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

Final Four Picks ATS

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan State Spartans -3

The Texas Tech Red Raiders blew up most brackets with their upset of Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.  They also blew up the Big 12.  The preseason #7 ranked team in the Big 12 has spent an entire season shattering expectations.  Texas Tech was able to overcome different styles of teams on their run to the Final Four trouncing an offensive minded Buffalo team, grinding a win versus defensive minded Michigan and showing its full repertoire taking down the #1 team in offensive efficiency in the country the Gonzaga Bulldogs.  Texas Tech’s bread and butter is and will be on the defensive end.  Texas Tech garners takeaways on 23.1 percent of opponent possessions, 11th in the nation. Tech will look to keep this low scoring and dirty.

Michigan State has seemed to find itself on the offensive end by utilizing the fast break. The Spartans were able to overcome two teams that athletically were superior by not allowing them to set their defenses. If Cassius Winston can control the ball Michigan State should be to impose its will on the break with Xavier Tillman attacking the rim.  There will be a lot of pressure on Winston to run the offense efficiently out of half court sets.  We know Michigan will be looking to run but the grind it out style of Texas Tech will look to take that away.  Tech also brings the 28th nationally ranked offensively efficient team which means they will not turn the ball over enough to allow the new “running” Spartans to take off.

This game will be a matchup between a coach on the rise and a coach that is cementing his legacy.  Chris Beard has done a remarkable job bringing the Red Raiders to this point.  Jarrett Culver will have to find his shot earl, if he doesn’t it will be up to Matt Mooney to start the offense from the outside. This game will be a hard hitting affair, usually I would lean to the veteran coach in this situation but I am going with Chris Beard.  Texas Tech has bought into what Beard is selling.  They will have no fear of Michigan State. The Red Raiders are going to shut down Winston and the fast break and pull out the victory. I may lean ML on this game but if you can take the points why not be safe.

Pick: Texas Tech +3

Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers -5.5

The Auburn Tigers came into the tournament hot but no one saw this coming from Bruce Pearl’s squad.  Defeating three of the blue blood of college basketball on their way to the final four.  The injury to Chumu Okeke could have derailed any team going into their elite eight matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats but they rallied behind his injury.  This Auburn team reminds me of the UConn title team of 2014.  Playing the part of Shabazz Napier is senior Jerad Harper while the part of Ryan Boatright being played by Bryce Brown. The Tigers are a veteran led team that goes ten deep to make sure they can keep up their frantic pace. If Auburn can come out and play their pace and jump out to an early lead it will be a problem for the defensive minded Virginia Cavaliers.

Virginia seems like a team of destiny after the debacle of last season. Their last second game tying shot from Mamdi Diakite over Purdue was something that we only see in movies.  The Cavaliers are battle tested through the season but have a tendancy to have some slow starts. If Virginia doesn’t come out and set the pace they will be overcome by the constant attack of Auburn.  Unlike the other final four matchup the Cavaliers will have to contend with multiple scorers in order to be successful, this game will be a battle of different styles that should be a chess matchup of two great coaches. 

Pick: Auburn +5.5 (Virginia wins by 4)

South Region Breakdown

  1. Virginia
  2. Tennessee
  3. Purdue
  4. Kansas St.

Sleeper team to win: Villanova

I am going to contradict myself by saying my sleeper is the same team that I think could be on upset alert.  The Villanova Wildcats had a rollercoaster season, ultimately though the ride was enjoyable for Jay Wrights crew as they took home the Big East regular season and tournament title.  Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are big time players that can carry the load for the Wildcats that lost literally their entire lineup to the NBA last season.  They will face off with upset minded St. Mary’s fresh off a destruction of heavily favored Gonzaga in the Mountain West Conference tournament.  St. Mary’s will have another upset on their mind in this matchup that currently seems like a toss- up according to most insiders.  If Jay Wrights crew does get by St. Marys they have a cast of unproven but solid teams in their way including a Purdue team that is basically a one man show and a Tennessee team that can be unfocused at times. 

Potential First Round Upset: Oregon over Wisconsin

This is popular.  Both teams play a slow and defensive game.  Oregon has caught fire at the right time though running through the Pac12 tournament and forcing their way on to the scene.  Louis King has emerged as a playmaker on the offensive end and they get great point guard play from Payton Prichard.  While I want to see Ethan Happ get a great run in the tournament his problems from the free throw line could lead to an early exit for the Badgers. 

Keep an eye on the health of Dean Wade.  If he cannot play another potential upset could be UC Irvine over Kansas State.  UC Irvine is very good at defending the rim. 

Who’s going to win it: Virginia

The Cavaliers will come into the 2019 tournament motivated.  Virginia lost three games during the season to Duke (2) and Florida State in the ACC tournament. They have their issues on the offensive end but the bracket breaks down well for them.  A potential third round matchup with Ole Miss or Oklahoma will be a walk in the park with only a potential matchup with K-State or Wisconsin whom doesn’t have the athletes to beat Virginia. Tennessee is the only team that realistically has the players to matchup with Virginia defense.

Second Round Picks:

Virginia

Ole Miss

Oregon

UC Irvine

Villanova

Purdue

Cincinnati

Tennessee