West Region Bracket Breakdown: Upset Picks, Sleeper Team, and Regional Champion Prediction

The West region features tournament champions from the Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, and Mountain West along with one of the hottest teams in the country in Memphis as well as the nation’s only one-loss team in Murray State.

Related: See Andy’s other bracket breakdowns – Midwest | South | East

First Round Matchup I’m Looking Forward To: #5 New Mexico vs. #12 Long Beach State

Once again, the committee pitted two teams I am high on against one another in round one.

steve-alford-west-regional-bracket-breakdown

It's okay Coch Alford, you can open your eyes. Long Beach State is a tough Round 1 opponent, but your Lobos match up well. (Photo by Dirk Hansen from San Diego, CA. Cropped by User:Blueag9 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Lobos have been fantastic defensively, but The Beach can put pressure on opposing teams thanks to the play-making of Casper Ware and the interior prowess of T.J. Robinson.  The status of senior Larry Anderson is an unknown after he missed the Big West Tournament with a knee injury, but his return would bolster the 49ers’ chances of springing the upset.

New Mexico is also impressive on the offensive end, and big man Drew Gordon will be a load for any opponent.  They also shoot the three well, which could hurt a Long Beach State team in the middle of the pack in three-point defense.

Second Round Matchup I’d Like to See: #1 Michigan State vs. #8 Memphis

The Spartans have an impressive profile after tying for the Big Ten regular season crown and winning the Big Ten Tournament, led by conference Player of the Year Draymond Green.  However, I felt Memphis was under-seeded as an eight, because the Tigers are playing as well as anyone in the country right now.

Michigan State has been fantastic defensively throughout the season, and as has become customary with Tom Izzo’s teams, they are relentless on the glass.  Memphis is no slouch on either end of the floor, and sophomore Will Barton could be a matchup problem for Sparty with Branden Dawson out for the remainder of the year.

And finally, the chance to see two teams in the Top 10 of the Pomeroy ratings in round two?  Yes, please.

First Round Upset I’m Picking: #13 Davidson over #4 Louisville

To be honest, I am not sure I will pull the trigger on any upsets in this region, but this is one I am strongly considering.

Louisville thrives on turnovers, but the Wildcats have a strong backcourt and one of the lowest turnover rates in the country.  Davidson is also strong on the offensive glass, which is an area where the Cardinals have struggled as evidenced by their 243rd-ranked defensive rebounding percentage.

On the other end of the floor, Louisville has struggled mightily on offense, with their best attribute an ability to crash the offensive boards.  However, the Wildcats are in the Top 20 in defensive rebounding percentage, which should help to negate that part of the Cardinals’s game.

First Round Upset I’m Avoiding: #11 Colorado State over #6 Murray State

All of CSU’s big wins came at home this season, and they simply don’t match up all that well with the Racers.

The Rams have subpar numbers in quite a few defensive statistics, and I look for Isaiah Canaan and Murray State to take advantage of their poor three-point defense.  For the year, the Racers shoot 40.7 percent from beyond the arc, and their high free throw rate gives additional reason for confidence in light of CSU’s propensity to put its opponents on the stripe.

That being said, the Rams have an efficient offense of their own and actually shoot slightly better than Murray State from long range.  However, I like the Racers’ ability to force turnovers as well as their tough three-point defense, which is among the best in the country.

First Top Four Seed to Lose: #4 Louisville

Even if the Cardinals get past Davidson in their first game, I think New Mexico is even better-suited to take advantage of Louisvile’s offensive shortcomings thanks to strong defense and impressive work on the defensive glass.  I give the Cardinals a ton of credit for their Big East Tournament run, but their poor shooting will ultimately be their undoing in a tournament setting.

Sleeper Team: #5 New Mexico

I debated between New Mexico and Memphis, but ultimately I went with the Lobos based on their strong defense. In addition, they would be playing relatively close to home if they make it to the regional in Phoenix.  Steve Alford’s club is also balanced offensively with Drew Gordon in the post and three-point shooters like Tony Snell, Phillip McDonald, and Jamal Fenton on the perimeter.

West Regional Champion: #2 Missouri

I think the top of this bracket could be a mess with the likes of Michigan State, Memphis, and New Mexico, so I hesitate to pick anyone there.

Regardless, it’s hard not to love what Missouri has done this season. They are the most efficient offensive team in the land, and despite their lack of size, they have held their own against bigger teams on the defensive end. The Tigers have deadeye shooters in Marcus Denmon and Kim English, a fantastic point guard in Flip Pressey, instant offense off the bench from Michael Dixon, and a man inside with Ricardo Ratliffe.

marcus-denmon-west-region-bracket-breakdown

Marcus Denmon is one of the top players in the West Region. (Photo by Dak Dillon - DakDillonPhotography.com)

If you had told me at the beginning of the season I would be looking at Frank Haith taking this team to the Final Four, I’d have said you were crazy, but they have made me a believer.

**********

West Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Point Spreads

Game Matchup Date Time Location Announcers TV Spread
  FIRST ROUND            
  BYU def Iona 78-72 Tue, 3/14 9:05 ET Dayton Nantz-Kellogg-Kerr truTV BYU -2
               
  SECOND ROUND            
1 #1 Michigan State def #16 LIU Brooklyn 89-67 Fri, 3/16 9:15 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski TBS MSU -20
2 #9 Saint Louis def #8 Memphis 61-54 Fri, 3/16 6:50 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski TBS MEM -3
               
3 #4 Louisville def #13 Davidson 69-62 Thu, 3/15 1:40 ET Portland Anderson-Bonner TBS UL -7
4 #5 New Mexico def #12 Long Beach State 75-68 Thu, 3/15 3:05 ET Portland Anderson-Bonner TBS UNM -4.5
               
5 #15 Norfolk St def #2 Missouri 86-84 Fri, 3/16 4:35 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager TNT MIS -21.5
6 #7 Florida def #10 Virginia 71-45 Fri, 3/16 2:10 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager TNT UF -3.5
               
7 #3 Marquette def #14 BYU 88-68 Thu, 3/15 2:35 ET Louisville Lundquist-Raftery CBS TBA
8 #6 Murray State def #11 Colorado State 58-41 Thu, 3/15 12:15 ET Louisville Lundquist-Raftery CBS MUR -3.5
               
  THIRD ROUND            
9 #1 Michigan State def #9 Saint Louis 65-61 Sun, 3/18 2:45 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski CBS  
10 #4 Louisville def #5 New Mexico 59-56 Sat, 3/17 9:40 ET Portland Anderson-Bonner TBS LOU -1.5
               
11 #7 Florida def #15 Norfolk State Sun, 3/18 6:10 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager TNT UF -14
12 #3 Marquette def #6 Murray State 62-53 Sat, 3/17 5:15 ET Louisville Lundquist-Raftery CBS MARQ -5
               
  SWEET 16            
13 #1 Michigan State v #4 Louisville Thu, 3/22   Phoenix     MSU -5
14 #7 Florida v #3 Marquette Thu, 3/22   Phoenix     MARQ -2
               
  ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL            
15 Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner Sat, 3/24   Phoenix      



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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