The West Region might be the most open region of all four. It consists of possibly the weakest #1 seed in Xavier, a Missouri team that gets their best player back, Michael Porter Jr, North Carolina, sleeper trendy pick Gonzaga, and a Michigan team who won the Big Ten tournament, but hasn’t played for a full week. Getting out of this region will not be easy, but will for sure lead to some broken brackets.
Three initial thoughts
1. Nice to see you again Michigan
What was one of the hottest teams in college basketball, it seems like we have not seen Michigan play a game for about a month. Thankfully it has only be a little over a week, but the question needs to be asked: Will Michigan come out cold after the long layoff, or will they be the same team we saw in the Big Ten tournament? We won’t know the answer until approx. 9:50 et Thursday night, but if they continue to play like they have been this team has all the makings to go all the to San Antonio and cut down the nets.
2. The return of Michael Porter Jr.
We have been waiting all season to see this kid play and we finally get to see it on the biggest of stages. After missing the entire regular season with an injury, Porter Jr. is back and has all the intentions of leading Missouri on a magical run through the West Region. It won’t be easy with a tough matchup against long and athletic Florida State to start it off, but if Porter can find a way to get hot and play his best on the big stage, Missouri could wreak some havoc and Porter could show everyone why he is a top 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft.
3. Tillie Tillie
Okay, I know, that was pretty bad, but remember the name Killian Tillie. Not many people have heard of this kid because he plays for Gonzaga and most of their games are played past 9 pm, but Tillie might be the best unheard of player in this NCAA tournament. The 6-10 Sophomore has scored over 20 points in his last 3 games leading up the tournament and has shot the three ball at a remarkable 50% this season. Pair him with two veteran players in Jonathon Williams and Josh Perkins who have done this before and another explosive Sophomore in Rui Hachimura and you are looking at a dangerous 4 seed that could make a run all the way to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
Top matchup I want to see:
North Carolina vs Michigan, Sweet 16: A matchup that’s good enough for the Final Four, we might just get it in the Sweet 16. Imagine Moe Wagner and Luke Maye going shot for shot from three, that would be a sight to see.
Best 1st round matchup:
South Dakota St vs Ohio St: Ohio State has been great all season, but they struggled a bit down the stretch and after this long layoff you wonder if they might come out a little flat. If they do, Mike Daum (remember the name) and the Jackrabbits must just jump on them and stung the Buckeyes in the 1st round
Upset to watch for:
South Dakota St over Ohio State: I talked about it up above. South Dakota St has a true stud in Mike Daum and this is their second consecutive year here, they know what they are doing.
Final Four prediction:
Michigan. I know they had over a week layoff, but they have a nice first round matchup again Montana to get back into the swing of things. A potential matchup against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 scares me, but remember when they beat a Louisville team last year that everyone loved? John Beilein knows how to defend teams and I believe he works his magic all the way to San Antonio.