The Editor’s Picks: West Region (Round of 64)
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief.
Winner in Bold.
Round of 64:
1. Arizona vs 16. Weber St.
Out of all the 16 seeds in the entire lot, Weber State is probably the most well known; they can thank Damian Lillard for that. But Lillard isn’t playing in this game, so Arizona has nothing to worry about. The biggest quandary here is what to do if your picking a bracket based off of witch mascot would win in a fight. Both schools sport the nickname “Wildcats”.
8. Gonzaga vs 9. Oklahoma St.
The Zags are looking to redeem themselves after earning a 1 seed last year but falling at the heels of Wichita State’s greatness in just the second round. Forward Sam Dower (15.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg) leads the charge for the Bulldogs, but he is there only consistent performer on a nightly basis. Guard Kevin Pangos (14.1 ppg) has loads of talent, but a turf toe injury has rendered him almost useless some nights. Furthermore, Gonzaga has only enjoyed 2 wins against RPI top 50 teams this year, both against BYU.
On the other side of the court, Oklahoma State looks to be flying high right now. The Cowboys endured a painful 7 game losing streak and some insane antics from star player Marcus Smart earlier this year, but now that Smart is back on track, Oklahoma State looks better than ever. Since their star player returned from suspension the team is 5-2 including an impressive win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Look for Okie State to win this one against Gonzaga handily.
5. Oklahoma vs 12. North Dakota St.
This match up is beyond great for NDSU and it seems ripe for the taking for Taylor Braun and his team. Braun, no relation to Ryan, is clearly the catalyst for the Bison: he leads the team in points (18.2 ppg) assists (3.9 apg) and rebounds (5.5 rpg). Senior big man Marshall Bjorklund (13.4 ppg) was also selected as an “all-league” player and is a major contributor.
The Bison play at a snail’s pace which shortens the game and the amount of possessions each team has which plays directly to their advantage because they average 1.145 points per possession (6th in the nation). In these long-winded possessions, Taylor Braun is excellent at using his body to get to the free throw line and pile up the points.
Oklahoma is a fine offensive team, but struggle mightily on defense. The Bison’s high-powered, albeit slow, offense should be able to take advantage of that and pull off the upset.
4. San Diego St. vs 13. New Mexico St.
And this is where the tournament gets interesting. If you read my Historical Seeding Analysis then you would know that in each of the past 6 tournaments, a 13 seed or lower has won at least 1 game. This year, my pick for that team is New Mexico St, and here’s why:
Sure, San Diego State’s defense is one of the best in the business. In fact, third best overall according to various efficiency metrics. However, New Mexico State is no slouch on the offensive side of the ball either. The Aggies average 77.2 points per game (7 more than the Aztects) and are led by Junior guard and WAC player of the year Daniel Mullings (16.8 ppg).
SDSU struggles mightily to put the ball in the hoop, and New Mexico St is a very competent defensive team that could give the Aztecs fits. No matter how good SDSU’s defense is, they cant win if they cant score.
Moreover, NMSU has experience beating Mountain West Conference teams. Earlier this season, the Aggies knocked off New Mexico (who just beat SDSU) by a score of 67-61. Not only that, but New Mexico St has experience in the NCAA tournament (they played in it last year too) so they wont be afraid of the big stage.
Go big or go home.
6. Baylor vs 11. Nebraska
Many people are picking this 11. vs 6. upset in their brackets, but before you make the same mistake, here are a few words of caution:
Nebraska really struggles to put the ball in the hoop (the average less than 1 point per position, 223rd in the country). They also don’t defend very well as opponents make 47.7% of their shots against the Cornhuskers. So no offense, no defense… what do they do well? Exactly.
In addition to Nebraska’s short comings, Baylor is playing really good basketball as of late. Coach Scott Drew guided his team to a 10-2 record in the Bears’ final 12 games and they show now signs of slowing down. Quick note: Baylor has made the elite 8 in their last 2 tournament appearances (2012, 2010). I’m a big fan of the 11. vs 6. upsets, but not this one folks.
3. Creighton vs 14. UL Lafayette
The University of Louisiana Lafayette has a lot to like about them. Point guard Elfried Payton is going to a fantastic NBA player one day, the team shoots the 3-ball well, and their nickname, “the Ragin’ Cajuns” is fantastic.
However, Doug McDermott is the best player in the entire country and will lead his team to a first round win. Creighton will run into trouble when they face a bigger team, but UL Lafayette doesn’t have the size nor the talent to compete.
7. Oregon vs 10. BYU
The Ducks’ offense is absolutely electric: they average 81.8 ppg (11th in the country). However, their defense is extremely spotty. Oregon was very up and down this season (starting 13-0, then losing 8 of 10, then going on a long winning streak again). Coach Dana Altman better hope the “good” Oregon shows up.
The good news for the Ducks is the BYU doesn’t do much very well. Their offense is above average, but other than that, the Cougars are not a very good basketball team. Oregon should win in a very high scoring game.
2. Wisconsin vs 15. American
Even though Wisconsin has been a frequent disappointment in past tournaments, this Badgers team is different. They have much more talent than usual and the offense is really what gets this team going, not the Badgers’ trademarked D. Congrats to American for winning the Patriot league, but Wisconsin will waltz through them here.