|NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: WEST REGION
March 18, 2007
Ben, SCS.com Staff Writer
The brackets have been announced, the matchups have been set, and it looks like the West has drawn the easiest region of the four this March. The West Region drew an over-rated UCLA team as the 1 seed, the worst of the 2 seeds in Duke, a mid-major 3 seed in Xavier, and on top of that, I'm not too sold on Connecticut or Drake as contenders. However, there is one thing that I am sold on: with the weakness of this region, upsets will be the main thing to watch for when play gets underway this Thursday.
(1) UCLA - The Bruins are once again seeded high in the West, this time as the top team. UCLA is led by All-American center Kevin Love.
(2) Duke - The Blue Devils may have gotten a little lucky in getting the last two seed. Duke lost two of their last three games to end the regular season.
(3) Xavier - The Musketeers get the three seed by losing only six games all year. Xavier has a very balanced line-up, with six players averaging double figures.
(7) West Virginia - The Mountaineers have proven they can beat teams, having knocked off Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut. Joe Alexander is turning into a star for West Virginia, leading the team with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
(12) Western Kentucky - The Hilltoppers land the 12 seed representing the Sun Belt's automatic bid. They lost to Tennessee earlier in the year by only six points, and they have a fantastic guard in Courtney Lee.
(14) Georgia - What is there to say about the Bulldogs? Georgia won four SEC Tournament games in three days to land an automatic bid, and the lowest seed ever for a BCS Conference. All-SEC guard Sundiata Gaines leads the Bulldogs with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Most Over-Seeded Team - Duke: Losing two of your last three games isn't great. Losing to Wake Forest and Miami (FL) isn't that good either. A three seed would've been more appropriate for the Blue Devils.
Runner-Up: Arizona: The Wildcats should've been an 11 or 12 based on their 14 losses, regardless of their strength of schedule.
Most Under-Seeded Team - Georgia: I don't care who you are. When you beat four SEC teams in three days, you deserve at least a 12 seed. But I'm sure the Bulldogs will take it, considering they're only a game over .500.
Runner-Up: Purdue: The Boilermakers would've been more at home with a 4-5 seed, since their last two losses came in overtime.
Team On a Roll - UCLA: The Bruins have won their last ten, and 15 of their last 16. They have beaten USC, Arizona, and Oregon twice each, and also knocked off Stanford to win the Pac Ten Tournament.
Runner-Up: Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have won 17 of their last 18, granted they've been all against Sun Belt schools.
Team In a Slump - Texas A&M: The Aggies are 4-6 in their last ten games. They lost to non-tournament teams Oklahoma State and Nebraska at home during that stretch.
Runner-Up: Arizona: Though they had arguably the toughest schedule in the country, the Wildcats have lost 8 of their last 12 games.
Best First Round Matchup - West Virginia vs. Arizona: This could possibly be the best 7 vs. 10 matchup. This game really intrigues me because the winner gets a shot at Duke, who is very vunerable to an upset right now. I love the Joe Alexander vs. Chase Budinger matchup in this one.
Runner-Up: Drake vs. Western Kentucky: The NCAA Committee always seems to pit the two possible cinderella teams against each other and they did exactly that in this game. The winner gets a shot at Connecticut.
Best Potential Second Round Matchup - West Virginia vs. Duke: I am really sold on the Mountaineers right now, and I think if they can get by Arizona, then they can take down the Blue Devils. Coach K and company may feel differently.
Runner-Up: Connecticut vs. Drake: It's hard to get a read on either of these teams, but the winner gets a shot at UCLA (not in California for once), and a Sweet Sixteen berth.
Best First Round Coaching Matchup - Sean Miller vs. Dennis Felton: Two great coaches who no one really talks about, one of them could make a very big name for themselves.
Runner-Up: Keno Davis vs. Darrin Horn: Drake's coach is likely coach of the year, while Darrin Horn is looking to take the Hilltoppers to the second round.
Best Bet for a First Round Upset - Georgia over Xavier: Call me crazy. OK, call me super-crazy. Title me whatever you want, just trust me. The Bulldogs look good, very good. I'm still not sold on the Musketeers, so I'm taking Georgia in a huge upset.
Runner-Up: Western Kentucky over Drake: Looking for your 12-over-5 game? Look no further that Courtney Lee and Western Kentucky.
Best Player You Know All About - Kevin Love: The Bruin's All-American Center leads UCLA in scoring (17.1) and boards (10.6).
Runner-Up: Jerryd Bayless: The fabulous freshman guides Arizona with 20 points per game, along with 3 rebounds and 4 assists.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of - Sundiata Gaines: If Georgia is to upset Xavier, look no further that the Bulldogs' guard who led them to the SEC crown. He averages 15 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists.
Runner-Up: Courtney Lee: The senior guard leads Western Kentucky with 20.4 points per game.
Best Reason to Watch this Region - The upsets: With the West being so weak, it's bound to happen. I think Western Kentucky can beat Drake, Siena can beat Connecticut, and I think Georgia can beat Xavier.
Runner-Up: A Bruin Three-Peat: Can UCLA make it to the Final Four for a third straight year? It will be a tad harder this year, since they have to actually leave the state of California.
G: Darrin Collison, UCLA
G: Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
F: Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky
F: Joe Alexander, West Virginia
C: Kevin Love, UCLA
All five of these players are the leaders for their respective teams. Collison is a very versatile guard for UCLA, and he compliments Kevin Love's inside game well. Bayless and Lee can score some points and make big plays for Arizona and Western Kentucky. No guy has improved more in the season that West Virginia's Joe Alexander.
I don't think UCLA is a very good team. They are probably the weakest one seed. With that being said, I don't see any team in the West that can beat the Bruins. Look for UCLA to make a three-peat to the Final Four, but watch for upsets along the way. Any team is capable of being upset in this region, and they probably will. Oh, and if you're reading this Thursday night after watching the Xavier-Georgia game, I told you so.