Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 March Madness - West Region (First Weekend)

Best Game: #6 Baylor vs. #11 Nebraska

The Bears looked like they might miss out on the NCAA Tournament altogether after a 2-8 start to their Big 12 season. But they righted the ship, winning 10 of their final 11 games, rising all the way up to a sixth seed. The Cornhuskers are in their first NCAA Tournament since 1998 and coach Tim Miles has done a remarkable job quickly turning around Nebraska's fortunes. These former Big 12 rivals now collide in what is the best Second Round game of the West Region. The Bears best player is senior F Cory Jefferson, the Bears leading scorer and rebounder. Galveston, TX native G-F Terran Petteway is the biggest reason the Huskers are back in the NCAA Tournament. As a team the Huskers rank pretty low in most major categories but Petteway's playmaking ability has helped Nebraska pull off some major upsets. For the Huskers to upset the Bears, Petteway will have to play very well, and the Huskers will have to try to fluster and harass the Bears offense into a multitude of mistakes. If those things happen, then Nebraska will have earned their first ever NCAA Tournament victory.

Player to Watch: Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart

Most people were shocked when Marcus Smart bypassed the NBA Draft and came back for his sophomore season. The year didn't go exactly as Smart envisioned, as the Cowboys struggled for most of the year, then Smart ended up embroiled in controversy when he lightly shoved a Texas Tech fan. Smart's fortunes have changed since he returned from his suspension as have those of the Cowboys. Smart's presence alone makes the Cowboys a sleeper pick to do some damage in the West.

Best Potential Game: #1 Arizona vs. #9 Oklahoma State

The Wildcats were consistently good all season, while the Cowboys never quite lived up to their preseason hype. This game would give the Cowboys a chance to erase the bad memories they have from the 2013-14 season. Smart gets all the publicity but Cowboys guard Markel Brown is another dangerous player teams have to prepare for when facing Oklahoma State. Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon have carried the Wildcats throughout the season, and there would be no shortage of future NBA talent on display in a meeting between these two teams.

Lowest Seed to Make It Through the Weekend: #7 Oregon

I expect mostly chalk in the West region for the first weekend, but I do believe the Ducks will knock off Wisconsin in the Third Round. People are impressed with the Badgers because they are better offensively than any other Bo Ryan led Badgers team has been, but they also have struggled a bit after a fast start. Plus, the Ducks have one of the best offenses in basketball and are playing really well right now, winners of 8 of their last 9 games. Junior guard Joseph Young shoots almost 50% and his playmaking ability will carry the Ducks to the Sweet 16.

Second Round

#1 Arizona over #16 Weber State

#9 Oklahoma State over #8 Gonzaga

#5 Oklahoma over #12 North Dakota State

#4 San Diego State over #13 New Mexico State

#6 Baylor over #11 Nebraska

#3 Creighton over #14 Louisiana-Lafayette

#7 Oregon over #10 BYU

#2 Wisconsin over #15 American

Third Round

#1 Arizona over #9 Oklahoma State

#5 Oklahoma over #4 San Diego State

#6 Baylor over #3 Creighton

#7 Oregon over #2 Wisconsin

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