NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 24th, 2015


Your bracket is busted and the Sweet Sixteen is set. Let’s do a Regional Reset. Follow @rtcwestregion for reporting from Los Angeles this week. Check out all of the regional resets for the Sweet Sixteen here.

New Favorite: Arizona, #1, 33-3. We’re still going with the Wildcats by a hair over Wisconsin and we’re not just throwing darts; we have our reasons. First, they’re still slightly above Wisconsin in terms of KenPom rankings, especially on the defensive end of the court. Second, they’re going to have a significant home court advantage this week in Los Angeles. Third, instead of facing a #3 seed in the Sweet Sixteen, they “Cats got a slightly easier path with Xavier up next. And fourth, straight up: revenge. However, it will take a lot of work for any of these four teams to come out of this region.

With this guy running the point, you have to like Arizona's chances to get to the Final Four. (Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP)

With this guy running the point, you have to like Arizona’s chances to get to the Final Four. (Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP)

Horse of Darkness: Xavier, #6, 23-13. The only team that has outperformed its seed to advance to this point, the Musketeers aren’t going to just be happy to have made it this far and call it a day. They’ve got enough size along the front line to hang with Arizona, and with senior point guard Dee Davis playing the best ball of his career, crafty scorer Myles Davis and athletic freshman Trevon Bluiett, they’ve got the firepower to spring an upset… Or two.

Biggest Surprise (First Weekend): Georgia State. After 30 minutes of giving #3 seed Baylor all it wanted last Thursday, it looked like the Panthers had run out of gas. Over the course of six possessions starting at the under-12 media timeout, the Bears grabbed five offensive boards, cleaned the glass on the defensive end after forcing four straight missed field goal attempts and put together a 10-0 run to build a 10-point lead. Coming out of the under-four media timeout, Rico Gathers hit a pair of free throws and Baylor’s lead was then at 12. The Bears wouldn’t score again. Coach’s son R.J. Hunter scored 12 of Georgia State’s 13 points down the stretch, including a deep three with three seconds left that sent his dad, torn Achilles and all, sprawling onto the Veterans Memorial Arena floor. It’s the iconic moment of this year’s NCAA Tournament and a play we’ll see for many Marches to come.

Completely Expected (First Weekend): Arizona and Wisconsin. Ohio State played with Arizona for about 30 minutes before fading. Oregon gave Wisconsin a scare before doing the same thing late. But for the most part, the top two seeds advanced without too much drama. After one weekend, we still very much appear to be on a collision course for a rematch at the Staples Center.

I’m Exceptionally Smart and Prescient: I called Georgia State a Sweet Sixteen sleeper and gave R.J. Hunter this region’s Stephen Curry Award. Sure, the Panthers came up shy of that Sweet Sixteen run, but I’m counting this as a win. The fact is, as detailed above, the Panthers were one of the great stories of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend.

Could Xavier be this year's Cinderella squad? (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Could Xavier be this year’s Cinderella squad? (Chris O’Meara/AP)

Except When I Make Stupid Predictions: For once I got most of this right, but whiffed on taking BYU to not only handle Mississippi but then give Xavier a scare. The Cougars looked spectacular for 20 minutes, but unfortunately we’re still playing 40 minutes of basketball in college hoops.

First Weekend MVP: T.J. McConnell, Arizona, 15.5 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 64.3% eFG: The story all year with Arizona has been that McConnell may not be the team’s “best” player but he’s assuredly their most valuable. This weekend, he made it very clear once and for all that he’s very much in the conversation about Arizona’s best player as well. While guys like Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley were struggling offensively, McConnell was making big play after big play all weekend long. And while Hollis-Jefferson gets a lot of popular credit for slowing Ohio State wiz D’Angelo Russell, it was actually McConnell who spent more time checking him.

Breakout Star: Dee Davis, Xavier, 16.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 80.8% eFG – We’ve already talked plenty about R.J. Hunter, so let’s get to the Musketeers’ senior point guard who blew up in Jacksonville over the weekend. Traditionally not a big scorer (his 17 against Mississippi was as much as he’s scored in a game since the opener of his sophomore season), Davis took advantage of his teammates drawing opponents’ attention and knocking in five threes on the weekend. He’s got plenty of guys around him who are plenty capable of putting the ball through the hoop so its not like Davis needs to continue to score like this for Xavier to beat Arizona. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

More Home Cooking: Arizona, Again, It Doesn’t Matter How Many Miles. The Wildcats have the best fans in the West. If they’re playing March basketball games just about anywhere in the country, they’re going to have a strong showing. If they’re playing west of the Rockies? They’ll have the equivalent of a home court advantage. This week the Staples Center in Los Angeles will be McKale Center West.

Talk about a major coaching matchup - Roy Williams and Bo Ryan are two of the best. (AP)

Talk about a major coaching matchup – Roy Williams and Bo Ryan are two of the best. (AP)

Best Regional Semifinal Game: #1 Wisconsin vs. #4 North Carolina, 3/26. A Final Four team from last year (Wisconsin) against a program with 18 Final Fours in its history (North Carolina). This year’s Player of the Year (Frank Kaminsky) against a Tar Heels team that is deep and strong along the front line. These teams have played once before in the NCAA Tournament (2005 Regional Finals, which Sean May and Carolina won 88-82 on the way to a National Championship), but this time around, the Badgers will be favored to even the score.

Best Regional Final Game (projected): #1 Arizona vs. #2 Wisconsin. The possibility of this Regional Final rematch became apparent two or three weeks before Selection Sunday and with each passing week it appears more and more inevitable. Last year’s battle for the Final Four in Anaheim could not be decided in a mere 40 minutes, and when Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson was unable to convert on the Wildcats’ final overtime possession, Bo Ryan was able to shake off the storyline of a guy unable to win the big one. Still, the Badgers came up a play short to Kentucky in the national semifinals a week later, so they’ve still got plenty to prove. Meanwhile, Arizona hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2001, and their head coach Sean Miller has never been a part of the final weekend. As if there wasn’t already plenty on the line, the storylines in this potential game ramp up the importance.

Top Storyline: Sean Miller, Sean Miller, Sean Miller. He’s the proverbial “best coach never to have been to a Final Four.” He’s now made it to Sweet Sixteens in four of the last five seasons. He’s previously dropped two Elite Eight games by a total of three points. And in order to get back to the Elite Eight, he’ll have to play a regional semifinal against the team he coached and earned his stripes with before he migrated to Tucson. For one of college basketball’s most engaging personalities, he’s going to be the big star on the big stage in Los Angeles this week.

Top Storyline for Contrarians: The Game Has Passed Roy Williams By. In an era of slow-it-down, grind-it-out basketball games, Roy Williams’ uptempo style has run into some roadblocks, especially in the NCAA Tournament. In 2011, he earned a #2 seed but lost to Kentucky in the Regional Final. In 2012, it was a loss to a #1 seed, but the Tar Heels (starting Stilman White, after losing Kendall Marshall to injury) got run out of the Elite Eight by Kansas. Since then: #8 seed, #6 seed, #4 seed; round of 32 loss, round of 32 loss, and to be determined. The Tar Heels certainly have a chance to play with Wisconsin, but they’ll be in the neighborhood of a six-point underdog all week.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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One response to “NCAA Regional Reset: West Region”

  1. Ron says:

    Nothing flattering to say re. UNC. That’s no surprise on this Duke-heavy site.

    However, most would agree the style advocated In this last point is killing college hoops. Hence the reason the NIT is experimenting with a shorter shot clock and there is so much talk about widening the lane, moving out the charge circle, etc.

    Don’t change your style Roy – the game will U-turn back to you (or all but the diehards will stop watching).

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