The West region was one that really only featured one real upset which was Georgia State and R.J. Hunter knocking off Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Other than that, it has sort of been a ho-hum region. There were a few good games like Ohio St.-VCU which went to OT, UNC-Arkansas was decent, and Oregon gave Wisconsin a bit of a scare. Because of the lack of upsets, it sets up the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight for some awesome matchups at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
All of the teams remaining, maybe other than Xavier, are legit teams that could challenge for a championship if they were to make the Final Four. Wisconsin, Arizona, and North Carolina are all battle tested teams and have that big name persona that can do some damage and are playing fairly well right now.
With big teams come big storylines and we have some good ones in these two Sweet 16 games. In the Arizona-Xavier game, we have Arizona coach Sean Miller coaching against his former school in Xavier. The other game is Wisconsin and North Carolina, which has the big program vibe and it should be a great heavyweight battle.
Lets get a preview of each of the games out West in LA this Thursday and Saturday:
Wisconsin (1) vs. North Carolina (4) – 4:47 p.m. TBS:
This matchup between the Big Ten champions and the storied program of North Carolina will be a great matchup between two teams that are playing very well of late. The best matchup to watch will be Marcus Paige vs. the guards of Wisconsin. Paige can take over a game in so many different ways that it will be interesting to see what Bo Ryan schemes to slow him down. Another fun chess match will be between Roy Williams and Bo Ryan, two of the great basketball minds in the game today.
A key injury that hurts will hurt the Tar Heels in this one is the uncertainty of big man Kennedy Meeks. He would be one of their go-to guys to stop player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky and it Meeks is unable to go, getting a win might be a tall task for North Carolina. Wisconsin also might be getting their point guard back in Traevon Jackson who has been out for quite a while with a broken foot. If the Badgers can get him back, that gives them one more weapon vs. this Tar Heels attack.
In the end, Wisconsin is too much of a team, in the sense that they are unselfish, and will end up advancing to the Elite Eight.
Arizona (2) vs. Xavier (6) – 7:17 p.m. TBS:
The second game of the doubleheader at the Staples Center on Thursday features a great storyline as Sean Miller will face his former team in Xavier. That, however, shouldn’t be the only storyline. There are some great matchups to watch headed up by the frontline of Arizona led by Brandon Ashley going up against the bigs of Xavier led by Matt Stainbrook. In the Big East tournament, Stainbrook led this Musketeers team to the championship and has put the team on his back to get them to the Sweet 16. The guard play for both teams will be fun to watch as well. TJ McConnell for the Wildcats is a great leader on the floor and for Arizona to have success they need McConnell to be on his ‘A’ game.
Look for Arizona to try and get up and down in this one and if Gabe York is hitting shots like he was against Ohio State, this might be a long night for coach Chris Mack and Xavier. Dee Davis along with Myles Davis (not related) will need to have solid games to go up against a deep Arizona team. Stainbrook should get his 20, but if Xavier wants to have a chance, they will need some other guys to step up.
When this one is all set and done, Arizona is going to be too much for Xavier to handle and they will advance to the Elite 8.
A rematch of the Elite Eight game from last year between Arizona and Wisconsin is one that everyone wanted to see again and it hopefully shouldn’t disappoint. These should be some intriguing games to watch, but don’t be surprised if there aren’t any upsets out West.