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.