The West region in this years’ NCAA tournament is one with quite a bit of experience. Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, and Baylor are all top teams with players that have played in the tournament before. In addition, some of the lower seeds have that experience too like Harvard, Georgia State with Kevin Ware, and Ohio State.
This region seems to be hyped by the potential rematch of Arizona and Wisconsin. They played last year in the Elite Eight and it was a game for the ages. This season, their seeds are switched and they could be back against each other in the Elite Eight for the second straight year.
Lets break down the second round games in the West Region:
1 Wisconsin- 16 Coastal Carolina: Wisconsin comes into this game after running the table at the Big Ten tournament and capturing the regular season and tournament titles. The Badgers are led by player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky and after coming in as the last number one seed, they will be using this game to jump-start their drive to Indianapolis and the Final Four. The Chanticleers gave Virginia a fight last season for about 30 minutes, but Wisconsin should have no problem in this one.
8 Oregon-9 Oklahoma State: Oregon comes into this game fresh off of a blowout loss to Arizona in the Pac 12 Championship game. Oklahoma State on the other hand is limping into the tournament as they have lost six of the last seven. These two teams are heading in opposite directions, as this eight-nine clash will be an interesting matchup because of that storyline. Look for the Cowboys to use their size inside with LeBryan Nash while Oregon’s offense will run through Joseph Young.
5 Arkansas- 12 Wofford: The Arkansas Razorbacks have had an interesting season. They have looked like a top 15 team in some games and an NIT team in others. They seem to have righted the ship a bit since they just made the SEC championship, but this is the class five-twelve upset special game so you have to be careful. Wofford won their conference by winning 15 of the last 16, but they aren’t in the best conference in the world. This is a tough game to predict because I’m not quite sure what to expect from the Terriers. Careful when you pick this game.
4 North Carolina- 13 Harvard: This is a game that will definitely draw some interest. The Crimson are back for the fourth straight year and they will be looking for yet another upset as they return to the Big Dance. North Carolina comes in playing very well even though they lost their most recent game to Notre Dame in the ACC Final. Look for North Carolina to control this game, but don’t rule out Tommy Amaker and the Crimson.
6 Xavier-11 Ole Miss: Both of these teams come into this game with an interesting finish to their seasons. Ole Miss dropped a heartbreaker in the final seconds in the SEC tournament while Xavier made the Big East tournament. The Rebels had to overcome a 17-point deficit in the play-in game vs. BYU just to be in this position. Look for them to carry some of that momentum into this one and give the Musketeers a scare and maybe even pull off the upset.
3 Baylor-14 Georgia State: The Baylor Bears come into the game as one of the most aggressive and physical teams in the field. They go crazy on the boards and use their physicality to their advantage. Georgia State struggles in the rebounding department, which will cause some problems for the Panthers in this one. This game will feature the return of Louisville transfer Kevin Ware in his return to the tournament. The Bears should be able to take care of this Georgia State team that only scored 38 points in their conference championship win.
7 VCU-10 Ohio State: VCU comes into this game after winning the A-10 tournament championship while Ohio State comes in after going one and done in the Big Ten tournament. Shaka Smart’s Rams are missing their star Briante Weber who is arguably the best player on VCU. They love to ramp up the pressure on defense, but D’Angelo Russell, the freshman point guard for the Buckeyes, will pace the Buckeyes in this one for good or for bad. This should be a fun game to watch but the biggest question will be how good VCU is without their star in Weber.
2 Arizona-15 Texas Southern:
The Wildcats are playing their best basketball at the right time of the season. They come into the tournament after winning the Pac 12 regular season and tournament championships and it is coming from all facets of the game. They have some playmakers on this team that help the Wildcats score in many different ways whether it is off the dribble, down low, or with their outside shot. Former Indiana coach Mike Davis coaches Texas Southern and that is the extent of their tournament experience. Look for Arizona to roll in this one.
When this region comes to an end, I expect to see that rematch of Wisconsin-Arizona. There are some strong teams in this region, but those two are just playing too good of basketball at this time of the season. That game is too close to predict at this point.
Happy March Madness!