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. Former Butler forward Andrew Smith fighting cancer for second time

    Aug 28, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT

    Andrew Smith, Devon Scott AP

    During his first bout with the disease Smith suffered cardiac arrest and lapsed into a coma that lasted for three days.

  2. Maryland officially unveils new Gary Williams Court design (VIDEO)

    Aug 28, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    The team many expect to be a national title contender has a new court to play on this season.

  3. Indiana head coach Tom Crean laments team’s lack of leadership

    Aug 28, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    Buyout aside, 2015-16 will be big for Tom Crean (AP Photo) AP

    Crean addressed the recent off-court issues at a school event in Indianapolis.

  4. Four-star 2016 center Schnider Herard announces final five schools

    Aug 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    Herard has scheduled official visits to three of the five remaining schools on his list.

  5. Former Missouri wing headed to San Diego State

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Riley LaChance, Montaque Gill-Caesar AP

    The 6-foot-6 Canadian averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per game last season.

  6. Report: 2016 point guard Myles Powell trims list to five

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:27 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images

    Georgetown, Georgia Tech and Saint Joseph’s failed to make the cut for the New Jersey native.

  7. Big Ten releases full conference schedule

    Aug 27, 2015, 7:43 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Early favorite Maryland and reigning champion Wisconsin both open league play at home.

  8. Former Arkansas forward joins Middle Tennessee State program

    Aug 27, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Williams’ arraignment on first degree suspicion of forgery charges was postponed until September 2.

  9. New mixtape for 2016’s biggest riser, Wenyen Gabriel (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Gabriel is a five-star prospect with offers from Kentucky and Duke.

  10. Throwback Thursday: When we realized Russell Westbrook was a freak (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Westbrook wasn’t a top 25 prospect in high school. He was a top three player in the NBA last year.

  11. Blue Ribbon announces their preseason all-american team

    Aug 27, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    Blue Ribbon

    It’s the first preseason all-american team that we’ve seen this summer.

  12. Cody Zeller, Indiana president speak out against recent athlete legal issues

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:41 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Zeller handed out a warning. Michael McRobbie was a bit more upset.

  13. Five-star 2016 combo guard cuts list to four

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:38 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Frank Jackson will take an official visit to one of the four schools this weekend.

  14. Highlights of Michigan State’s Italy trip-opening win over Basket Fiorentina

    Aug 26, 2015, 9:31 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Bryn Forbes scored 18 points to lead a balanced scoring attack for the Spartans.

  15. Indiana president none too pleased with recent legal issues involving student-athletes

    Aug 26, 2015, 7:35 PM EDT

    Michael McRobbie AP

    Michael McRobbie’s address came two days after Emmitt Holt and Thomas Bryant were cited for illegal possession of alcohol.

  16. Seton Hall to give scholarship basketball players $2,600 towards cost of attendance

    Aug 26, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT

    Kevin Willard AP

    Seton Hall AD said his coaches haven’t had to deal with negative recruiting re: cost of attendance stipends, but he’s ready to act if so.

  17. Xavier, Mount St. Joseph to launch the ‘Lauren Hill Tip-Off Classic’

    Aug 26, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Lauren Hill raised more than $1.8 million for pediatric cancer research before she passed away.

  18. LSU highlights from Australia trip (VIDEO)

    Aug 26, 2015, 12:06 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Get a look at potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons.