The NCAA Tournament is here again. We can all rejoice. After COVID-19 forced them to cancel last year’s festivities, they agreed to hold the entirety of the games in Indianapolis. Yes, March Madness is happening this year. The brackets were released, and people across the country are rushing to pick their teams to win it all, and here’s a preview of the West Region.
After missing March last season- and a lot of events for that matter- it’s refreshing to have it back in full force. As Selection Sunday came and went, there are always teams that should’ve been in. There are also teams that probably shouldn’t have made it (Syracuse, eh?) Nonetheless, we’re going to break down each region before the start of the tournament.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 14, 2021
Gonzaga, who hasn’t lost a game all year, earned the top overall seed to the surprise of nobody. As is usually the case, this region favors them extremely well and sets up their path to a Final Four nicely. In fact, Gonzaga has beaten the 2-4 seeds in the region this season already. Yes, really.
can’t remember anything like this. From the West region
—1 seed: Gonzaga
—2 seed: Iowa (which Gonzaga beat 99-88 in December)
—3 seed: Kansas (which Gonzaga beat 102-90 in November)
—4 seed: Virginia (which Gonzaga beat 98-75 in December)
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) March 14, 2021
However, let’s not jump the gun so fast and pronounce them as Final Four locks without further looking at the region.
After all, it is March, and any team can make noise, just ask Florida Gulf Coast. You could also talk to Loyola-Chicago. Oh, and let’s not forget a George Mason team that went all the way to the Final Four. Who could forget UMBC’s historic upset of Virginia, being the only 16-seed to ever win?
Let’s examine the region, shall we?
Sure, Gonzaga is far and away the favorite, and for good reason. However, there’s some serious talent in every region and the West is no exception.
On paper, Iowa marks the biggest threat to Gonzaga. They are 21-8 and have arguably the best player in all of college hoops: Luka Garza.
🔥 Luka Garza did this in 1 half!
He finished with 41 PTS (14/15 FG) in 29 MINS
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 28, 2020
The Hawkeyes big man is averaging an insane 23.7 points per game with 8.8 boards on the year. Garza’s tough to stop and has dropped 20 or more points in seven of his last 10 games.
Iowa is a problem, regardless of what anybody says.
The other trendy pick is Kansas. However, the problem with the Jayhawks is their status going into the tournament. They were forced to drop out of the Big 12 tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test. If they can test negative until Friday, they’ll be fine. In fact, they cause a lot of problems for the rest of the region.
The Jayhawks have eight losses on the year, and all eight are to tournament teams. They fought Gonzaga tooth and nail to kick off the year before losing 102-90 to the Zags. They beat Texas Tech, Creighton (who is also in the region), and Baylor, their signature win.
Furthermore, Virginia is the 4-seed and has the same issue as Kansas with the positive test. If the Cavaliers test negative, they’ll be allowed to play and can cause havoc for Gonzaga down the road.
The above teams aren’t surprises, they are the top seeds in the region for a reason. The sleeper for the West Region?
The Oregon Ducks.
Ok, the Ducks lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 semifinals as the Beavers went on to earn an automatic bid. However, Dana Altman knows what he’s doing, especially in March. They have six losses, and their bad loss is to Washington State all the way back in the start of February.
It is awards season. For your consideration, @C_Duarte5.
Ducks 18, Beavers 10
— Oregon Men's Basketball (@OregonMBB) March 8, 2021
Altman’s team is well-rounded, tough, and physical and can score the basketball at will. All those characterize teams that can make deep runs in March.
If Oregon can beat VCU in Round 1 and find a way to get past Iowa, they can meet Gonzaga in the Elite Eight with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Creighton was one of the popular picks before getting slaughtered by Georgetown in the Big East title game. USC has one of the top picks in the upcoming draft in Evan Mobley, although a second-round matchup for Kansas is tough.
Congratulations to Grand Canyon on earning a tournament bid. Their reward is a first-round matchup against Iowa (ouch).
Oklahoma and Missouri are solid teams but Gonzaga should have no issues beating them in the Roud of 32. Lastly, UC Santa Barabara is rather exciting, and if they can top Creighton they could make a run to the Sweet 16.
One thing’s certain: It’s called March Madness for a reason. Any team could win any day, and let’s not count out anybody, even a 16-seed.
Buckle up, it’s going to be a wild ride come Thursday, which is the start of the First Four. For Gonzaga, their path to the Final Four is nicely set up in the West Region. For that, they can thank the Selection Committee.
Welcome to March, everybody. It’s going to be — well — madness.
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