Monday, March 18, 2013

NCAA West Region: Loco For Lobos

Ball So Hard Sports is breaking down each of the 4 regions before giving you our Final Four and title picks as well as unveiling our full bracket for you to compete against. We've already covered the Midwest and now we head out West where Gonzaga has gone from Cinderella to Belle of the Ball with a #1 seed.

All the talk right now is how Mark Few has taken the Bulldogs to the ultimate Cinderella only a few years ago to a team that ended the year #1 in the polls and even with a weaker schedule, held on for a #1 seed in the tournament. Do they deserve it? Should it have been Miami? We can debate. Truth is, with such a wide open tournament, yes, I think the Zags deserved the distinction of being a #1 seed. Ironically, they should have probably gotten the toughest #2 seed (Duke) and seemed to luck out with Ohio State, New Mexico and Kansas State as their other 3 top seeds. There is a chance for Gonzaga to make a run, but there are a few teams ready to head to Atlanta as well.

Favorites: Gonzaga has their doubters, but with Kelly Olynyk they can definitely win the 4 games needed to make the Final Four. Yes, they haven't played an impressive schedule, but they've beaten who was in front of them. Ohio State is going to be a tough out with Aaron Craft and a Big 10 battle tested squad. East Coast bias will hurt views on the Mountain West, but New Mexico won the regular season and tourney titles and has a tremendous player in Tony Snell. Any of these 3 shouldn't shock anyone if they're cutting down nets in 12 days.

Sleepers: Wisconsin just made a deep run to the Big 10 title game and has the team to do it again in the big tournament. Arizona started out hot and slowed down during the season but with a great shooting performance could re-capture their success of the early-season and finish strong with another Wildcat run. While not sleepers in terms of winning the bracket, Belmont, Iowa State and the winner of Boise St./LaSalle all have a chance to win in the second round (the former first round) making this region the one I predict will have the least chalk as we head through the weekend.

Best First Round Game: This region is LOADED with great games and you should be happy to make it out of this first 2 days of games alive in your pool. Wisconsin/Ole Miss, Arizona/Belmont, Notre Dame/Iowa St. and K-State/Play-In Winner all have potential to be great games. For my money, I'm most excited about Arizona and Belmont. I think Arizona has a lot to prove and will have every opportunity to do so against a Belmont team that presents the toughest possible match-up for the Wildcats. If Belmont makes their shots, this is going to be a wild one.

Best Potential Late Round Game: New Mexico vs. Ohio State. Kendall Williams. Tony Snell. Aaron Craft. DeShaun Thomas. Do I need to say anymore? This will be a talent-loaded Sweet 16 game if both teams make it. Ohio State is right back in the title mix even after losing last year's talent including Jared Sullinger. The Mountain West has not impressed in the tournament even as the conference has become one of the nation's best and this would give the Lobos a chance to put that reputation to bed by beating a top team from what is viewed as the best hoops conference going.

Ball So Hard Pick: New Mexico. Granted, I've seen a lot of Mountain West hoops as an Aztecs fan and New Mexico beat SDSU twice, including the MWC title game. Williams and Snell are one of the best duos in the country and Steve Alford has his team clicking right now. They really only have one bad loss all year, the others were to some of the best teams in the tournament. This is a team that can rise above some of the big names from around the nation and be the surprise story of Atlanta.

No comments:

Post a Comment