offensively in the country shooting 47% on the season ranking them 40th in the country.  They are led by guards Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson, both were able to put up 42 total points in their last matchup with the Patriots. The emergence of forward Mustapha Amzil has helped deal with the losses of Chase Johnson and Rodney Chatman. The Flyers offense is efficient with 2-point and 3-point field goal percentages ranking in the top 20. 

George Mason has not been effective consistently on the offensive end .  They are led by guard Jordan Miller, averagin 15ppg on the season and was the lone bright spot in their loss to the Bonnies.  The biggest problem for George Mason has been their inability to take freebies at the free throw line.  They rank at the bottom of the nation from the free throw line.  The Patriots seem to run their offense better on the road, their record of 6-1 to the over on the road is both baffling and intriguing for the fanbase and the  betting community. 

Dayton’s offense is almost elite level ranking 28th in the nation in effective field goal percentage, they are also great from the free throw line shooting 74% from the line.  While their offense is great their defense is far from effective. George Mason shouldn’t have problems running their offense.  With the talent on the Flyers offensive end and their struggles on defense I am rolling with the over 131.  These two teams hit the over in their first matchup and the overall total dropped by 5 points.  I would like to go with the Flyers covering the -6 spread but they have had a lot of problems closing out teams in the second half.  This total is too low, so that seems like the better play. 

Play of the day: George Mason/Dayton Over 131

NCAAB Pick of the Day: Aggies roll in a bounce back.

Utah State Aggies at UNLV Running Rebels

Utah State dropped their first conference game to Colorado State last week.  Before that loss they had announced their presence with back to back victories of conference favorite San Diego State.  The Aggies take care of business on both ends of the floor featuring one of the top defensive units in the Mountain West  giving up just 55 points per game while holding opposing offenses to just 28% 3-pt shooitng.   

UNLV has won four straight against sub-par competition.  The four wins were against pitiful New Mexico (2), and two teams I would have to google twice to find out what division they are in St. Katherine and Benedict Mesa.  The Rebes have been solid defensively this season with an Adj defensive efficiency ranking 127th according to Kenpom.  The matchup with Utah State will be their biggest test in conference this season. 

Utah State have a balanced offensive attack with five different players averagin over 10 ppg.  They also bring a huge rebounding edge, ranking in the top twenty in rebounds per game with 41 per contest.  Utah State will have free rain around the perimeter and have a force in the middle with Neemis Queta. The Aggies have defended the 3-pt shot all season, other than their loss to Colorado State they have not allowed a team to shoot over 32% from deep. 

This game will be contested between two teams that are the top defensive squads in their conference.  The difference is the Aggies have more balance and a much higher effective field goal percentage.  The Aggies are a better team all around and should show it on Monday. 

PIck of the day: Utah State Aggies -5.5

Two Wildcats cover- NCAAB Picks ATS Jan. 4

Missouri Tigers at Kentucky Wildcats -8

The Missouri Tigers are coming off of a route of Chicago State.  Not exactly a good warmup for the #17 team in the country coming off of their biggest win of the season over rival Louisville.  The Wildcats come into this with a clear size advantage, Missouri’s leading rebounder is guard Mark Smith averaging just 4.9 per game. They are going to be at a serious disadvantage on the boards.  Kentucky can bring multiple bigs at the Missouri defense including Nick Richards and EJ Montegomery. Missouri will not get many, if any second chance opportunities while the Wildcats should be wild on the offensive boards.  

This game will feature the 25th (Missouri) and 26th (Kentucky) adjusted defenses according to Kenpom.  While they are both great on defense Mizzou ranks 117th in adjusted offense. Even if Mizzou is able to slow the game down, they are at such a huge disadvantage in size that is should be an easy win and cover for Kentucky.

Pick: Kentucky -8

Villanova Wildcats at Marquette Golden Eagles +1

I want to start by saying I love Markus Howard. One of my favorite players in the nation to watch.  Problem is that his team doesn’t always show up the way he does. They have to face off against a Villanova team that is as hot as they come currently in college basketball.  Winners of six straight including two wins over Xavier and Kansas. Villanova’s two loses came on the road against top ten teams Baylor and Ohio State. This game will be on the road but against a very different kind of opponent.  Both of the aforementioned losses were against much stiffer defensive competition ranking 4th (Ohio State) and 12th (Baylor) in Kenpom’s defensive rankings.  

Marquette is coming off of a loss to Creighton where they surrendered 92 points.  They have to bring more intensity on the defensive end to stand a chance. Marquette will keep this one close but they have not shown the ability to finish higher level competition with their best wins coming against Kansas State, Purdue and USC, none bring the potential firepower Villanova does.  

I like Villanova to establish themselves as the class of the tough Big East.  Should be fun but this is a day for Wildcats. 

Picks: Villanova -1

NCAAB Picks ATS for Thanksgiving Season Record 25-13-1

NC State Wolfpack vs. Memphis Tigers

A matchup between two teams that are hanging out next to each other on the Kenpom ratings with the Wolfpack at 41 followed directly by the Tigers at 42.  

Memphis has won three straight since losing prized big man James Wiseman, they have done it by working the ball inside. Precious Achiuwa and DJ Jefferies carried the load against Ole Miss putting in 25 each.  Achiuwa and Jefferies will have a premier matchup as the Wolfpack have had their issues guarding the interior, allowing lesser competition to dominate them. 

NC State is lead by a great player in guard Markell Johnson.  Johnson is going to have to deal with some serious pressure from the Memphis defense which will force turnover which will lead to easy points that the Wolfpack won’t be able to make up for. 

Pick: Memphis Tigers ML

Davidson Wildcats vs Marquette Golden Eagles

Marquettes lone loss on the season came at the hands of Wisconsin who was able to control the pace of the game.  Davidson this season has not been able to hold down the pace of anyone, ranking near the bottom of division one in defensive efficiency.  Davidson just gave up 81 and 92 on back to back games against Wake Forest and Nevada, two teams that don’t bring the potential firepower that Marquette will.  

This game will come down to the easy factor of controlling the glass.  Marquette has a clear advantage lead be Theo John on the inside. This one could be close but the Golden Eagles have clear advantages. 

Pick: Marquette -3

Why Calipari to the NBA makes so much sense.

John Calipari has become one of the most recognizable coaches in college basketball.  Bringing the Kentucky Wildcats storied program back to the prestige it was held. Calipari revolutionized the one and done rule to the point that other coaches were forced to adjust their mentality to compete.

Calipari is kind of a turd. He’s cocky, loud, conceded and a winner.  These traits, are the traits of a coach that can make it in the league now.  His confidence makes him relatable to players.  He has the confidence that is the way society is, most recently shown by the comments of the “GOAT” Lebron James.

Let’s look at the potential for Cal in the NBA.  The Washington Wizards will most likely move on from Scott Brooks at the end of the season.  Why not make a call to coach Cal and see if he would be interested in working with his old buddy John Wall again? Wall has shown immaturity throughout his career, but he has a respect for his old college coach. If the Wizards are committed to making it work with Wall bringing in a coach of his choosing like Calipari would be a smart move. They can move Bradley Beal for a mid-level player and clear some cap space for impending free agent DeMarcus Cousins in 2019 or potentially wait for the big piece in two years with Anthony Davis. Both former Calipari guys and both would show interest in matching up with their former coach.

Let’s not act like bringing Calipari to the LA Lakers wouldn’t be completely crazy.  Luke Walton has not made himself indispensable.  Adding Cal would work to help them recruiting Anthony Davis as well as make huge headlines for an organization

Ok, maybe that idea is farfetched.  Why would those guys want to go to Washington?  Well why would Paul George stay in Oklahoma?  Why did Lebron go back to Cleveland?  What is the deal with Kawhi Leonard?  There are a lot of things that are hard to explain, the NBA continuously has players, coaches and teams that make questionable decisions.  Is it so crazy to think that these players aren’t drawn to Calipari and his loose style and demeanor?

Why would Calipari leave Kentucky?  Being one of the most successful college coaches of my generation is no joke.  He was able to take UMass and Memphis to heights that they have never been.  Now he is at one the most prestigious universities of all time.  The reason he may leave is that the one and done rule is on its way out.  New developmental leagues are going to attract players that want to make money instead of spending a year being forced to go to classes that they do not care about.  This change will have an impact on the way Calipari has been building his teams.

While the changes in the NCAA can have an impact, I think it is the past failures in the NBA that will drive Calipari to the NBA.  During his time in New Jersey he was the definition of inconsistency finishing with a career record of 72-112.  This has to sit in his mind.  His personality will drive him to make an impact in the NBA before he calls it quits.  If Calipari was going to the NBA it should happen now.