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

NCAA Tournament- South Regional Breakdown

Top Seeds-

  1. Baylor
  2. Ohio State
  3. Arkansas
  4. Purdue

The South Regional is led by the Baylor Bears.  After their long covid pause there seems to be a bit of hesitation in their abilities to get back to the team they were at the beginning of the season.  The loss to Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State along with their struggle to put away lowly Kansas State leaves a lot of question marks on a team that could easily make a run to the championship.  

The Ohio State Buckeyes seemed to come from nowhere to the Big Ten Championship game.  They have prolific scorers in guard Duane Washington and forward EJ Liddell.  It is their role players that can step up at any moment and make an impact on the game.  CJ Walker, Seth Towns and Justin Sueing are all players that can make plays when asked upon.  The Buckeyes have victories over Illinois, Iowa and Michigan this season.  They have been tested all season and have players they can lean on down the stretch of a close game.  

Arkansas was and still is one of the hottest teams in all of college basketball.  Until running into LSU on Saturday they were winners of 13 straight games.  They have an absolutely elite offense led by Moses Moody and Desi Sills.  Their matchup with Colgate should be a cake walk for the Razorbacks (don’t listen to anyone that says different), but they could have gotten a rough matchup if Texas Tech finds its way past Utah State.  Arkansas arguably has the best offense in the entire bracket, but they will have matchups with teams that will slow them down and that is going to be trouble for Eric Musselman and company.

Purdue worked their way into a #4 seed on the back of their star Trevion Williams.  Williams has revitalized the post game in college basketball.  The Boilmakers has a solid resume, finishing 13-6 in the vaunted Big 10, there loan bad loss being against  a depleted Miami team early in the season.  Purdue is a dark horse in this bracket, but they will be tested in the first round by a feisty North Texas team. 

Potential First Round Upsets 

13. North Texas over 4. Purdue

Purdue could be a sleeper to come out of this bracket but I think they will have their hands full with North Texas.  The Mean Green are a stout defensive unit, they give up 60 ppg this season and hold opposing teams to an effective shooting percentage of 45.7%, ranking 20th in the nation.  North Texas has been challenged this year playing West Virginia, Arkansas and Loyola-Chicago this year.  

Purdue has Trevion Williams, he will be a problem for North Texas, but these two team play similar styles.  Purdue can’t look past the Conference USA champions, I think they will and they will pay for it. 

11. Utah State over 6. Texas Tech

Utah State was a surprise to make the tournament. Most thought the Mountain West would be a one bid league, but the Aggies deserve to be there and they will show that in their first round matchup against Texas Tech.  Utah State is a very solid rebounding team that has a stud in the middle named Neemias Queta.  Queta and Justin Bean are tough as they come on the boards and their grind it out style will be a tough matchup for the Red Raiders.  This Utah State team has two victories over San Diego State this season, a team that brings a similar toughness that Texas Tech brings to the table.  Mac McClung and company have more overall talent but they can have trouble putting together consistent offensive success.  Watch out for the Aggies.

Sleeper team to make a run- North Carolina Tarheels

North Carolina enters the 2021 tournament with very little expected of them.  A late surge in the season locked them into a spot, but they do feature the talent to make a solid run.  Their first round matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers doesn’t look as intimidating as it once did early in the season as the Badgers seem to not be able to win a big game despite all the veteran leadership.  They would then likley get a matchup with the Baylor Bears. Baylor’s three point shooting and defense seems like a surefire victory but the Bears will lack the size to handle the Tarheels in the interior. 

Carolina’s biggest problem has been lack of consistent guard play and outside shooting, RJ Davis and Leaky Black have found a groove of late that could mean trouble for opposing teams in the South Regional.  There is NBA level talent on the Tarheel roster, along with a coach that has been there before.  They will be tested right off the bat but they can pass that test without needing to study much.  (Hope you got the joke there)

Pick to win the South- Ohio State Buckeyes over Baylor Bears

Five role players that will make or break their teams.

Stars in college basketball will get the headlines. In college basketball the game is more about a team concept.  Rarely do you have a team that is star drive go win the whole thing. Virginia was loaded with key players that were all assets to their eventual championship.  I want to highlight the players people don’t talk about enough that could be the reason their team makes it deep into March Madness.  

*These players will be from power conference teams.

Quincy McKnight, Seton Hall

Most common college basketball fans know that Seton Hall is Myles Powells team.  When Powell is not on his game it is the senior point gaurd Qunicy McKnight that picks up the slack. McKnight is veteran that isn’t afaid of prime time competetion.  His ability to run the offense and create off the dribble will open up the floor for Myles Powell and Sandro (Not trying to spell last name). 

In the NCAA tournament McKnight will have to force the defense to pay attention to him, his 84% free throw shooting will also be a huge advantage for the Pirates.  He will be the guy forced to take the ball against top defensive teams that will not allow the ball into Powell’s hands.  

Marcus Garrett, Kansas

Who doesn’t know Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike.  The unsung hero of KU is Junior Guard Marcus Garrett.  Garrett is a solid two way player that has shown up in the big moments of the season. Garrett showed his potential this weekend taking over the game agaisnt Oklahoma after Kansas got off to a slow start.  Garrett’s defense has alwasy been his trademark but it was his ability to shoot the three that shocked most fans, knocking down nine of them.  

If Garrett can provide the outside shot to go along with his defense he will be the difference maker for Kansas in the tourney.

Chris Clarke, Texas Tech

The popular sleeper team in college basketball is Texas Tech.  They have flashy scorers in Jahmi’us Ramsey, Davide Moretti and Kyler Edwards steal the headlines. It’s the Virgnia Tech transfer Chris Clarke that provides the grit work for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech has the skilled players to compete with anyone.  What they lack is the power on the inside to compete with the big boys of college basketball. Clarke’s toughness is a necessity for last year’s runner up to the national title. His perfromances against K-State, Louisville and Kentucky all carried the team to victories or near victories (Kentucky).  

Toughness and experience are what seems to be lacking from Texas Tech.  His ability to help run the offense and help thems stay up tempo will be important downt he stretch. 

Daryl Morsell, Maryland Terrapins

Maryland has issues. Their ridiculous talent can overshadow their ineffeciencies. Daryl Morsell is a player that has become a key player in their big matchups.  Wins over Illinois and Rutgers showed off the potential stat stuffing ability of Morsell. Morsell is currently shooting 36% from three, which is a huge improvement over last season 28%.  The Terrapins have issues shooting the ball, if Morsell can provide the threat from distance it will make their ridiulously athletic point guard Anthony Cowan even tougher to defend.  

Morsell is the third leading scorer on Maryland behind the aforementioned Cowan and NBA prospect Jalen Smith.   Morsell will be the player that gets the open looks and if he hits this team has final four written all over them.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was a highly rated recruit, the freshman forward has lived up to the rating.  Averaging 10 points and nearly 9 boards a game is nice but his ability to play the five in an uptempo Villanova offense has allowed them to play at a faster rate.  

Robinson-Earl is matchup nightmare for traditional bigs and has the ability to post up opposing players that match his size.  Colin Gillespie and Saddiq Bey are the guys that catch the headlines but Robinson Earl is the guy that allows them to before by cleaning up the glass.  If you question the freshman at all check his game logs against higher level competition. His play will determine where this team goes.

Midwest Region Breakdown

  1. North Carolina
  2. Kentucky
  3. Houston
  4. Kansas

Sleeper team to win: Houston Cougars

Houston enters the Midwest region as the #3 seed but seems to be overlooked in a region full of bluebloods Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky. Houston losing to Cincinnati in the American Conference Championship game is the last thought we have of the Cougars, but this team is legit.  Winning their conference regular season championship while also having non-conference victories over Utah State, LSU and Oregon (with Bol Bol).  Houston has a legit star in Corey Davis Jr. and a veteran coach in Kelvin Sampson.  They are also very deep, playing 9 players over 20 minutes per game.   A potential third round matchup with the offensive minded Iowa State and Kentucky will make their road difficult but being a upperclassman lead team will put them in great shape to make a run.

Potential first round upset: New Mexico State over Auburn

Auburn is riding high after their dominate victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship game.  They now have to face a New Mexico State team that has quietly been playing some of the best basketball in the country. New Mexico State has not lost since January 3rd and ran through their conference tournament dominating Grand Canyon in the final 89-57. 

Auburn has great talent but they rely a lot on the three ball, they will also be traveling to Salt Lake City which will force them to deal with the elevation change. New Mexico State has experience playing in that atmosphere.  Bruce Pearl’s team cannot look past the Aggies, if they do they will be ripe for the upset.

Who will win: Kentucky

A fully healthy Kentucky team has shown what they can do on the national scene. The Wildcats have a strong leader in Reid Travis and have seen great development from Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro. The potential matchup with North Carolina would be an epic battle between two teams that can easily see themselves winning it all.  The advantage I see for the Wildcats is their depth.  This bracket is the most competitive and will feature some great matchups.

Second Round Picks:

North Carolina

Utah State

New Mexico State

Kansas

Iowa State

Houston

Seton Hall

Kentuck

East Region Breakdown

Top Seeds

  1. Duke
  2. Michigan State
  3. LSU
  4. Virginia Tech

Sleeper team to win: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech as a #4 seed probably isn’t considered a sleeper but they are being overlooked.  The return of Justin Robinson is going to help with the depth of the Hokies.  With Robinson being hurt Kerry Blackshear was able to develop into a star.  His size and ability to handle the ball if caught on the perimeter is a tough matchup for any team.  With a first-round matchup against an undersized SLU team and a potential matchup with an underwhelming Mississippi State team. Virginia Tech will not have an overwhelming matchup until they face the #1 overall seed Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16.

*Maryland has all the ability to steal this bracket if they can control the ball.  Can’t expect them to change their game though overnight.

Potential first round upset: Liberty and Yale

Yale has the size you don’t usually see in an Ivy League team. They also have potential NBA threat Miye Oni leading their offense.  LSU has all the talent to make a huge run in this tournament but you can’t ignore the distraction of losing your coach at this point in the season.

Liberty was able to overcome the favored Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun Championship game.  They get a matchup with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs have some high level talent in Quinndary Weatherspoon but have not shown the ability to win big games during the season.  Liberty will not back down in this matchup.

Who is going to win it: Duke

Michigan State got a tough draw for a team that should have been considered for a #1 seed. Instead they were put into a bracket with the number one overall seed, they SEC regular season champion LSU and a potential matchup with a veteran led Louisville team. The Spartans are finally healthy and playing at a high level.  They should be able to coast to the elite 8 to matchup with a Duke team that is going to be tested big time by a fully healthy Virginia Tech team. Duke/Michigan State will be a great game that will matchup veterans versus youth.  Cassius Winston will have a tough time with the defense of Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire.  The Blue Devils will lock down on defense and find themselves in the final four.

Second Round Picks

Duke

UCF

Liberty

UCF

Maryland

LSU

Lousiville

Michigan State