The first week of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been one for the ages. Billion dollar dreams evaporated within the grasp of would-be perfect bracket winners and Warren Buffet could be heard cackling in the distance. But did anyone really think they were going to win?
One-seed Wichita State has been dispatched from the Midwest Region and such celebrated programs as Kansas (2), Syracuse (3) and Villanova (2) are gone. Several Cinderellas stand in their place. The play of Dayton (11), Stanford (10), Baylor (6) and UConn (7) are indicative of a 2014 tourney that has seen unprecedented parity.
But over in the West Region, things are shaping up juuust the way I thought they would. Kind of, as I picked the one-seeded Arizona Wildcats to come out of this region.
I’m still on track there. I’ve had some embarrassing picks, but some redemptive ones as well. For example, I knew Creighton (3) would be bothered by the length of six-seeded Baylor’s frontline of 7-1 center Isaiah Austin and 6-10 forward Cory Jefferson. The consensus is that Doug McDermott was on defensive lockdown with 15 points on 7-15 shooting.
Here is how the remainder of the West Region breaks down.
Thursday, 4:47 p.m. TV: TBS
Baylor will play against Wisconsin for the right to move on to the Elite 8. In my prior preview, I expressed my disdain for the Big 10 regular season champions. I said I didn’t think much of their chances to even get to the Sweet 16, yet here they are.
It was nothing personal, but the Badgers aren’t the most exciting team to watch.Center Frank Kaminsky does put in work from the low block and from the top of the key as well. But Baylor has enough length of their own to neutralize him.
Wisconsin stomped all over American University early in the tournament, but managed to barely get past the Mighty Ducks of Oregon (7) to make it this far. Baylor will be just too athletic and their 1-3-1 zone is very hard on three point shooters. This is where the tournament ends for Wisconsin.
Thursday, 7:17 p.m. TV: TBS
Arizona is scheduled to play Steve Fisher’s San Diego State Aztecs in what is shaping up on paper to be one of the most exciting games in the tournament thus far.
This was supposed to be a down year for San Diego State, but nobody told the Aztecs that. This is only the second Sweet 16 in school history. Senior guard Xavier Thames has been instrumental in wins over New Mexico State and North Dakota State and has scored 53 points to only four turnovers in those contests.
Dwayne Polee, the Mountain West’s sixth man of the year, did not play in a nine-point loss against Arizona during the season. The Arizona Wildcats combine ferocious defense with a high-octane starting five that features Nick Johnson (17.5 ppg) and Aaron Gordon (17 ppg) for a perfect inside-outside tandem.
This will be the biggest test for the Wildcats thus far, but they appear to have adjusted well to the loss of forward Brandon Ashley. I believe it will be a close game, but Arizona will pull away late. They can beat you in too many ways.