Men’s NCAA Tournament West Regional Overview

Men’s NCAA Tournament West Regional Overview


This region is headed by a school that has made history. After several years of playing Cinderella and then an established mid-major program, Gonzaga has finally reached the pinnacle as a No. 1 seed. Did the Bulldogs deserve the top seed, or should Big Ten Conference tournament champion Ohio State deserve the top line? Some darkhorse candidates also exist in this region, which funnels through Los Angeles and sends its representative to Atlanta for the Final Four. Will it be one of the top schools pushing its way out of the region, or will a darkhorse candidate sweep through the bigger programs and punch its ticket to the Georgia Dome?


#1 Gonzaga, #2 Ohio State, #3 New Mexico, #4 Kansas State, #5 Wisconsin, #6 Arizona, #7 Notre Dame, #8 Pittsburgh, #9 Wichita State, #10 Iowa State, #11 Belmont, #12 Mississippi, #13 Boise State / La Salle, #14 Harvard, #15 Iona, #16 Southern


Who Can Win?

Either Gonzaga or Ohio State should be a contender for the Final Four. The rub on Gonzaga, although it played a solid non-conference schedule, is that the Bulldogs didn’t play one that was tough enough to merit a No. 1 seed. Still, it is hard to argue with a 31-2 overall record. Ohio State fought its way through a competitive Big Ten schedule and faltered in areas where it should not have, but that tells you how tough the Big Ten is in comparison to some of the other conferences. Some of the other schools in this region are attractive sleeper candidates, but realistically neither Gonzaga nor Ohio State should fall victim to a Cinderella surprise.


Who Can Surprise?

On the other hand, bracket-buster experts will tell you two teams could make a mockery out of the West Regional. New Mexico, although it plays in the lower-visibility Mountain West Conference, still won the league tournament and only has five losses entering the Big Dance. Since there are tough teams in the MWC the Lobos make a quite respectable third seed and could give some teams trouble depending on the matchups. The other team that could surprise is Wisconsin; a team that always seems to give others fits based on its style of play. Bo Ryan has taken Wisconsin to the past 15 NCAA tournaments using the same slowdown game that causes teams to lose offensive focus. Teams facing either New Mexico or Wisconsin could have a battle on their hands if everything works out well.


Who’s Hot?

Without a doubt, Gonzaga is the team that carries a hot hand into the tournament. The Bulldogs have not lost since a 64-63 defeat to Butler all the way back on Jan. 19, a span of two months. The only other loss came against Illinois in December action. Gonzaga has wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State on its non-conference calendar. Gonzaga went through the West Coast Conference unbeaten and, although many say the WCC does not adequately prepare teams for the NCAA tournament, Gonzaga knows better than to rest on its WCC laurels. Gonzaga’s non-league schedule is strong enough to carry it through some key tests.


Who’s Cold?

Arizona was one of the stronger teams in the nation before Pac-12 Conference play started and even into the first month of league play. As February dawned Arizona held a 20-2 overall record and there was talk the Wildcats could be a top seed in tournament play, if not a second or third seed. Then came a 5-5 stretch in the final 10 games that included losses to California, Colorado, USC and UCLA. If a team goes 5-5 to start the season before lighting it up then that’s pretty good. However, when a team falters this late in the year, that cool stretch can carry over into tournament play. That could spell trouble for Arizona in a second round match with Belmont, known as a tournament spoiler itself.


Upset Alert!

A ten seed knocking off a seven scores as more of a mild upset, but if Iowa State comes out launching three-pointers like cannon balls then Notre Dame could be in serious trouble. The Big East has a history of a conference tournament that is so tough that some of the teams end up falling in the first couple rounds of the NCAA because they are fatigued from playing so many games down the stretch. Iowa State was a Big 12 darkhorse in the tournament and the Cyclones could stir up quite a hornet’s nest if they down Notre Dame in the first round. Then again, this season has been such a hailstorm of upsets that this one would be mild by comparison. 


What Possible Matchup is Interesting?

Wisconsin should win this matchup, but there is something about Ole Miss that just smells like an upset would be no surprise. This 12-5 showdown pits a Big Ten team with a slowdown-style offense against a Southeastern Conference team that got hot at just the right time. Ole Miss was on the bubble as recently as the last week, but it played its way right into an NCAA tournament bid. The Badgers should find the going not too rough, especially considering the Big Ten was considered much tougher than the SEC, but do not be surprised if this matchup goes down to the final seconds.


Which Players Will Dominate?

He doesn’t get a lot of press with all of the late start times of Gonzaga’s games, but Kelly Olynyk should shine the farther Gonzaga goes into the NCAA tournament. His 17.5 scoring average isn’t the flashiest in the nation, but it certainly is quite impressive. Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State averages 19.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and should show off his skills come tournament time. Kendall Williams and Tony Snell combine for 26 points a game for a New Mexico squad that doesn’t have a strong individual scorer but its offensive system is still quite strong. Finally, Rodney McGruder’s three-point shooting touch and offensive skill should help Kansas State do well.


Which System is Tough to Prepare For?

Have you ever watched a movie that is so slow-paced it puts you to sleep? How about a date that you think will be exciting but it turns into a snoozefest? Try preparing for Wisconsin. Its defensive-minded attack tripped up Indiana and Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament, and Ohio State almost fell victim but it stood firm. The Badgers always use a system that gives teams fits, and it is boring to watch if you’re a basketball fan who loves offense. Still, it wins ballgames, and if a team isn’t prepared to face Wisconsin’s defense, then it could be surprised.


Final Four Game Breakdowns


Midwest Regional Overview

South Regional Overview

East Regional Overview


NCAA Tournament Central