On Selection Sunday, the NCAA Tournament field of 68 teams was released. Today, we take a look at each of the regions, and preview the upcoming match-ups.
This region is absolutely loaded with talent and great teams. Kansas, Villanova, and Maryland are among the teams in this bracket.
The most intriguing matchup in the Round of 64 in this region is the matchup between 4th seeded Cal and 13th seeded Hawaii on Friday. This game pits a Cal roster loaded with NBA talent and the Big West champion Hawaii team that nearly upset Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas Tech earlier this season. Hawaii is lead by Stefan Jankovic, the 6’11” forward that averages 15.7 points per game and shoots 55.7% from the field. Jankovic might as well be the fuel that lifts the Rainbow Warriors in an upset over the Golden Bears.
The most important players in this region is the dynamic duo of Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok from 7th-seeded Iowa. The Hawkeyes have been abismal lately, losing 6 of their last 8 going into the Big Dance. The star players need to play well for the Hawkeyes to beat Temple and make a possible run in the NCAA Tournament.
The team most likely to make the Final Four from this region is Kansas. Yes, it is mind-boggling that the #1 overall seed got the toughest draw, but the Jayhawks are just too talented not to make that magical run. Guards are always important in the tournament, and the Jayhawks have that sensational backcourt with Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr., and Devonte’ Graham.
The West features a lot of good teams as well, highlighted by Oregon, Duke, and Oklahoma.
The first round game that will be the most interesting in this region is 7th seeded Oregon State against 10th seeded Virgnia Commonwealth. These teams are matched up very nicely, the Beavers have the slight edge on offense, the Rams have the slight edge on the defensive side of the ball, and VCU plays faster. The X-factor in this game will be OSU freshman forward Drew Eubanks. In 12 losses he averages 5.8 PPG, while in 19 wins he averages 8.4 PPG. Eubanks needs to score at least 10 points for the Beavers to win this game.
The most important player to his team in this region is Duke backup big man Chase Jeter. Jeter averages 1.9 PPG and RPG in his 7.8 minutes per game that he sees playing time. Duke only goes about 6 or 7 deep, and for the Blue Devils to defend their national title, they need consistency off the bench from Jeter, especially if starting center Marshall Plumlee is in foul trouble.
Who’s going to the Final Four from the West Region? This is a tough one to decide, and for me it was between Duke and OU. But, I choose the Oklahoma Sooners led by coach Lon Kruger and one of the frontrunners for the Wooden Award, Mr. Buddy Hield. Hield averages an even 25 PPG, and in his senior year, he won’t let the Sooners lose heading into the tournament.
The Midwest holds a potential Elite Eight matchup between powerhouses Virginia and Michigan State.
Seton Hall vs Gonzaga. The 6th seeded Pirates will take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who have been to the tournament for more than 15 years straight. Gonzaga is led by one of the best players in the country, Kentucky transfer forward Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer averages 20.7 PPG, and shoots an extremely efficient 49.0 FG %. Seton Hall has there on stud too in guard Isaiah Whitehead, who averages 18.4 PPG and 5 APG. This matchup features 2 teams with Sweet 16 team potential, and only one of them can get there, and it starts with this game.
Isaiah Whitehead is the most important player in this region. Seton Hall hasn’t been to the tournament in a long time, and a deep run starts with him. The Hall has a ton of talent around Whitehead, but he needs to be able to carry the team on his back for them to make a potential run.
The Spartans of Michigan State University look primed to make their second Final Four appearance in two years. The Spartans may have trouble with UVA in the Elite Eight, but they have knocked them out of the tournament for the last 2 years. History shows that the Spartans should get to the Final Four, and that is who I’m picking as well.
You could argue that this region is the best in the bracket, and that could be a valid argument too. The East features UNC, Xavier, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and more.
The most intriguing Round of 64 matchup to me is third-seeded West Virginia taking on fourteenth-seeded Stephen F. Austin. Both of these teams press, so it’ll be interesting to see the tempo at which this game will be played. West Virginia has Final Four potential, while the Lumberjacks look to repeat what they did just a few years ago.
Marcus Paige is the most important player in the East. He is in his senior year, and is having his worst year of his career since his freshman year. The Tar Heels desperately need him if they want to win that national championship they have their eyes on. The Heels will go to the Final Four, as they are just one of those teams that are just too talented not too make it. Their talent will prevail, and Brice Johnson will put the team on his back.