Skip to content

West Region Preview: Arizona rules, but chaos could reign

Mar 17, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT

source:

MORE REGIONAL PREVIEWSEast | South | Midwest

Every year, there is one region that just obliterates everyone’s bracket, and this season, that region could very well end up being the West. Arizona earned the No. 1 seed, which had been considered a given for weeks. The Wildcats are the best defensive team in the country and have finally found a rhythm on the offensive end without Brandon Ashley.

But after that, the West Region has some serious ‘all hell breaks loose’ potential.

There are three teams in the conference that had climbed into the top ten nationally at one point this season before having their season seemingly fall off a cliff. Oklahoma State lost seven straight games in Big 12 play before righting their ship as Marcus Smart turned back into the player we all fell in love with last season Baylor lost eight of their first ten Big 12 games, but they won nine of their last 11 and made it to the finals of the Big 12 tournament. Oregon lost eight of ten in Pac-12 play but won eight in a row — a streak that came within three one-possession games of being 13 straight — before getting dropped by UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament.

What’s crazier is that all three of those teams drew matchups that could end up vaulting them into the Sweet 16.

Yeah.

Good luck.

MORERead through all of our bracket analysis here

Three story lines to watch

  • 1. Doug McDermott’s chase for his One Shining Moment: McBuckets has had a legendary career that is missing one thing: a deep run in the tournament. I wrote a column on this two weeks ago.
  • 2. Is this the year Bo Ryan makes the Final Four?: Wisconsin’s head coach has had an exemplary career in Madison. He’s never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten in his 13 seasons at the helm, but he has just one Elite 8 and no Final Fours to show for it. This might be his most potent Wisconsin team. Can they break through?
  • 3. Will Scott Drew ever get credit for being a good coach?: He’s usually a punchline, but he did a terrific job turning this season around for the Bears. He’s been to two Elite 8s in the last four tournaments. Can he tap into that tournament magic again?
source: AP

AP

The Elite 8 matchup is…?: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 3 Creighton

I’m not going to lie: I’m very high on this Arizona team. When you can defend, you are always going to be in a game and, this season, there is no one near as good as the Wildcats are defensively. The key for them is going to be scoring in transition, as they struggle to get buckets against a set defense. As far as Creighton is concerned, I think they are quite beatable this season simply because so much of what they do relies on their ability to hit threes. On the nights they fall — especially when Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat are hitting — they’re near-unbeatable. When they aren’t falling, they can be beaten by anyone. There’s no one on their side of the bracket that truly strikes fear into me, however, so I’ll ride with McBuckets one last time.

It’s worth noting: this matchup would pit the nation’s best offense against the nation’s best defense as well as the nation’s best scorer (McDermott) against the nation’s best defender (Aaron Gordon).

MOREEight teams that can win the national title.

Final Four sleeper: Oregon Ducks

Like I wrote earlier, the Ducks are three two-point losses away from a 13-game winning streak late in the season. Ever since they started buying-in defensively, things have changed. Oh, and should I mention that Dominic Artis looks like he might have finally broken out of his slump? The Ducks matchup well with everyone on the bottom-half of the bracket and they are arguably the most talented team in the region.

Best opening round matchups

  • No. 10 BYU vs. No. 7 Oregon: Both the Ducks and the Cougars like to run. Both score a lot of points. Neither play much defense. That’s always fun.
  • No. 9 Oklahoma State vs. No. 8 Gonzaga: The Pokes were one of the teams that I figured I would be picking to make a run regardless of where they would up, but the Zags are actually a tough matchup for them. Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski are tough to handle inside, and Oklahoma State has neither depth nor size up front. But can Mark Few find a way to slow down Marcus Smart and Markel Brown?

Matchups to root for

  • No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 11 Nebraska: Two in-state rivals with large, passionate fan-bases that just so happened to be having banner years for their programs.
  • No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Arizona: Two defensive powerhouses. Two programs that recruit Southern California as well as anyone. Two large, passionate fan bases. The game is in Anaheim. Gimme.
  • No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 7 Oregon: Creighton is kind of like BYU, only better.

The studs you know about

  • Doug McDermott, Creighton: He’s the National Player of the Year for a reason.
  • Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, Oklahoma State: Smart was a Player of the Year candidate entering the season, and he’s been playing like it since he returned from his suspension as he’s cut down on turnovers and displayed much-improved shot selection. But Brown may actually be the best scorer on this team and the best dunker in the country.
  • Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: He’s been battling turf toe all season long, but if he’s healthy, he’s one of the best lead guards in the country.

MOREAll-Americans | Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | Freshman of the Year

The studs the nation will find out about

  • Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette: An NBA prospect from the Sun Belt, Payton is a bigger, athletic point guard that is a terrific defensive player.
  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Kaminsky has turned into one of the nation’s most versatile front court players. He scores in the post, he hits threes and he squares people up on the perimeter.
  • Xavier Thames, San Diego State: The leading scorer for the Aztecs all season long, Thames has made innumerable big shots for SDSU this season.
  • Taylor Braun, North Dakota State: The Summit League Player of the Year is a 6-foot-7 wing that hit a number of huge shots in the league title game.

Upsets that ARE happening

  • No. 7 Oregon over No. 2 Wisconsin: Wisconsin can score this year. They are getting up and down the floor much more than in the past, which fits in well with how the Ducks like to play. And the Badgers struggle against teams with guards that can penetrate.
  • No. 12 North Dakota State over No. 5 Oklahoma: If there is going to be a mid-major team that makes a run in the tournament this season, it’s going to be the Bison. The key? Defending the three-point line. NDSU hasn’t done it well this year, and Oklahoma A) shoots a lot of threes and B) shoots them well.

Upsets that AREN’T happening

  • No. 9 Oklahoma State over No. 1 Arizona: There are a couple reasons for this: 1) the Pokes don’t have anyone that can handle Kaleb Tarczewski on the block; and 2) Arizona has three of the best defenders in the country, and they match up perfectly with OSU’s best players (Nick Johnson vs. Markel Brown, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson vs. Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon vs. LeBryan Nash).

Feeling like gambling?

  • Pick No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Oregon or No. 9 Oklahoma State to make a run to the Final Four. They’re talented enough to it.

CBT Predictions: No. 1 Arizona advances after a thrilling win over No. 3 seed Creighton.

Latest Posts
  1. Arkansas State’s leading scorer charged with assaulting a police officer

    May 30, 2015, 3:50 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Arkansas State forward is due back in court on June 29.

  2. Pangos All-American Camp Day 1: Mustapha Heron dominates; Terrance Ferguson shows glimpses of greatness

    May 30, 2015, 2:31 PM EDT

    Scott Phillips/NBC Sports Scott Phillips/NBC Sports

    Here’s a rundown of everything that happened at the Pangos All-American Camp on Friday.

  3. Report: Arizona coach Sean Miller up for contract extension

    May 30, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The extension would go through the 2019-20 season.

  4. Report: Iowa State commit updates status with Fred Hoiberg rumors swirling

    May 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    (Jon Lopez/Nike) (Jon Lopez/Nike)

    Will Iowa State’s lone 2015 high school commit stay put if Fred Hoiberg leaves?

  5. Oklahoma State lands graduate transfer big man

    May 29, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    chris olivier

    Oklahoma State badly needed another big man and might have found some help.

  6. Duke commit Luke Kennard named Parade National Player of the Year

    May 29, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Duke is getting another Parade National Player of the Year.

  7. Amidst Iowa State rumors, Jeff Hornacek discusses commitment to Phoenix Suns

    May 29, 2015, 4:03 PM EDT

    PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 05:  Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center on November 5, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Grizzlies defeated the Suns 102-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    With Fred Hoiberg being tabbed the frontrunner for the Bulls job, Hornacek’s name has come up as a possible replacement in Ames.

  8. San Diego, San Diego State to play December 5 at Petco Park

    May 29, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT

    Steve Fisher AP

    The last time these two teams met at a neutral site was back in 1992.

  9. Former Ole Miss center to visit Kansas this weekend

    May 29, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Kansas also has plans to host former Providence center Paschal Chukwu in early June.

  10. Former Vanderbilt player Dai-Jon Parker dies in boating accident

    May 29, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT

    Chris Denson, Dai-Jon Parker AP

    Dai-Jon Parker played this past season at the University of Indianapolis.

  11. Former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt holding off on school decision

    May 28, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Fred Hoiberg’s status has impacted recruiting in multiple cases for Iowa State this spring.

  12. Big 12 Tournament to remain in Kansas City through 2020

    May 28, 2015, 7:43 PM EDT

    Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg

    Big 12 tournaments held at the Sprint Center have averaged more than 18,000 fans per session.

  13. SEC announces new men’s basketball scheduling format

    May 28, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT

    SEClogo

    Each team will have three “permanent” opponents they’re guaranteed to play twice every season.

  14. Misdemeanor charges against VCU’s Mo Alie-Cox dropped

    May 28, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Video surfaced showing that Alie-Cox wasn’t involved in the incident, contradicting a woman’s claim that he punched her in the face.

  15. Former VCU forward transferring to UConn

    May 28, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    UConn’s now added three transfers to the program this spring, two of whom will be eligible immediately as graduate students.

  16. Former Clemson coach Bill Foster dies at 79

    May 28, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    ClemsonTigers.com ClemsonTigers.com

    Foster led Clemson to their only Elite 8 appearance in program history.