Let’s start today previewing the West Region of the NCAA bracket. Check back to view the East Region previewed yesterday.
The West Region features some enticing story lines. Gonzaga and Arizona are the top seeds in the bracket but feature teams who have not been able to get past the Elite Eight and get to the coveted Final Four in recent years.
Florida State and West Virginia have looked the part of a Final Four team at points in the season but have shown to be vulnerable of late.
Mike Brey and Notre Dame terrific group of upper class man are coming off consecutive Elite Eight appearances and are seeking a run deeper into the Tournament.
Northwestern makes their first appearance for the first time in school history breaking the 78 year drought.
Joe Dooley, longtime Kansas assistant, has established Florida Gulf Coast as a top mid major program in the country in his four seasons as head coach.
South Dakota’s State’s star forward, Mike Daum, is coming off a season in which he averaged 25 points and 8 rebounds per game and a Summit League championship game where he had 37 points and 12 rebounds.
The Favorites: Gonzaga and Arizona
(1) Gonzaga is coming off a 32-1 regular season with wins over Florida, Iowa State, Arizona, and St. Mary’s. Gonzaga runs 8 players deep led by star player Nigel Williams – Goss. This may be Mark Fews best team as the bulldogs score 84.6 points per game and shoot 51.8% from the field.
(2) Arizona has been playing as a better team since Alonzo Trier returned from suspension. Trier missed the game against Gonzaga earlier in the season. Future lottery pick Lauri Markkanen is one of best shooting 7 footers in recent memory.
Sleeper: Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish are coming off consecutive Elite 8 appearances and will likely have to get past (1) Gonzaga to do it for the third year. However, seniors Matt Farrell, Steve Vasturia, V.J Beachum and standout junior Bonzie Colson are veteran upperclassman who play smart and efficient offense capable for advancing to a final four. The Irish commit only nine turnovers a game, three fewer than the NCAA average.
Match- up to watch: (8) Northwestern vs. (9) Vanderbilt
Northwestern is joining the dance for the first time in 78 years. Chris Collins, the former Duke assistant and son of Doug Collins, has done a remarkable job changing the program at Northwestern.
Vanderbilt, posting a 19-15 record, finished with a record amount of losses for a bubble team. However, a strong strength of schedule caught the committees eye to put them into the tournament. Vanderbilt did beat Florida three times this season. Vanderbilt is known for their ability to shoot a lot of threes at each position. The floor spacing they create tough match-ups to defend for opponents.
Sweet 16: (1) Gonzaga vs (5) Notre Dame – (2) Arizona vs (3) Florida State
Elite 8: (5) Notre Dame vs (3) Arizona
Regional Champ: (2) Arizona – Sean Miller has a talented roster that creates a lot of mismatches. Arizona is long and athletic and can shoot the ball from distance. They have the ability to defend after seeing tough offenses Oregon and UCLA throughout the PAC 12 schedule. Expect Arizona to represent the West in the Final Four this season.
Follow me on Twitter @mikey_ryan11 for more information. Check back later as we’ll preview the South Region next.