NCAA Tournament West Regional preview: Who poses a menace to Kansas?

This yr’s West Regional may be essentially the most intriguing of all 4 quadrants of the NCAA males’s event bracket. There are quite a few Hall of Fame coaches on the sidelines, a dozen or so potential NBA Draft picks, plus a number of nationwide championship-caliber packages dotting the seed traces and loads of storylines.

And, oh yeah, it is the NCAA Tournament in Vegas for the primary time ever on the shiny new T-Mobile Arena. While convention tournaments have been going to Sin City for many years, the truth that that is the West Regional coming to city ought to improve the motion much more than it usually would.

So double down and dive in as the trail to the Final Four begins to take form out West.

How would you assess the 1-seed’s path?

For Kansas, it is the hardest path should you go by the general seed line (prime 4 whole: 31) however, all issues thought of, winnable for a crew that simply missed out on touchdown within the house regional over in Kansas City. Howard is not one of many strongest of 16 seeds and the second-round matchup options both of Arkansas or Illinois – each considerably flawed groups who could have bother scoring on the Jayhawks.

The backside half of the bracket does characteristic a number of robust opponents however even a 3-seed like Gonzaga, which is KenPom’s No. 8 crew, is not fairly on the similar stage of previous editions getting into the event. Plus, whereas some would possibly take a look at taking part in UCLA in Las Vegas as a tricky break given the proximity to Westwood, the truth that the Bruins are with out Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark makes them much less of a menace to the highest seed than they have been only a week in the past.

Of prime 4 seeds, who has greatest draw?

Might or not it’s… Gonzaga?

The Bulldogs drew a 3-seed after convincingly profitable the WCC Tournament and know Las Vegas nicely from all their journeys there through the years. Mark Few’s crew has among the many greatest offenses within the nation once more this season and are critically peaking on the proper time. This is a bunch that has been battle-tested however may also profit from a decently favorable draw too.

Grand Canyon went 24-11 below Bryce Drew this yr however should not pose an excessive amount of of a difficulty within the first spherical and their second spherical recreation in Denver shall be up towards considered one of three packages who go lengthy stretches with out scoring persistently.

Plus, ought to they make it to Vegas, they’re going to probably must face off towards a UCLA group whose athletic massive man Adem Bona has a shoulder damage and shall be with out the companies of defender Jaylen Clark. An Elite Eight matchup towards Kansas can be enjoyable, but when you are going to draw the reigning champions who’re additionally a No. 1 seed within the area, it is not the worst factor on the earth to have one which simply acquired blown out of their convention event remaining.

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Given how large open the sector appears to win the nationwide championship, there is not any query that Gonzaga might find yourself being a reliable wager to make all of it the best way to Houston.

Which 5-9 seed could possibly be a darkish horse?

It may be value taking an opportunity on Northwestern. The Wildcats are within the NCAA Tournament for simply the second time ever and shall be fired as much as head to Sacramento to tackle an underrated Boise State and, probably, a banged-up UCLA.

Big Ten Coach of the Year Chris Collins’ crew pushed Penn State to time beyond regulation on Saturday in Chicago and confirmed they’ve what it takes to beat massive names having toppled former No. 1 crew Purdue simply final month. Chase Audige is a tenacious defender and the senior guard kinds a fairly enjoyable backcourt with Boo Buie that may make you pay at each ends.

Northwestern has one of many higher defenses within the area and appears unstoppable at instances if its pictures are falling. The Wildcats shall be excited at what’s to return throughout the first weekend and in the event that they get scorching, might nicely experience some momentum that their associates within the media are positive to focus on.

Outside of the ‘Cats, Saint Mary’s is in an identical spot if they’ll get previous their opener. They’re KenPom’s No. 11 crew – one spot forward of Big East champ Marquette – and have one of many extra balanced squads that may beat you any variety of methods. Randy Bennett is aware of his approach round March and the best way the Gaels gradual issues down imply any recreation might find yourself turning right into a rock combat that they are greater than able to profitable.

Who is Cinderella?

Don’t low cost one of many authentic Cinderella groups in VCU, which made that memorable run from First Four to the Final Four again in 2011. The Rams will not must take care of an additional spherical of video games this yr however might find yourself being a preferred 5-12 upset choose over a tricky Saint Mary’s facet and would match up nicely with both UConn or Iona within the second spherical. Mike Rhoades’ crew have loads of momentum from profitable the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the primary time in eight years and will have an understanding of what the stage is like having been within the massive dance thrice in 5 seasons. They say protection travels and with the No. 17-KenPom protection within the nation, might pose issues for whoever they arrive throughout.

Don’t overlook Arizona State both, who has expertise in Dayton beforehand to begin the event and have the type of excessive vitality press that might give greater seeds like TCU and others a difficulty. Their offense was clicking at the next stage than regular within the Pac-12 Tournament and the additional day of relaxation between video games within the first weekend might find yourself serving to them as issues transfer ahead.

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“Our style, I don’t think, is conducive necessarily to playing multiple days in a row, just how we press and how much energy we exert on defense,” Bobby Hurley mentioned Friday night time. “I think if we were a slower-paced slower-tempo team we might have had a better opportunity to have a chance tonight.”

That’s a notable line as Nevada’s tempo is without doubt one of the slowest within the discipline and TCU’s is one the decrease finish for a 6-seed. If they get previous them and into the Sweet 16, do not be shocked if the Sun Devils make slightly noise.

Who are 5 must-see gamers in area?

Casual followers and hoops diehards alike most likely have an thought who Timme is after largely changing into the face of faculty basketball throughout his tenure within the Pacific Northwest. He’s a Naismith Trophy semifinalist and averages over 20 factors per recreation for the nation’s greatest offense.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year this season, Jaquez is one other man who has caught round after discovering loads of previous success in March earlier than. He’s led the Bruins to the Final Four and will get it executed on each ends with a terrific mid-range jumper and sufficient size to actually assault the defensive boards.

No. 4 UCLA’s Jamie Jaquez Jr. drops 23 factors

No. 4 UCLA's Jamie Jaquez Jr. drops 23 points

Jaquez Jr. scored a game-high 23 factors within the Bruins’ 78-71 street win over the Utah Utes.

The Jayhawks freshman is without doubt one of the focal factors for opponent’s defensive efforts with the best way he shoots the ball. His potential to knock down pictures from the arc shall be key for the Big 12 regular-season champs this month and he kinds fairly the tandem within the backcourt with Jalen Wilson and Kevin McCullar.

Anthony Black, Arkansas

Depending upon whom you ask, Black is without doubt one of the prime school gamers who shall be picked throughout this summer season’s NBA Draft and is unmistakable, given his 6-foot-7 body and distinctive coiffure. He nonetheless wants to enhance his 3-point taking pictures however his potential to make pictures within the lane, rebound and get to the road will play an enormous position for the Hogs towards Illinois within the first spherical.

Jordan Hawkins, UConn

Hawkins struggled within the Huskies’ Big East Tournament heartbreaker to Marquette however the first-team all-conference guard is generally among the best two-way gamers on the East Coast. He has an opportunity to actually elevate his draft inventory from a possible first rounder to a lottery choose and has all of the expertise to take action on a harmful UConn squad.

UConn’s Jordan Hawkins scores a game-high 19 factors in 77-63 win over Providence

UConn's Jordan Hawkins scores a game-high 19 points in 77-63 win over Providence

Hawkins scored a game-high 19 factors to advance to the Big East semifinal.

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Most fascinating first-round matchup?

How might it not be UConn dealing with Iona? Heck, that may simply be one of many juiciest first-round video games of the whole event with Huskies coach Dan Hurley dealing with off towards Rick Pitino on the sidelines up in Albany.

Given that Pitino has been talked about for Big East jobs like Georgetown and St. John’s, maybe the sport will even be a little bit of a preview for what we might find yourself seeing in convention play come 2023-24 and past. Connecticut is without doubt one of the greatest groups within the nation on each ends of the court docket however most likely will not like seeing that sharply tailor-made swimsuit strolling up and down the bench as a result of there are few higher in March than Pitino.

Throw within the throngs of New York media positive to descend upon the sub-regional and there must be no scarcity of curiosity in that one.

What crew must be on upset alert within the first spherical?

Everybody, duh.

OK, maybe the highest two seeds Kansas and UCLA may be high-quality to look forward given their matchups towards mid-major champions, however everyone else? It’s a type of years when chaos might find yourself reigning supreme so nearly any upset appears possible.

The 8-9 assembly is about as shut as you are going to discover within the event this yr and you may make a case for almost all of the decrease seeds from there. Pay specific consideration to these video games in Albany as each VCU and Iona might draw consideration as stylish picks to drag off the shocker and even the First Four participant could have a shot at advancing into the second weekend.

Who shall be in regional remaining, and who will win it?

Go forward and go along with (Rock) Chalk. The two historic bluebloods of top-seeded Kansas and Pac-12 regular-season champion UCLA have not met since 2015 and have been among the many most constant winners on the nationwide stage the previous decade. Bill Self and Mick Cronin are excellent head coaches they usually have squads with an awesome mixture of wily veterans and super-talented children. The damage woes for the Bruins definitely permit you to lean towards the reigning champs however each have a fairly good shot at slicing down the nets in Vegas (and past) when all is claimed and executed.

No. 1 Kansas

No. 16 Howard

No. 8 Arkansas

No. 9 Illinois

No. 5 Saint Mary’s

No. 12 VCU

No. 4 UConn

No. 13 Iona

No. 6 TCU

No. 11 Arizona State/Nevada

No. 3 Gonzaga

No. 14 Grand Canyon

No. 7 Northwestern

No. 10 Boise State

No. 2 UCLA

No. 15 UNC Asheville

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