The West Regional touts a #1 seed that people did not expect at the beginning of the year along with a National Player of the Year candidate in Buddy Hield. The most interesting first round matchup in this region is VCU/Oregon State. It is a battle of two teams who have the firepower to make a run as a low seed, and both would put up quite a fight against Oklahoma in the second round.
Players to watch in the West Regional: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), DeAndre Bembry (Saint Joseph’s), Troy Caupain (Cincinnati), Rico Gathers (Baylor), Grayson Allen (Duke), Isaiah Taylor (Texas), Wes Washpun (Northern Iowa), Gary Payton II (Oregon State).
Bold prediction of the region: Northern Iowa will make the Sweet Sixteen.
Regional Champion Prediction: Oklahoma.
Click Read More to see my analysis for each game. All times are eastern.
1 OREGON vs. 16 Holy Cross/Southern, Friday 7:27pm on TruTV – 124-0. I don’t see this changing here either. People might look poorly on the Pac-12 and Oregon, but they aren’t going down in the first round.
8 SAINT JOSEPH’S vs. 9 Cincinnati, Friday 9:57pm on TruTV- Coming off the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship, Saint Joe’s is riding high and expect that to keep going. DeAndre Bembry is one of the best players in the country and if this comes down to a 1 on 1 battle, I think Bembry will beat out Troy Caupain.
5 Baylor vs. 12 YALE, Thursday 2:45pm on CBS – And here is my upset. I know this is going to a popular upset pick, but why shouldn’t it be? This is Yale’s first tournament since 1962 and they are playing a team that is 2-9 against teams in the top-25. The Bulldogs need Makai Mason to knock down triples, and if Rico Gathers is off even a little bit, the Bears will fall.
4 DUKE vs. 13 NC-Wilmington, Thursday 12:15pm on CBS – We’ve seen Duke teams either make the Final Four or fall in the first weekend. This year I think they will be somewhere in the middle. The defending champions will avoid tripping (you see what I did there?) up against the Seahawks.
6 Texas vs. 11 NORTHERN IOWA, Friday 9:50 on TBS – Round 2 on the upset picks in this region. I thought Northern Iowa would get a 12 seed, but they match up well with Texas. The matchup to watch in this game will be Isaiah Taylor vs. Wes Washpun. We’ve seen Texas falter in a few games this season, and I think they will fall in the first round for the second consecutive year in a 6/11 game (lost as an 11 seed to 6th seeded Butler last year).
3 TEXAS A&M vs. 14 Green Bay, Friday 7:20pm on TBS – Texas A&M showed that they belong this past week especially, even with the loss to Kentucky on Sunday. Taking the talented Wildcats to overtime was impressive, and even though the Phoenix have been on a roll, I see the Aggies surviving and advancing.
7 OREGON STATE vs. 10 Virginia Commonwealth, Friday 1:30pm on TNT – A BPI darling 10 seed, VCU has a talented squad in their first year without Shaka Smart. Even without the Havoc creator, VCU still creates plenty of pressure on their opponents. However, taking the ball away from Gary Payton II, aka The Mitten, is not going to be an easy task. I’ll go with the Beavers.
2 Oklahoma vs. 15 CSU-Bakersfield, Friday 4:00pm on TNT- Buddy Hield is a guy who just won’t let his team lose to a 15. This analysis doesn’t get much simpler than that.
And that’s all I have for now, so this is me…signing off. -Lukas.