Have you filled out your brackets and entered tBBC’s annual bracket challenge? If not, what are you waiting on? Get on it.
We head West for the second of our four region previews in preparation for the greatest weekend in sports. After our first preview of the loaded Midwest region, the West is a bit less exciting as on paper it is probably the easiest of the four regions, challenged only by the East.
Favorite – Arizona had to be thrilled about their draw in this one. Not only is the West the easiest of the regions, the Wildcats will also get to avoid a lot of travel as they never play more than 471 miles from their campus and fans will have easy access to direct flights that last no more than an hour and a half for the first two weekends; no other team’s fans will have it that easy. Travel will be even easier for the team as getting out of the first weekend means just a fairly short drive up the coast from San Diego to Los Angeles.
It’s not just the short travel and large fan support that the Wildcats will get that makes them the favorite in the region; Arizona put together an impressive season, finishing in second place in the RPI with a 30-4 record while playing the nation’s fourth hardest schedule. The Wildcats won their first 21 games of the season in a stretch that included wins over San Diego State (4 seed in the West), Duke (3 seed in the Midwest), Michigan (2 seed in the Midwest), and UCLA (4 seed in the South), among others. The loss of Brandon Ashley to injury hurt the Wildcats, they’ve gone 9-4 without him, but this team still has offensive weapons. The key to Arizona’s success has been a stifling defense that has limited opponents to 58.1 points per game on 38% shooting; this defense doesn’t seem to have lost a beat following Ashley’s injury.
Well, here we are. Fresh off winning the Big Ten Tournament, we (as Buckeye fans) need to get ready for the NCAA’s, the Big Dance in collegiate basketball. To do that, Westward Ho!
Rather than go through game-by-game in the Region, I’ll focus on five (5) questions; 1) team likely to win region, 2) region’s Cinderalla team, 3) likely upset, 4) unheralded player (who’s he?) and 5) my Elite 8 picks. Envelopes, please….
Regional Favorite: Ohio State is my choice to win this Region. They are simply one of the hottest teams in the country right now. In their last 10 games, they are 9-1, and battled through a couple highly regarded teams to win the BTT. The complementary players (those not named ‘DeShaun Thomas’) are beginning to gain confidence and play well. And the Buckeyes play pretty solid defense, which is particularly useful come tournament time.
However, even Achilles had his heel. Two things can get this team out of the NCAA’s in a hurry. They have a tendency for slow starts. At some point in the first half their offense will absolutely flat-line for annoying stretches of time. Except for a few occasions this season, OSU’s defense has managed to keep the game within reach. But, as I mention, there have been exceptions, and in a “one and done” format, that usually means “done”. The other flaw is the recent (MSU,Wisconsin) love affair with shooting 3-point shots while showing very little ability to actually make 3′s. In this two game span, 3-point attempts were 40% of their FG’s, yet they only made 20% of them. That is a lot of empty possessions. Read More
March Madness is here! Coming up over the next two days, the staff here at tBBC will get you ready to fill out your brackets by evaluating each region in the field of 68. Coming up later today, Eric will take a look at the East bracket that features Ohio State as a #2 seed. WVaBuckeye will follow tomorrow with the South bracket with Kentucky and MaliBuckeye will wrap things up with a review of the Midwest bracket. Today, we take a look at what I believe is the most interesting region of the 2012 tournament. The West features 5 of the top 20 top scoring offenses, including three teams that average over 80 points per game. From top seeds, to cinderellas, to teams that could get upset in the first round — We have it all as we get ready for the best two weeks in sports all year long. Here’s a look at this year’s West Region.
Favorites:Unlike other regions this season, what makes this bracket so tough is the talent in the middle and lower seeds. Of course, this might have the best one-two punch in the tournament with Missouri and Michigan State, but all-around — the West could be won by a whole bunch of different Cowboys. Two teams to watch in the middle of the bracket are Florida and Memphis. The transition game of the Tigers has carried this team to an insane 20-3 record to end the season. The trio of Will Barton, Joe Jackson and Adonis Thomas could be dangerous against any team in the bracket. If they can get past St. Louis, they really have a chance against some of the top seeds in the West. The one thing that separates the Tigers from any team in this region is their ability to run until their opponent’s legs fall off. Jackson is a solid facilitator, and Barton is arguably one of the best scorers in college basketball. Everyone on the floor can and isn’t afraid to score.