March Madness: West Region Picks

AaronCraftOhioStateJerseyThe West region is top heavy.

#1 Gonzaga and #2 Ohio State are coming into the tournament as two of the hottest teams in the country. The rest of the bracket is filled with question marks. Do we really know if Steve Alford’s New Mexico team is good? They excelled in a tough Mountain West conference, but they are the biggest mystery in the West region.

We pick the winners from probable matchups after the (second) first-round of the tournament.

Who do you have representing the West in the Final Four? We help you fill out your bracket.

The Round of 32

#1 Gonzaga vs #9 Pittsburgh – Many college basketball fans wonder if the burden of having a #1 seed is too much for Gonzaga to handle. They’ll have a nice warm-up game against Southern and advance. They’ll play the winner of Pitt/Witchita State. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon will have his team ready and move past Wichita State. Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk could be the best player in this entire tournament. He’s a MOP candidate and will push Gonzaga to defeat Pitt easily.

#5 Wisconsin vs #4 Kansas State – Wisconsin has Ole Miss to get past before they worry about the next round. As much as I would love to see Marshall Henderson troll his way through the tournament, Wisconsin is too solid of a team. Kansas State plays the winner of Boise State/La Salle play-in game. I predict La Salle to move into the second first-round. Kansas State will dominate La Salle and move into the Round of 32. I’m picking Kansas State to beat Wisconsin because they have a secret weapon. KSU’s coach is Bruce Weber, who played Wisconsin year-after-year as the former coach of Illinois. Wisconsin’s coach Bo Ryan has a history of failing in the NCAA Tournament…he will add to that history this season.

#3 New Mexico vs #6 Arizona – New Mexico has a habit of playing down to their competition, but they will moved past Harvard in their first game. As much as I like Belmont’s Ian Clark, I don’t see knocking of Arizona. The Wildcats have been a letdown this season, but I see them making a run in this year’s tournament. They’ve had a lot of non-conference success. They’ve beaten Florida, Miami (FL) and San Diego State. New Mexico does not have any marquee non-conference wins. Arizona is built for the tournament than the Lobos. Chalk Arizona in as an upset.

#2 Ohio State vs #7 Notre Dame – To keep it short, Ohio State will beat Iona senseless and Notre Dame will win a high-scoring game against Iowa State. I’ve went back and forth while picking a winner of the Ohio State/Notre Dame game. OSU’s Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft will be the key to the Buckeyes’ victory. Even though Notre Dame takes care of the ball and get high-percentage shots, Thomas can match their scoring ability and Craft is one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders. There will be a few lead changes in this game, but Ohio State fans will be chanting O-H after this game.

Sweet Sixteen Round

#1 Gonzaga vs #4 Kansas State – Gonzaga coach Mark Few will need to keep his team motivated going into the second weekend. This is when many #1 seeds have faltered in the past. This will be a fun game to watch, but Gonzaga has the talent and “home time zone” edge. I have the Zags advancing to the Elite Eight.

#2 Ohio State vs #6 Arizona – I’ve watched many Ohio State games this season. I’m familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. Every five or six games, they lay and egg. Deshaun Thomas goes cold and still insists on putting up bad shots. Arizona’s coach Sean Miller used to be an assistant at Xavier under current Ohio State coach Thad Matta. There is a lot of respect there, but Miller has a lot of motivation heading into this game. Like I said earlier in this post, Arizona is built for the tournament. They can frustrate opponents with their ability to cause turnovers. I may lose a few of my Columbus friends with this upset pick, but Arizona will move on.

Elite Eight Round

#1 Gonzaga vs #6 Arizona – This area of many brackets have Ohio State upsetting Gonzaga (including President Obama). Gonzaga isn’t getting the respect as the other #1 seeds are getting. This is because the Zags often play past the bedtime of many people on the East Coast. As a night owl, I have caught my fair share of their games. This is coach Mark Few’s best team he’s taken into the tournament. He doesn’t have any shot-happy Adam Morrison clones. Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris combine for one of the best front-courts in this tournament. Gonzaga will make the Final Four.

Final Four Winner:

#1 Gonzaga Bulldogs

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