NCAA Regional Reset: West RegionPosted by AMurawa on March 25th, 2013
Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent.
The West Regional begins Thursday night in Los Angeles with Arizona vs. Ohio State followed by La Salle vs. Wichita State. The East Regional Reset published earlier today, and be sure to look out for the South and Midwest Regional Resets later this afternoon. Also make sure to follow RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Los Angeles throughout the week.
New Favorite: #2 Ohio State. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. In a region where the Buckeyes are the only one of the top five seeds still alive, they’re the no-brainer. We proclaimed them the favorite a week ago and the madness that has gone down since then has only cemented the Buckeyes as the best bet to advance to Atlanta out of this region. Yeah, they needed to dodge an abnormally unimpressive performance from Aaron Craft down the stretch on Sunday while getting a bit of late help from a referee, but OSU survived and advanced and will be favored to win any games they play between now and Atlanta.
Horse of Darkness: #9 Wichita State. Responsible for eliminating the region’s #1 seed, we’re skipping right over Arizona to the Shockers. They’ll be a favorite to advance to the Elite Eight against La Salle and they’ve shown their ability to both lock up the glass against elite rebounding teams and to knock down threes at an astounding rate, although not yet in the same game. It would be a surprise to see the Shockers in Atlanta, but they’re within striking distance.
Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): Ohio State Advancing To The Sweet Sixteen. In a region where everything else has gone straight to hell and as the Buckeyes got everything they wanted from Iowa State on Sunday, you couldn’t have been blamed to have expected Thad Matta and company to join the scrap heap of favorites to lose on the first weekend of NCAA play. Gonzaga? Gone. New Mexico? Never stood a chance. Wisconsin? Who dat? But somehow, in a region of Davids taking down Goliaths, the Buckeyes still stand strong.
Completely Expected (1st Weekend): Almost Nothing Else. Harvard going nuts and earning its first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Wichita State outrebounding one of the nation’s best rebounding teams. Ole Miss out-Wisconsining the Badgers. La Salle pulling off the front leg of the old VCU First-Four-to-Final-Four marathon. Iowa State blowing out Notre Dame and then giving the Buckeyes everything they could handle until a poor late call hurt their chances. And then the wild statistical anomalies as Wichita State went from up 13 to down eight to knocking off Gonzaga. Really, it’s easier to come up with a bevy of surprises than it is to find expected occurrences.
I’m Exceptionally Smart and Prescient: A week ago I guaranteed that Ohio State would advance to the Final Four out of this region. Although things have certainly opened up nicely for the Buckeyes, they’ve got one heck of a Sweet Sixteen match-up ahead of them with Arizona in Los Angeles on Thursday. Oh, and I also said this: “Assuming either the Panthers or the Shockers have any energy left after their round of 64 opening round brawl, they could present Gonzaga with a serious dogfight over the weekend.” I’ll take that one.
Except When I Make Stupid Predictions: For once, I actually nailed quite a bit of what I wrote last week. My one major regret is advising people to watch that Arizona/Belmont round of 64 game. Heck, I was in the arena and I didn’t even watch that one. And, I feel bad about tempting the fates with the basketball gods when I implored them to make Arizona/New Mexico happen. The basketball gods work in mysterious ways and sometimes bad things happen to good programs (sorry, Lobos), but while it was a great week of basketball, missing out on this game is a bit disappointing.
First Weekend MVP: Mark Lyons, Arizona (25 PPG, 71.9% eFG): Against two pretty decent mid-major point guards, Lyons absolutely dominated them, getting into the lane whenever he wanted to and scoring with a calm and efficient manner. Yeah, he only had four assists the whole weekend, but his ability to create for himself opened things up for the rest of his team.
Breakout Star: Ramon Galloway, La Salle (21.3 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 12-of-23 3FG): Galloway’s been very good all season (17.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.8 APG), but the entire nation got let in on the secret this weekend. While he got help from guys up and down the Explorers roster depending on the game (Tyrone Garland, Jerrell Wright, Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills), Galloway was the one constant for John Giannini, a senior leader and a constant scoring source.
More Home Cooking: Arizona, 488 miles. While Tucson to Los Angeles is one hell of a drive, checking in at somewhere near seven hours (believe me, I know), you can bet the Wildcats fans will find some way to earn Sean Miller a significant homecourt advantage at Staples Center this weekend. Ohio State is known for traveling pretty darn well itself, but no matter how many they bring, odds are that Zona will have a plurality of fans in Los Angeles.
Best Regional Semifinal Game: #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Arizona, 3/28. Hey, maybe you’re one of those who loves March Madness for the underdogs. We’re a big tent sport and that idea is certainly welcomed and embraced, in which case you’ll want to check in for the early match-up between La Salle and Wichita State. But the nightcap between the two remaining favorites in this region could be an epic and a great atmosphere. We’ve got Mark Lyons vs. Aaron Craft; Solomon Hill vs. DeShaun Thomas; Arizona’s freshman bigs vs. Ohio State’s developing supporting cast. Oh, and as we’ll get to in just a little bit, a juicy match-up between coaches with plenty of history. Not only is this the best game in the West Region, it is one of the more intriguing ones nationwide.
Best Regional Final Game (projected): #2 Ohio State vs. #9 Wichita State. It’s not that I don’t buy La Salle – they can certainly remain hot and keep on winning – but the prospects of watching a Buckeyes team built on toughness and defense going against a Shockers team that personifies a blue-collar work ethic with a berth in the Final Four on the line, gets me a little riled up. It probably wouldn’t be a work of art, with cases of floorburn potentially outnumbering highlight-reel plays, but with hard-working athletes littered all over the floor, this game would be a downright battle.
Top Storyline: Thad Matta vs. Sean Miller. We touched on this last week as a potential interesting matchup on down the line and it came to fruition, as Matta, the former head coach at Xavier, and Miller, his assistant for three seasons there, meet for the first time as head coaches. In fact, Matta and Miller go back even further than that, as they were both assistants together at Miami (OH) under Herb Sendek prior to their shared time at Xavier. But that’s mere backdrop; once the game tips off, we’ll see two of the better-prepared coaches in the nation go at each other with four days to prepare. Should be a good one.
Top Storyline for Contrarians: Cinderella? VCU paved the path two years back, going from one of the final four teams invited to the NCAA Tournament to one of the Final Four teams standing. Now La Salle is hoping to blaze the same path, and they’re doing it so far behind some hot shooting. In three games, they’re averaging 1.17 points per possession and shooting a 60.4% eFG. Galloway has been the big name, but everybody has chipped in. Tyrone Garland scored the game-winner against Ole Miss on Sunday night, but he also scored 17 in that game and 22 in the win over Boise State. Jerrell Wright went for a career-high 21 against the rugged Kansas State frontline. Tyreek Duren struggled in the first two games, but busted out for 19 points on Sunday. In other words, you may not know exactly what you expect out of La Salle, but if they’re knocking down shots as a collective unit, they’ve got a chance to continue to advance.