March Madness is finally back. With the brackets coming out this past weekend, we will take a deep look into every region. Here’s the West Region.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Norfolk State/Appalachian State
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. The Bulldogs are 26-0, and all but one of their games have been double-digit victories. Jalen Suggs is the leader of this Zags team. Suggs is averaging 14.3 points per game and has been the spark the Bulldogs need on defense. Gonzaga has the all-around team to make a deep tournament run. Corey Kispert has one of the best jump shots in the country. Drew Timme is a potential NBA prospect with great footwork for a big. Along with Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard, the Bulldogs are a tough out. Gonzaga is only the 5th team to enter the tournament with a perfect record since the Indiana Hoosiers won it all in 1976. Gonzaga won’t be losing to a 16-seed here.
This will be one of the best 8-seed vs. 9-seed matchups in the whole tournament. The Oklahoma Sooners had a great season but lost 5 of their last 6 games coming in. The Sooners have won over Alabama, Kansas, Texas, and West Virginia, making them a very dangerous 8-seed. Oklahoma is led by their senior guard, Austin Reaves. Reaves is averaging 17.7 points per game this year. Missouri can get hot, though. The Tigers have a great inside-outside balance between guard Xavier Pinson and forward Jeremiah Tilmon. This should be a very close game, but I would give Oklahoma the slight edge. Oklahoma might make noise in the west region.
No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara
The Creighton Bluejays are coming into this tournament after getting blown out by Georgetown in the Big East championship. This team could still be dangerous. Led by their star guard Marcus Zegarowski, don’t be surprised to see them make a run. Most of Creighton’s offense runs through Zegarowski, so when he’s hot, is the rest of the team. Mitch Ballock has had a good season for the Bluejays as well. Ballock is one of the best shooters in the league and has hit over 60 threes this season. The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos are going to be a real test, though. The Gauchos are a great defensive team and are led by guard JaQuori McLaughlin. The Gauchos are a good team, but Creighton shouldn’t have too many problems.
The Virginia Cavaliers will have a very interesting tournament. The Cavaliers pulled out of the ACC tournament due to Covid and have multiple players still in quarantine. When healthy, Virginia has had one of the best offenses in college basketball. The Cavaliers are led by a three-pointer trio between Jay Huff, Sam Hauser, and Trey Murphy. The Ohio Bobcats are going to be tough to beat, though. Ohio is on a roll after winning the MAC championship. Jason Preston has been electric this season. The junior point guard is averaging 16 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds a game while shooting over 50% from the floor. This game should be on everyone’s upset watch in the West region.
No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Wichita State/Drake
With Drake and Wichita State set-up for a First Four game on Thursday, USC will not know their opponent till then. The USC Trojans can make a deep run this March, though. The Trojans are led by freshman superstar Evan Mobley. Mobley won Pac-12 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year. This makes Mobley the first player to win all three awards ever in the Pac-12. The only other player in all of college basketball to do that was NBA superstar Anthony Davis in the SEC. Mobley is a future NBA lottery pick and has great teammates around him. Even Mobley’s brother, Isaiah, creates a great 1-2 punch for the Trojans. Wichita State and Drake will both be looking to make a Cinderella run but don’t be surprised to see USC dominate.
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Eastern Washington
The Kansas Jayhawks have had a very unsteady season. The Jayhawks went on a 2-5 stretch in the middle of the season but have bounced back. Kansas looked like they would make a deep run in the Big 12 tournament until Covid took them out. With coach Bill Self admitting that 3 players will not be traveling with the team to Indianapolis, this team is a big question mark. David McCormack has been the leader of this Jayhawk squad. The big man is averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season. Kansas also has some great guard play this season. Ochai Agbaji is averaging around 14 points per game, and Marcus Garrett is one of the best perimeter defenders in college hoops. Eastern Washington is coming into this tournament after winning the Big Sky championship. Even with Kansas’s Covid concerns, the Jayhawks should be fine here.
This game should be electric. Sophomore guard Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland is having an incredible season for VCU. Hyland was named the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year and is averaging 19.4 points per game. Hyland has a great game in-and-out and is a sniper from three-point range. With the help of Vince Williams, VCU has one of the best guard combinations in college hoops. They will have a tough matchup, though. Oregon has won 11 of their last 12 games and were the regular season Pac-12 champions. Chris Duarte leads the way for Oregon. Duarte is averaging 16.7 points per game and can drive to the rim better than anyone. Oregon is deep, too, Will Richardson will be back from injury, and Eric Williams has played well. These are two hot teams coming in, so be ready for anything in this one. The west region is hot.
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon
The Iowa Hawkeyes have had a great season in the toughest conference in college basketball. With Luka Garza on the team, that’s not hard to imagine. Garza is averaging 23.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season. Along with his stats, Garza looks to be the favorite to win the Wooden Award. The Hawkeyes have dealt with some injuries, though. Jack Nunge was ruled out for the season, and Joe Wieskamp rolled his ankle in their match-up with Wisconsin. This Iowa team will be hard to knock out still. With Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick, Joe Wieskamp, and Luka Garza, they are among the best three-point shooting teams in the country. Grand Canyon has had a historic year. This is the first March Madness appearance for the Antelopes, even if it is a quick one.
Most Potential: Gonzaga Bulldogs
The team with the most potential to make a Final Four appearance in this region would have to be the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are the only undefeated team left in the country and have won every game by 5 or more. Gonzaga has struggled in March in the past, but this seems to be a different team. I like Gonzaga to come out of this West region.
Cinderella Potential: Ohio Bobcats
The Ohio Bobcats are a team to watch in March. As I mentioned before, Jason Preston has been incredible this season. The guard has a LaMelo Ball playstyle, which has seemed to help them greatly. Along with Virginia’s Covid issues, the Bobcats could have the perfect recipe for success in the west region.