2016 NCAA Tournament — West Region Breakdown: No One’s Sure How The West Will Be Won
The West region of this year’s NCAA Tournament is wide open. It’s got the weakest of the #1 seeds (although Oregon is really good), a good #2 seed who’s only 7-5 in their last 12, and a bunch of other teams that no one is afraid to play. We’ll start with Oregon, who comes in winning eight games in a row and 10 of 12. They won the Pac-12 regular season and tournament. The tournament was won with relative ease although Arizona pushed them to OT despite the game looking over at one point in the second half. People forget about the Pac-12, but Oregon deserve some respect with their non-conference win over Baylor, their win on both a neutral and road floor against Arizona, and their season sweep of three games against Utah. They’re a really fun team to watch with Dillon Brooks lighting things up as an undersized four and plenty of scoring options in the backcourt.
Their weakness comes on defense where they’re one of the worst teams in the country at defending the three-point line. Their aggressive style leads to steals and blocks, but it also allows quality-scoring teams to rain from three all game long. That doesn’t bode well when the other major horse in their bracket race is Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s the second best three-point shooting team in the country according to Kenpom.com. They quickness Oregon has on the perimeter is neutralized by Oklahoma having the same. If the two play it may be the most entertaining game that the tournament could have. The players are good, the coaches are good, and the offensive flow is good.
I think getting out of the conference will be a good thing for Oklahoma. They struggled at the end of conference play because the teams they were facing knew their offense and personnel a little too well. The NCAA Tournament will solve all that. Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Jordan Woodard are arguably the best grouping of perimeter players in the country. I’m slightly torn, but I’ll take the Sooners to win the West.
I will say that Texas A&M is no joke. Those guys battle hard and looked strong towards the end of conference play and in the SEC Tournament. Tyler Davis has been a monster inside and Danuel House is the second coming of Khris Middleton. I just don’t trust Anthony Collins or Alex Caruso as much as I’d like. Duke has some great offensive weapons in Grayson Allen, Brandon Ingram, and Luke Kennard, but their defense has never gotten better. I don’t buy the excuse of depth being an issue because somehow Chase Jeter, the #10 recruit in the country, turned out to be worthless. I’d say no one wants to face them because of the offensive potential, but they could easily lose any game they play because of their defense and their tendency to get in foul trouble.
Baylor is solid, but not spectacular and coach Bryce Drew seems to have some major brain cramps. Lester Medford may value the ball most of the time, but his decision-making late in games doesn’t inspire anyone. They’re, however, definitely not an easy out. It’s possible Shaka Smart’s Texas version of havoc causes problems in tournament play, but Northern Iowa is primed to pull a first round upset. Of course VCU is in the same part of the region as Texas because the committee loves that crap. They should’ve just made VCU a #11 seed and gotten it over with.
First round upset that will happen: Northern Iowa over Texas
Texas has a nice run in the middle of conference play, but they’ve struggled in the last month. The Longhorns are 4-5 in their last nine games. Northern Iowa meanwhile is hot at the right time having won 11 of 12. They also don’t turn the ball over much, which works well when facing a Shaka Smart team. The Panthers are balanced offensively and have a shot-maker in Wes Washpun. Texas’ lack of quality free throw shooting will also likely hurt them in a close game. This smells like an upset to me.
First round upset that won’t happen: Yale over Baylor
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Yale basketball team right now with the story of a former player being thrown out of school for raping a girl. That’s not the kind of thing you need surrounding a team before one of the biggest games in their history. Yale is better than people realize, showing up at 38 in the Kenpom rankings, but they don’t have quality wins in the non-conference like previous Ivy League teams of quality. They lost to Duke by 19 and USC by 12. They kept it incredibly close against SMU, but SMU had their NCAA issues circling at the beginning of the season. Baylor’s defense is a little leaky, but they should have enough to get through to the next round.
Best Non-Bracket Bets:
Cincinnati -1.5 over St. Joseph’s – You’re probably surprised by this line after realizing St. Joe’s just won the Atlantic 10 tournament and Cincinnati isn’t necessarily an impressive team. Think again. St. Joe’s will be rattled by the physicality and toughness of Cincinnati and St. Joe’s questionable D will allow Cincinnati to score more easily than usual.
Texas A&M -13 over Wisconsin-Green Bay – The Phoenix plays defense more like Jean Grey, so the Aggies should get out front and run away in this one.