This region is stacked. Four of the top 9 teams in the country according to the KenPom efficiency rankings are all in this West Region. And the top seed is ranked 4 among those 4 teams. And Saint Mary’s ranks 11th. This region is loaded!
Who comes out on top?
Who wins the West: UConn
UConn is versatile, deep, athletic and they have stars. At times they have looked like national title contenders and at times they have struggled. What holds them back the most is fouling. If they can play a clean game defensively, they will be tough to beat. This 4-seed is dramatically under-seeded and my brackets will have them coming out of the West.
Potential Upset #12 VCU over #5 Saint Mary’s
SMU is a patient offense that struggles when they face talented, defensive guards who can key in on Logan Johnson and Aidan Mahaney. VCU is a lengthy and they have one of the best defenses in the country.
If the Rams can generate some turnovers while also slowing down the Gael’s guards, this will be an upset.
BONUS #10 Boise St over #7 Northwestern - The Wildcats are overseeded in this tournament and this is a bad matchup for them. On the one hand, I do like their guards. But Boise has great length and balanced scoring throughout their starting lineup. This is probably the upset I am most confident in.
Players to Watch
Jalen Wilson was the Big 12 Player of the Year and a 1st-team All-American.
UConn’s Adama Sonogo is a beast on the block to be the inside presence to what Jordan Hawkins brings from the perimeter. These two combine for over 32 points per game.
Lastly, enjoy watching Drew Pember and Taion Jones for UNC-Asheville. These two are a dangerous inside-out combo. It won’t be enough against a really good UCLA team, but they’ll be fun to watch for a game.
PrizePicks Lock: Dain Dainja UNDER 13.5 Pts+Reb+Ast
The Minnesota native has hit this number once in the last 5 games while Ty Rodgers has been seeing his minutes increase.
Intriguing later-round matchups
UCLA and UConn in the Elite Eight promises to be one of the best matchups in this tournament. According to KenPom rankings these team are two of the top 4 teams in the country. The Elite Eight matchups of UConn/Kansas and UCLA/Gonzaga promise to be great too, but if the basketball gods exist they will give us this matchup.
I love the colors of Boise State, but I’ll go with the Grand Canyon Antelopes. The only Antelopes in division 1 and I wish them nothing but the best against the Bulldogs.