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.
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.
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.
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
|BYU def Iona 78-72||Tue, 3/14||9:05 ET||Dayton||Nantz-Kellogg-Kerr||truTV||BYU -2|
|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|
|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|
|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|