The NCAA Tournament starts this week. After some debate, the West Region is set. Gonzaga is the #1 seed while Arizona is the #2 seed. But, just like the other regions, the West has contenders other than Arizona and Gonzaga. The West also has one high-seeded underdog that could upset the entire region.
Will Gonzaga finally make it to the Final Four? Will it be Pac-12 Champion Arizona? What about Florida State, or West Virginia? Check out my pick for the NCAA Tournament West Region!
West Region Contenders
Gonzaga lost a single game this season, a 71-79 try against BYU on February 25th. Outside of the loss to the Cougars, the Zags were unbeatable. Gonzaga beat Arizona and Florida on a neutral court and they beat Iowa State at home. The Zags are for real.
The Wildcats tied Oregon for the Pac-12 regular season title. But because Oregon beat Arizona in the head-to-head match up, the Wildcats ended up in second place. Arizona showed they're the real deal by downing UCLA and Oregon to win the Pac-12 Tournament.
#3 Florida State
Florida State finished ahead of Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame, and every other team in the ACC outside of North Carolina during the regular season. The Seminoles were terrific in the ACC Tournament until running into Notre Dame in the semifinals where they lost 73-77.
#4 West Virginia
West Virginia looked like the winner of the Big 12 Tournament after the first 4 minutes of the championship. The Mountaineers had a decent sized lead over Iowa State. Tough defense is the trademark to their brand of basketball and it was working. Then, they imploded, losing the Big 12 Tournament and ending up as a 4-seed in the March Madness tournament. Will this turn out to be a blessing in disguise?
#5 Notre Dame
Once again, the Irish made it all the way to the ACC Tournament Championship. They faced Duke who was on fire. Notre Dame had momentum in the second half, but ended up losing to the Blue Devils. The Irish, who finished in third place in the ACC, are much better than their #5 seed indicates.
West Region Underdog Pick
Xavier was on the bubble. Then, the Musketeers had a deep run in the Big East Tournament. Now that they're in the tourney, the other teams in the West must watch out. Xavier is a good basketball team. Although there was a stretch of the season where Xavier lost six straight, the Musketeers won their final game of the regular season before winning two in a row in the Big East Tournament. One of the wins was a fantastic 62-to-57 victory over Butler.
Elite Eight Game
#2 Arizona vs #5 Notre Dame
Notre Dame shouldn't be a #5 seed. Duke is a #2, Louisville is a #2, Florida State is a #3, and Notre Dame is a #5? That's what the Irish get for almost winning the ACC Tournament, and finishing in third place behind Florida State and North Carolina in the ACC Regular Season?
The Irish are a dangerous, tough, basketball team. Anybody who thinks they can guard Bonzie Colson is mistaken. He's got the body of Charles Barkley (then not now), and the outside stroke of Kyle Korver. The man can beat you on the glass, from behind three, basically anywhere on the court.
But, Bonzie is one person. That's why the Arizona Wildcats are going to beat Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.
Arizona has come a long way. The Wildcats' best player, Alonzo Trier, didn't play his first game until Jan. 21. Freshman Lauri Markkanen carried the offensive load for Arizona. For his efforts, Markkanen is a Wooden Finalist for Player of the Year. Now that Trier and Markkanen are playing together, it's hard to see any team winning the West other than Arizona.
The Wildcats have made it to the Elite Eight in 3 of their last 4 seasons. This season, Arizona should get to the Final Four by beating Notre Dame and winning the West Region.
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