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NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: West Region

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Arizona looks pretty set, but could Wisconsin or Creighton have a say in this?

NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: West Region

While March Madness technically starts today, but the play-in games don't really count in my opinion. Things aren't official until we reach the Round of 64, the real start of the tournament. To prepare for all of the action, we're going to go through each of the four regions and get you set to pick your brackets and watch all of the excitement. Let's look at the South Region.

Additional Bracket Breakdowns: South - Midwest - East

Overview

At first glance, the West Region looks fairly straightforward. Arizona, the number one seed, is clearly the best team in the group. Wisconsin, Creighton and San Diego State are all solid teams, but none of them can match the balanced play of the Wildcats, even without injured forward Brandon Ashley.

But the committee threw a major curveball here: seeding Oklahoma State ninth. The Cowboys had a woeful stretch where they lost seven straight games, but this is a team that was once ranked in the top-five and features a National Player of the Year candidate in Marcus Smart. The Cowboys have been a different team since Smart returned from injury, and for a one seed to face a team like Oklahoma State (or Gonzaga as an eight seed, for that matter) in the second round is an incredibly tall order. With a slew of incredibly talented players in this region, Arizona is the favorite, but anything could conceivably happen.

Upset Watch

I don't see any upset as a lock in the West Region. A lot of people like North Dakota State as a 12/5 upset, but one that is more obvious to me is (10) BYU over (7) Oregon. This game is the definition of a shootout: two teams that average over 80 points a contest and give up over 70 in return. Oregon definitely has more quality wins (including a recent victory over Sean Miller and Arizona). But while Oregon gets a good chunk of their points from behind the arc, BYU does a great job of pushing the pace and getting easy buckets. BYU guard Tyler Haws averaged 23.4 points at a terrific 46.6% clip from the field. Even though the team lost Kyle Collingsworth, the Cougars can still score with anyone, especially against a defense as poor as Oregon's.

Juiciest Potential Matchup

The matchups I'm interested in aren't as much team vs. team, but player vs. team. I am really intrigued to see what Creighton's Doug McDermott, the consensus National Player of the Year, would do against the number one defense in the country that Arizona boasts. How would he respond to the slog-it-out style of Wisconsin's Bo Ryan? Creighton and McDermott have a lot to prove this tournament, and they will have the opportunities.

Bold Prediction

I really do think everything should go according to plan for Arizona in this region. Therefore, my bold prediction is that they win all of their games by double-digits. It's pretty boring, but I think this region just matches up favorably for the Wildcats. They are going to have an easy go of it.

12 Over 5?

Just like in the South, a lot of people are high on North Dakota State as a sexy 12 matched up against five seed Oklahoma. The Sooners have one of the best offenses in college basketball, but North Dakota State can match their offensive firepower. Senior guard Taylor Braun is the real deal at 6'7"/210. He put up over 18 points, 5.5 boards and nearly four assists a game. It will come down to whether or not Oklahoma can stop Braun, and while I think they can, it might be tougher than they would hope.

Potential "Bracket Buster"

I don't think there is a VCU/Butler in this region, but (6) Baylor is a team that is getting hot at the right time. The Bears nearly took home the Big XII Tournament, and their combination of size, athleticism and scoring power are a tough combination for any team. Cory Jefferson and Isiah Austin are handfuls down low, and Brady Heslip can get red hot from the perimeter at any time. They could give Creighton a real run for their money in the Round of 32. Obviously, Oklahoma State belongs here, too.

Player To Watch: Doug McDermott, Creighton

This is Doug McDermott's final go-around, and I'm really anxious to see what he does. McDermott has been unleashing some incredible scoring performances over the last few weeks, but can he do it by himself? He will certainly go out trying.

Honorable Mention: Nick Johnson, G, Arizona; Markel Brown, G, Oklahoma State; Braun, North Dakota State; Sam Dekker, F, Wisconsin.

The Pick: Arizona

I just think, top to bottom, Arizona is better than the rest of this region. They have great guard play from Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell. Freshman forward Aaron Gordon is coming into his own, and center Kaleb Tarczewski is also a formidable opponent down low at a legit 7-feet. The Wildcats can score, but most importantly they are too good defensively for any of these teams to overcome. The Wildcats might not have the offensive punch to win it all, but they should be able to win four games.

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