By Kyle Beery
The NCAA Tournament field has been announced and it’s time for bracket overload. You’ll spend the next three days reading up all you can to try and gain an edge in your bracket pool, and more than likely you’ll be regretting all that time wasted by Friday night.
But you’ll do it anyway because the greatest week of the year is upon us and that goes along with the territory. So I’ll be breaking down each regional of the bracket, looking at the best teams, best matchups, potential upsets, and more.
Here’s the breakdown for the West Regional.
- The Wildcats looked quite impressive in their run to the Pac-12 Tournament title. After losing twice in a three-game stretch back in late November and early December, Arizona has lost just twice in its last 24 games.7-foot Finnish freshman Lauri Markkanen has helped pave the way with his 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. His game has developed throughout the season. He began the year focusing on his ability to hit three-pointers, but now has more of a post presence. But make no mistake — Markkanen will still bury a three if he is left open. He and the Wildcats will give some teams absolute fits in this regional.
- It may seem a little odd to have a No. 1 seed as a challenger to a 2-seed in a regional, but the Bulldogs have something left to prove. Their best win came against Arizona on a neutral court way back in the beginning of December when the Wildcats were without Allonzo Trier, who has turned into a big threat this season. Gonzaga is good, there’s no doubt about it. You don’t win 32 games and lose just once if you’re not good. They haven’t played elite competition since early in the season, but luckily they have a little time to tune up before a potential matchup with Arizona.
- Notre Dame is the only team in the country that has made back-to-back Elite 8 appearances. While the Fighting Irish lost a decent amount of talent from last year, they look to be just as good this season. This relatively young team is pretty fundamentally sound and ranks in the top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency (118.9 points per 100 possessions) according to kenpom.com. It’s certainly not an easy path for the Irish, but this is a team that could again go on a run into the second weekend, and possibly beyond.
Potential first-round upsets
- 11. Xavier over 6. Maryland
- The Musketeers hit a real rough patch near the end of the season, losing six in a row and free-falling down the seed line. This is a team that was ranked in the AP Top 25 to start the season. And while starting guards Edmond Sumner and Dee Davis are no longer with the team, guys like J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett are definitely stars. Maryland has star power, too, with Melo Trimble, and is definitely no slouch. The Terrapins themselves are capable of getting hot, but this is an enticing upset pick.
- 12. Princeton over 5. Notre Dame
- To promptly contradict my sleeper pick, don’t overlook the Ivy League champions. They have won 18 games in a row heading into the tournament and could make a little noise.
- 16. South Dakota State over 1. Gonzaga
- Hear me out. Please. I know it’s crazy, and it probably won’t happen, but one of these years it is going to happen. And if there’s any matchup this year that raises an eyebrow, this is it. As previously mentioned, Gonzaga is good. No, actually the Bulldogs are great. But I urge you to learn the name Mike Daum. The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward has NBA potential. Granted, it was against Summit League-level talent, but Daum was an absolute beast in the conference tournament. He averaged nearly 30 points and nine rebounds per game. He went off for 51 and 15 earlier this season. So look out, and make sure to watch this game.
- 1. Gonzaga over 5. Notre Dame
- 2. Arizona over 11. Xavier
- 2. Arizona over 1. Gonzaga
Check out the breakdowns of the other regionals: EAST REGIONAL
NCAA IS A TRADEMARK OF THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION. THE IMAGE USED IN THIS POST IS COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.