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Bracket Breakdown: West Region

by Photo of Taylor Armosino

Michigan State and Missouri will vie for the same Final Four bid from this talented region.

Bracket Breakdown: West Region

The brackets are out, which means only one thing: March Madness has arrived.  Before the tournament begins, CHARGED.fm will give you a breakdown of each region of the bracket.  Here's what to expect in the West Region.

Overview:

The West Region of this year's NCAA tournament provides for some interesting second round (the play-in games are considered the first round) match ups. Michigan State, 27-7, is the 1 seed in the region with Missouri, 30-4, as the 2 seed and Marquette, 25-7, is the 3 seed. This region is also filled with multiple intriguing mid-major teams as well. Iona, Murray State, St. Louis, Long Beach State, and Davidson all have a chance to make noise in this Western region of the bracket.

Most Compelling Matchup: 8th seed Memphis versus 9th seed St. Louis

This is a classic matchup of opposites. The fast paced Memphis Tigers versus the defensive minded St. Louis Billikens.

Despite the fact that nobody knows what a Billiken is, St. Louis is for real. Head coach Rick Majerus has turned the Billikens into a defensive minded Atlantic 10 powerhouse. St. Louis allowed an average of 57.5 points per game. In ten games this season, St. Louis' opponent failed to hit 50 points in a game. Three of those teams didn't get to 40. Senior forward Brian Conklin and sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell are the Billikens' two best players. Conklin averaged 13.9 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game. The 5'10" Mitchell averaged 12 ppg and over 3 assists per game. 

The Memphis Tigers are the polar opposite of St. Louis. Unlike the Billikens, god I love saying that, they are an elite offensive team. Guards Will Barton and Joe Jackson are two of the top scorers in the nation. In the Conference-USA championship game, Marshall felt the wrath of Memphis' offense. Barton and Jackson combined for 37 points in an 83-57 Tigers victory. Marshall's defense was dominated in all phases of the game. Memphis shot 59.1% overall, 50% from downtown and 92% from the free throw line. Memphis also out-rebounded and out-assisted Marshall. Their dominating win over the Thundering Heard demonstrated how lethal the Memphis offense can be. 

Overall, I like Memphis in this game. St. Louis is a phenomenal defensive team but Memphis has too much talent for St. Louis. I think Memphis was grossly under seeded as an 8th seed and they'll prove that in this game. The key to the game will be pace. If Memphis can get the Billikens out and running, they will win by 20. If St. Louis can slow the game down and make Memphis play more of a half court game, the Billikens will have a chance to win. Either way, this is the most intriguing second round matchup because of the contrast of styles between the teams. 

Upset Lock: 12th seed Long Beach State over 5th seed New Mexico.

Get to know 49ers guard Casper Ware. The Long Beach State senior led them to a victory in the Big West Championship by scoring 33 points on 8/16 from beyond the arc. When hot, Ware can make it rain from three. New Mexico is a strong perimeter defensive team but Ware has gotten the best of some strong opponents this season. In a 6 point loss to North Carolina, Ware dropped 29 points on 12/24 shooting and 4/9 from downtown. In a 10 point win over then 9th ranked Pittsburgh, Ware dropped 28 points on 10/18 shooting and 4/11 from beyond the arc. Ware has the ability to score in bunches. If he can get rolling, New Mexico will be in for a long game. In addition to Ware, guard Larry Anderson (back from injury) gives the 49ers a more than formidable backcourt. Anderson, the Big West defensive player of the year, averaged 14 points per game on an efficient 49% shooting from the floor. He also shot 41.9% from downtown. Forward TJ Robinson also is a difference maker for the 49ers. Robinson recorded 16 double-doubles on the season en route to averaging 12 points per game and 10 boards per game on the season. Head coach Dan Monson, you may remember him from Gonzaga's Elite Eight run from 1999, knows how to win tournament games. This team is extremely dangerous. 

Long Beach State's opponent, 5th seed New Mexico, is a very solid team. Led by forward Drew Gordon, the Lobos won the Mountain West. Gordon, a former UCLA transfer, was a stud all season averaging 13.4 ppg and 10.9 rpg. Guards Tony Snell, Phillip McDonald and Kendall Williams all shoot over 36% from beyond the arc and could get hot against an average 49er perimeter defense. New Mexico is a fantastic defensive team. According to Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defense rankings, the Lobos rank 13th in the nation defensively. Head coach Steve Alford has the Lobos playing at an incredibly high level. They defeated regular season co-campion San Diego State 68-59. The Aztecs boast Mountain West player of the year Jamaal Franklin and Mountain West coach of the year Steve Fischer. Gordon had 12 points and 12 boards to lead the Lobos to an 11 point victory. 

Overall, the big 3 of Anderson, Ware and Robinson give Long Beach State the advantage over New Mexico. Long Beach State has the speed and athleticism to turn rebounds into points in a hurry and I think their ability to play up tempo will be the difference in this game. New Mexico is a good defensive team and will try to slow the game down but good outside shooting is always key in NCAA tournament games and the 49ers can stroke it from the perimeter. Not only can Long Beach win this game but this team has the athleticism and scoring ability to get to the Sweet 16. 

X-Factor: Michigan State's Draymond Green

Number 1 seeded Michigan State will go as far as senior forward Draymond Green can take them. Green has been there before, having gone to a final four as both a freshman and sophomore. Michigan State is a fantastic all-around team. They are efficient offensively and are a great defensive team. Big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix have done an excellent job of filling in for injured freshman forward Brandon Dawson. Dawson's loss will hurt the team, which is why Green is so important. Michigan State can defend. They are going to need Green to help carry the offense. Michigan State likely will have to play both Memphis and Missouri if they are to get to the final four again. Those teams are both prolific scoring teams and Michigan State will need Green to control the game on the glass and score inside in order to give them an advantage. Tom Izzo's Spartans are primed to make another late tournament run but they will need Draymond Green to dominate if they are to get there.

Honorable Mention: Murray State's Isaiah Canaan. There's a reason Murray State only has one loss, and Canaan is it. The Racers will go as far as Canaan takes them.     

Final Four Prediction: Missouri Tigers

This was a close one for me. I love both Michigan State and Missouri but I'm going to go with Missouri to get to the Final Four. I love what they do with the 4 guard offense and they are absolutely lethal from downtown. A week ago, I would have probably picked Michigan State, but Missouri was awfully impressive in their Big 12 Championship game victory over Baylor. Despite playing 4 guards, Missouri's defense did a fantastic job of containing Baylor's explosive forwards. Perry Jones III, Qunicy Acy and Quincy Jackson combined to shoot just 10/24 for 29 points. Missouri rolled over Baylor 90-75. 

Missouri boasts five players who average double digit scoring. Kim English and Marcus Denmon are absolutely lethal knocking down shots from the perimeter. Both players shoot over 40% from downtown and English shoots an astonishing 53% overall. Michael Dixon gives them another explosive guard off the bench as he averaged 13.3 points per game on 48% shooting this season. The one wild card for Missouri is forward Ricardo Ratliffe. The senior from Hampton, Virginia is an extremely productive player but has had a propensity to get in foul trouble. In the tournament, everybody plays defense. Missouri could slip up if they run into a team that locks them down on the perimeter and gets Ratliffe in foul trouble. He is Missouri's best big man and there is a huge drop off if he has to go to the bench.

Missouri's toughest opponents will be Marquette and Michigan State, if those teams were to advance along with Missouri. Missouri is a bit of a risky pick to get to the final four due to their dependence on the outside shot. However, I believe that Denmon and English are prolific enough shooters to get Missouri to the national championship. I think that highly of them. Their success in this tournament will be predicated by their success shooting the ball and Ricardo Ratliffe's ability to stay out of foul trouble. I think Missouri has a favorable road to New Orleans and I think they ultimately will be one of the final four teams in the NCAA tournament. 

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see your favorite teams live.


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