WEST REGION PREVIEW – 2017 NCAA TOURNAMENT
It has become an annual March tradition to doubt Gonzaga as a result of their weak conference affiliation and lack of consistent top-tier challenges. This year is no different. The Zags have been dominant this season; nearly perfect, and have earned another #1 seed. They are the Vegas favorite to emerge from their region, but this is certainly the region MOST home pools will have people “taking an upset” in. Is it the right choice? Is this the region to look for some non-favorites?
Let’s take a look at the West Region for some value plays as well as a few picks.
The best part of the day before the NCAA Tournament is that you can make a cogent argument for a LOT of teams, so feel free to hit me up on Twitter @TheMarchManiacs to discuss, argue, conversate, etc.
Like the East, there are two clear-cut favorites in this region and then there is everyone else. Gonzaga and Arizona.
GONZAGA BULLOGS (+160) – These are surprisingly slim odds for the Zags given all the skepticism around them entering the tournament. They certainly have the pieces to win a title; All American point guard and McDonald’s All American Nigel Williams-Goss. Veteran stud center in Karnowski and NBA-level talent in freshman sixth man Zach Collins. The Zags are big, deep, talented, and have been beating teams by a million points every time they take the floor. They own wins over Florida, Arizona and St. Mary’s three times, so they have proven they can beat top-tier competition. The Zags are a legit threat to win it all and to FINALLY get to a Final Four.
ARIZONA WILDCATS (+200) – This is my personal pick in this bracket. I like Gonzaga. I really do. But since Alonzo Trier returned, there aren’t many teams in the country better than Arizona. Between he and Lauri Markkannen, they are loaded with talent and have gone 24-2 down the stretch, including a Pac-12 championship with back to back neutral court wins over UCLA and Oregon. This might be the best team in the country, and they are still a nice value +200 in the West and +800 overall.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (+1200) – Mike Bray’s teams have made two straight Elite Eights and with a few breaks could make it three in a row this year. They are undersized, under-athletic, and under-everything… yet they execute with beautiful offensive brilliance and they just WIN games. They shoot free throws better than any team in the field and they have all upperclassmen in key roles. Poise, execution, free throw shooting – those sound like all the components for a sleeper run.
ST MARY’S GAELS (+1200) – Who knows how good this team actually is? They get completely ignored because they couldn’t beat Gonzaga, but then again, who COULD beat the Zags this year? They Gaels went 28-1 in non-Zags games this season.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (+800) – The Noles have NBA talent but are simply awful away from home. There are no more home games this season, and I imagine the Noles will find themselves back home earlier than they and their fans hoped…
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTANEERS (+550) – The odds are too slim for a team with such offensive inconsistency. Their KenPom metrics are fantastic, but I don’t see the consistency to win four games in March.
I’m going with Arizona in the West. They were a very different team when they lost to Gonzaga back in November. Sean Miller’s current squad is clicking on all cylinders and is the more talented team. Look for Sean Miller to FINALLY get over the hump and for the Zags long drought of close-calls to continue. My favorite value play is NOTRE DAME. They don’t have an easy draw, but they have navigated tough paths in year’s past as well. If you want a SUPER longshot, Vandy at +5000 could be a fun hedge if they can somehow clip the Zags. Vandy has a ton of losses, but they have been excellent against top tier teams.