Men's Basketball 2018 NCAA Tournament West Regional Overview

West Regional Overview
The 2018 NCAA Tournament West Regional bracket on paper looks fairly loaded as you have the Big East regular season champion in Xavier as the number one seed. North Carolina checks in as the number two seed as the defending national champion and are coming off a strong performance in the ACC Tournament and have that look of a team that is primed for a deep run. Michigan and Gonzaga are also very legitimate contenders to get out of this region and make it to the Final Four in San Antonio as both teams are peaking at the right time with their play.
Who Can Win?
Xavier has that look of a team that is ready for a breakthrough by getting to the Final Four in similar fashion to Gonzaga in 2017. The Musketeers will need a big-time performance in the NCAA Tournament from senior guard Trevon Bluiett as he is averaging just under 20 points per game on the season. North Carolina as the defending champion is going to be tough to eliminate at any point in this tournament. The key is going to be how well the Tar Heels defend for 40 minutes because they will be able to score the basketball without much of a problem.
Who Can Surprise?
Gonzaga can surprise in the sense that they are a number four seed and have been getting better and better as the season has gone along. The Bulldogs will have their first two games in Boise, which is an easy trip for their fans from Spokane, so it will be like having two extra home games for them. Houston has had a nice resurgence this season under head coach Kelvin Sampson and their ability to stay engaged defensively will give them an opportunity to pull an upset or two in the NCAA Tournament.
Who’s Hot?
Michigan has won nine consecutive games as they knocked off Michigan State and Purdue enroute to the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship at Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines are battle tested as they made it to the Sweet 16 last year before falling to Oregon. Thus, the pressure of being a high seed in the NCAA Tournament should not be a problem for Michigan. Defensively, the Wolverines are only allowing 63 points per game and that could be the x-factor for them as they move forward in the NCAA Tournament.
Who’s Cold?
Ohio State is 2-3 in their last five games as they have lost to Penn State twice and barely beat Indiana 80-78 in Bloomington back on February 23rd. The Buckeyes have had an excellent season as they have exceeded expectations under the direction of first-year head coach Chris Holtmann. It will be interesting to see how Ohio State responds after having nearly two weeks off to get ready for the NCAA Tournament. If the Buckeyes come out rusty against South Dakota State early on they could end up in harm’s way.
Upset Alert!
South Dakota State over Ohio State in the 5-12 matchup is a potential upset as the Jackrabbits are led by Mike Daum who is averaging 23.8 points per game on the season. Overall, South Dakota State is averaging 85 points per game so if they can get the tempo in their favor they could get this game with the Buckeyes down to the final minutes with a chance to win.
What Possible Matchup is Interesting?
Texas A&M matching up with North Carolina is an intriguing potential second round matchup. The Aggies have plenty of talent down in the post that could give the bigs of the Tar Heels some havoc for 40 minutes. In addition, the Aggies aren’t going to be intimidated by having to play North Carolina in Charlotte. It won’t be easy for Texas A&M to knock out the Tar Heels, but they can very easily turn this potential matchup into one of the best of the second round if they are clicking on all cylinders.
Which Player Will Dominate?
As a senior, Joel Berry II is the type of a player who can put North Carolina on his back and push them through to another Final Four. Berry II is a very reliable scorer and, when he gets to the foul line, can ice a game for the Tar Heels as he is shooting 88 percent from the foul line on the season.
Which System is Tough to Prepare For?
Missouri could be a problem for teams to prepare for in the NCAA Tournament with the return of Michael Porter Jr. The Tigers are a team that can get hot from behind the arc and shoot their way to the second weekend if they are playing well as a unit. Take this, combined without much tape out there on Missouri with Porter Jr. in the lineup, and they could be a tough team to prep for in the round of 32 on a short turnaround.