Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Madness Breakdown: West Region

Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk looks to continue to make school history.
Top Seeds

1 – Gonzaga
2 – Ohio State
3 – New Mexico
4 – Kansas State

The Rest

5 – Wisconsin
6 – Arizona
7 – Notre Dame
8 – Pittsburgh
9 – Wichita State
10 – Iowa State
11 – Belmont
12 – Ole Miss
13 – Boise State/LaSalle
14 – Harvard
15 – Iona
16 – Southern

No longer a Cinderella, Gonzaga earned the school’s first #1 seed in the NCAA tournament to match their first #1 ranking in both the AP and coaches polls. The Zags cruised to the West Coast Conference title behind junior F and All American candidate Kelly Olynyk. As always for non BCS conference teams the question will be whether the Zags will be able to handle the jump in quality opponents in the tournament. Gonzaga leads the country in scoring margin, bolstered in large part to outscoring conference opponents by an average of 19.5 points per game.

Ohio State has recovered from a mid-season slump to reel off eight straight wins and enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. Guard Aaron Craft is the best on ball defender in the nation, but also excels and sneaking into passing lanes and disrupting things off the ball. Forward DeShaun Thomas led the Big Ten in scoring during the season as well as field goal attempts and is a fearless scorer willing and capable to shoot from anywhere on the court.

New Mexico is another team that has relied on an easier conference schedule and rewarded with a top four seed, the Lobos have never made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament under Steve Alford despite a 3 seed in 2010 and a 5 seed in 2012. New Mexico is led by guards Kendall Williams and Tony Snell, both averaging over 12 points per game. Don’t be surprised if the Lobos are upset by Arizona in round two.

Bruce Weber returns to the NCAA tournament in his first year as coach of the Kansas State Wildcats. Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez are an outstanding back-court duo that constantly attack opposing defenses. Wildcats also benefit from playing the first weekend of games close to home in the Kansas City pod(or whatever they’re called these days). An intriguing second round game against Wisconsin could lead to the third time those schools have played in the same round in six season (2008 and 2011).

Don’t sleep on Arizona. The Wildcats are another example of a talented team battling consistent performance during the course of the conference slate.  All of Arizona’s losses have been inter-conference games and they have quality wins of Florida, Miami and San Diego St. Make no mistake, advancing in the tournament by what essentially equates to four day mini tournaments is a far cry from grinding out conference games in January and February. Arizona has the talent and the coach to advance past the Sweet Sixteen.

The Picks

Sweet Sixteen: Wisconsin over Gonzaga, Ohio State over Arizona

Elite Eight: Ohio State over Wisconsin

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Neal Olson (

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