Preview: Popping the lid off the West
Today is the day I’ll be doling out all the previews for all the regions. I don’t want to get you straight-and-narrow analysis and over-exhaustive breakdowns from every game; you can find that in plenty of places, and it’s often way, way too much, wouldn’t you agree? Doesn’t a lot of the stuff so many people slave over just become white noise? So, my own little take on the games, the schools, the trends and a few stats you might not be aware of. Here’s the region I think will have the most upsets: the West.
The sites of the first weekend: Buffalo, San Jose, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City.
Most total tournament appearances: Syracuse (32), Brigham Young (24) Kansas State (23).
Least: North Texas (two) Vermont (three), Oakland (one).
Ready for his March moment: Jimmer Fredette (BYU). Fredette has eclipsed 40 points this season on multiple occasions. As long as he’s not sick (which has happened nearly as many times as the 40-point games) he’s making opposing coaches ill.
The stats, trends and notables:
—Gonzaga and Brigham Young are the only teams west of the Central time zone playing in this region. Seven teams who abide by EST are involved.
—Winning seeds to come out of the West the past five years: 1, 1, 1, 1, 4.
—Gus Johnson will be dominating your television on Friday and Sunday, when these games take place.
—This is only Minnesota’s seventh Dance trip.
—BYU hasn’t won a Tournament game since 1993, and it breaks the trend of getting put in the 8/9 game three straight years, two of which it faced Texas A&M.
—Gonzaga gets the 8/9 game in Buffalo while Washington gets an 11 in San Jose out of the East?
—Butler is on the longest winning streak in the nation, 18 games.
—No region has a cooler collective of colorful nicknames than the West. Orange. Mean Green. Golden Grizzlies. Golden Gophers. Even Catamounts is a great one, despite its lack of ROYGBIV cred.
The non-1-seed everyone loves: UTEP. Yep, UTEP. It’s a terrific matchup for the Miners against Butler in the 5-12 game, and then I’ve seen and heard many a guy pick the Miners (who are better than a 12) beat Vanderbilt.
The upset pick I hate: Not seeing Minnesota over Xavier at all. Gophers looked nearly as bad against Ohio State as they did good against Purdue. X is much more OSU-like (Ohio connection, too) than Purdue-esque.
Outside of the seeding foulups, there aren’t many stories in this region. It’s quiet, which means it will get the loudest storm. Onuaku’s quad injury is a concern. Vermont-Syracuse in itself is noteworthy, as is the Evan Fjeld situation.
If Onuaku can’t go, Syracuse is going to be faced with a second-round opponent that will have an advantage inside. Gonzaga has Robert Sacre and Florida State has Solomon Alabi.
BYU will have quite an advantage if it can get out of the first weekend. The regionals are in Salt Lake City, and the Cougars fans would show up in droves.
And more on BYU. Its head coach, Dave Rose, beat some very slim odds to overcome pancreatic cancer. Comeback story of the year right there, folks.
How angry will Frank Martin get? It’s his time on the national scene, and I hope we get plenty of that scathing scowl.
The Sweet 16 teams I WANT to see (bolded is Final Four desire): Gonzaga, Butler, BYU, Xavier.
The Sweet 16 teams I THINK we’ll: Gonzaga, Butler, K-State, Xavier.
Buzzer-beater karma from the ghost of the West region’s past: