NCAA Tournament Preview: West Region
By: Dakota Arturo
If there is one region where we may see pure chalk, it’s the West. The selection committee, whether intentionally or not, gave undeserving Duke a 1 seed while pairing arguably the second and third best teams in the country, Wisconsin and Arizona, in the same region.
First Round Upsets
Georgia State (14) over Baylor (3)
Unlikely? Sure. But don’t discount Georgia State. Not only is former Louisville Cardinal Kevin Ware on the squad, but potential 1st round pick R.J. Hunter is too. Baylor is sure to win this rebounding battle, but Georgia State’s backcourt could create problems for the Bears. Baylor is also a team that has underachieved in tournament play, never going beyond the Sweet 16 in their team history. No #14 seed won in last years tournament, yet it happened 3 times from 2012-2013, so this situation is entirely possible.
Ole Miss (11) over Xavier (6)
It’s never a bad idea to take the winner of the 11 seed play in game. In recent years VCU, South Florida, and Tennessee have all advanced to at least the 4th round after winning the #11 seed play-in game. Ole Miss, a high scoring team, already put up 94 points against BYU to make the 2nd round. Upper-classmen guards Jarvis Summers and Stefan Moody combine to average just under 30 PPG. The Rebels score a lot, rebound well, and who can pick against a team that took Kentucky to OT?
Elite Eight Darkhorse
Come NCAA Tournament time, it’s never smart to pick against elite coaches. VCU coach Shaka Smart is just that. VCU lost star G Briante Weber to a torn ACL in early February, yet has recovered quite well. This team is peaking after running through the A-10 with impressive wins over tournament teams Davidson and Dayton. VCU may have a difficult road to the elite eight – tough matchups with Ohio State (10) and likely Arizona (2) – but one can never write off VCU with their havoc playing style.
Arkansas is another high scoring squad that can create problems with just about any team. The Razorbacks average 78 PPG while ranking 12th in the nation in assists and protecting the ball. Sophomore PF Bobby Portis, an NBA talent, is among the SEC’s best players and averages 17.5 PPG and 8.6 RPG. The Razorbacks like to utilize the full court press, and when doing so successfully, create tons of turnovers. Wisconsin may be among the best teams in the nation, but Arkansas’ press defense could create a mismatch for the Badgers’ highly efficient offense.
Elite Eight Showdown: Wisconsin (1) vs. Arizona (2)
Even with the upset potential of teams like VCU, Arkansas, and Ohio State, this region will be chalk all the way. What else do you expect when you place two should be 1-seeds in the same region? Arizona is among the nations hottest teams – winner of 12 straight – while Wisconsin (winner of 16 of their last 17) is the nations most efficient offense. These teams differ in how they win games though.
Wisconsin is heavily reliant on star C Frank Kaminsky, while Arizona relies of a team effort. Kaminsky (18.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 55.3 FG%) is a rare 7-foot talent that can spread defenses out with his three-point ability. Arizona also boasts quite the group of talent. Stanley Johnson leads the team in scoring (14.1 PPG) and has proven to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the nation. It makes Aaron Gordon’s graduation to the NBA forgettable. Johnson is just one of 6 Wildcats who averages over 9 PPG. Kaleb Tarczewski is one of the nations best centers, while PA native TJ McConnell runs the point to perfection (dishing out 6.4 APG). That’s not to mention the contributions Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Gabe York provide.
While this matchup is inevitable, predicting the winner is quite difficult. Arizona has more players capable of producing double-digit performances, but Wisconsin is the nations most productive offense. In the end, I’m going with #1 seed Wisconsin. Arizona is more than capable of winning this game, but I’ll never pick against arguably the nations best player, Frank Kaminsky. Regardless, whoever advances should matchup quite well with the invincible Kentucky Wildcats. In the end though, I’ll stick with Bo Ryan and his Badgers team.