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NCAA Tournament 2018: West Region Breakdown

We give you our predictions and breakdown every game in the Wild, Wild West Region.

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs BYU Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild, wild west is just that. Wild. So many possibilities for upsets, surprise runs and perennial powers getting deep into the tournament. In some ways, this has become the forgotten region of the NCAA Tournament with the Midwest and East getting tons of attention and the South having the top overall seed, but sleeping on the west is a big mistake.

Without further ado, let’s get to the breakdown and picks for the West Region!

(1) Xavier vs. (16) Texas Southern

Has a 16 beaten a one-seed yet?


Okay then, I’ll believe it when I see it.

If it happens in this year’s tournament, it will not happen to the Musketeers.

Xavier is as deep as anyone in the tournament and have three great players that our readers are very familiar with in Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura and Quentin Goodin along with a great supporting cast. The Musketeers made it to the Elite Eight last season and want to make sure their final destination this season is San Antonio.

One quick note on Texas Southern. They defeated NC Central by 18 in the First Four game in Dayton and had one of the toughest non-conference schedules in recent memory playing 13 straight power five teams in a row. They lost of them all, but it prepared them for this moment. This team deserves some praise and hopefully they play their hearts out against Xavier.

Musky advances to round two.

(8) Missouri vs. (9) Florida State

This matchup is difficult because no one knows how much of an impact star freshman Michael Porter Jr. will have in this game let alone the tournament.

Missouri was going to make the dance without him all season after Porter got hurt two minutes into his college career. Porter came back for the SEC tournament as the Tigers lost to Georgia in the second round 62-60. He had 12 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes, but it was clear that the great team basketball that was shown during the regular season from Mizzou isn’t there at times with Porter on the floor.

The Seminoles are led by the scoring trio of Terance Mann, Phil Cofer and Braian Angola and they have been solid all season. Combine that with the defensive style that Coach Leonard Hamilton is known for and Florida State gets the check mark from me.

Not sure Missouri can figure it out and Florida State’s defensive play should lead them to victory.

FSU moves on to the second round.

(5) Ohio State vs. (12) South Dakota State

Chris Holtmann has done a great job in his first season coaching the Buckeyes. They went from possibility having a down year to challenging for the Big Ten title and grabbing a five seed in the dance.

Obviously, Keita Bates-Diop is the player to watch for them and a solid supporting cast including Jae’Sean Tate and C.J. Jackson has been solid all year.

South Dakota State, who has never won an NCAA Tournament game, has the sixth best scoring offense in the entire nation at 84.9 points per game. They will be going up against a scoring defense for Ohio State that ranks 42nd in the nation.

For the Jackrabbits, Mike Daum leads the way with a stellar mark of 23.8 points per game and he could certainly decide this game based on how well he plays.

I’m rolling with the Jackrabbits because of the rebounding numbers. South Dakota State averages 39 rebounds per game which ranks 25th in the nation while Ohio State averages 36.6 per game which ranks 109th in the country.

Also, the long layoff from the Big Ten Tournament may impact the Buckeyes on the court as well and could aid the Jackrabbits.

The rebounding ability of South Dakota State with Daum, Tevin King, Reed Tellinghuisen and David Jenkins Jr. will play a big role. I smell upset.

South Dakota State pulls off the stunner and moves on.

(4) Gonzaga vs. (13) UNC Greensboro

The Zags have been playing eight deep pretty much all season so they know who their key guys are going to be for the NCAA Tournament.

Jonathan Williams, Josh Perkins and Killian Tillie were part of the national title game run last season and will be big parts of this year’s run too. Mark Few will have this team ready to play and despite a great season from UNC Greensboro that saw them have the most wins by a North Carolina school during this season (for what that’s worth), I expect the Zags to roll here.

Gonzaga moves on to the second round.

(6) Houston vs. (11) San Diego State

The Cougars were so close to winning the America Conference title game over Cincinnati, but fell short. They now find themselves in a possible rock fight with San Diego State.

For Houston, Rob Gray is the key and Houston’s leading scorer. They need him to play well in order to advance in this tournament.

The Aztecs need this to be a low scoring game where leading scores Malik Pope and Devin Watson can dictate the tempo.

Houston has struggled at times with lesser competition, especially when those opponents can defend. Losses to Drexel, LSU, Tulane and Memphis also don’t help their case.

I’ll take Coach Brian Dutcher’s team to advance behind defense and timely plays.

Give me the Aztecs to advance.

(3) Michigan vs. (14) Montana

Michigan won the Big Ten championship and is everyone’s hot pick to advance deep into the tournament. I also believe they will advance far too. However, one thing to keep in mind is the lay off between the Big Ten Tournament and the first round game.

Don’t be surprised if this game is close for a bit, but the Wolverines will reign supreme and advance to the second round in the end.

Hail to the Victors, who is this case will be Michigan. They fight off the Grizz and advance.

(7) Texas A&M vs. (10) Providence

This may be the toughest first round matchup to predict in the entire region. The Aggies and Friars have had very similar seasons.

Texas A&M has had win streaks as high as seven and losing streaks as high as five this season and have lost four of their last seven games coming in including a three-game winning streak and a three-game losing streak.

Providence has been inconsistent from game to game this season, but did win three in a row before losing the Big East title game to Villanova in overtime. The Friars showed in the Big East Tournament that they can compete with anyone, which certainly gives them confidence heading into this game.

Each team does have an advantage over the other. The Aggies are the fifth best rebounding team in America with 41.2 boards per game while the Friars can struggle mightily on the glass. Meanwhile, Providence’s guards and specifically perimeter defense showed that it can be quite deadly.

This game is a toss-up and one of the bracket tiebreakers I subscribe to is who is coaching these teams?

Billy Kennedy coaches the Aggies, but Ed Cooley coaches the Friars. I’ll take Cooley so I’ll take the Friars.

Providence wins and advances.

(2) North Carolina vs. (15) Lipscomb

The defending champs start their title defense against Lipscomb in Charlotte and should roll over Lipscomb for two reasons.

Number one is the three-headed monster of Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Luke Maye. Lipscomb isn’t stopping them.

The second is turnovers.

In the A-Sun title game, Florida Gulf Coast almost came back from 32 points down to beat Lipscomb. The key to the comeback was full court pressure and lots of it.

FGCU forced 19 turnovers and made some shots to cut it down to as little as six points. If Carolina is in any trouble, which they shouldn’t be, they can turn up the pressure to try and make the Bison uncomfortable. The Tar Heels will likely force some turnovers by doing that.

Give Lipscomb credit. This is their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but the only newcomer in the field’s stay will not last long.

Heels roll. I like North Carolina easily over Lipscomb.

Second Round

(1) Xavier vs (9) Florida State

The last time these two met in the tournament was last season’s second round when Xavier upset the third-seeded Seminoles to advance the Sweet 16. This time will be no different.

I like Xavier’s defensive matchup here and their depth should win out. Trevon Bluiett should have a big game in this one and the X-men reach the Sweet 16 yet again at FSU’s expense.

The Musketeers march on.

(4) Gonzaga vs (12) South Dakota State

Things open up nicely for the Zags and I think their size with Tillie in addition to great guards outclass the Jackrabbits in the second round.

South Dakota State will be coming off of their first NCAA Tournament win ever and will be holding on to that amazing moment. The Zags will rip it away from them quickly and advance to yet another Sweet 16.

The Zags zig and zag their way to the Sweet 16.

(3) Michigan vs (11) San Diego State

Defensively, San Diego State could make this a game but by now the Wolverines will be hitting their stride. They got hot at the right time at the Big Ten Tournament and I expect that to happen yet again in March Madness.

Give me the Wolverines to advance to the Sweet 16.

(2) North Carolina vs (10) Providence

Another rematch from NCAA Tournament’s past that saw Providence compete, but UNC pull ahead late and roll to a big win.

Providence will compete again and this time they will keep it closer than last time, but one man that the Friars really don’t have an answer for is Luke Maye. Stop him and you may see an upset here. I don’t see that coming true.

UNC moves on to the Sweet 16 after a challenge from the Friars.

Sweet Sixteen

(1) Xavier vs (4) Gonzaga

The Zags and Musketeers matchup extremely well in this game, but the versatility of the Bulldogs’ front line is the difference in the game. Tillie and company will take advantage of the likes of Tyrique Jones and use that versatility to win.

Gonzaga will advance to the Elite Eight.

(2) North Carolina vs (3) Michigan

This is a rematch of the 1993 National Championship game that was also known at the “Timeout” Game. Sorry Chris Webber.

I think the Tar Heels get it done again behind their veteran leadership and although Maye vs Mo Wagner is a very fun matchup, I think Cam Johnson is the difference in this game with his versatility on both ends of the court.

The Tar Heels advance to the Elite Eight.

Elite Eight

(2) North Carolina vs (4) Gonzaga

In the Elite Eight, it is a rematch of last year’s championship game and I think last year’s runner-up gets their revenge this time.

The Zags have the guards to play with the Tar Heels and the frontcourt to battle them inside. Gonzaga’s offense will be the difference in this game, but also keep in mind that at times this season North Carolina has struggled with turnovers.

Gonzaga gets revenge by taking care of the ball and makes it back to the Final Four.

West Region Champion

Gonzaga will head back to the Final Four.

The combination of the Coach Few, frontcourt talent, guard play, favorable travel schedule, tournament experience and a search for redemption all will help in getting the Zags back to the Final Four.