There weren’t many predictions that were correct for the West regional after the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. But one of them was the potential for how deep it was, and while it doesn’t have the lowest seed left in the field, it’s definitely the most broken of the regions.
Ohio State, Arizona, Wichita State, and La Salle are all 80 minutes away from Atlanta. Two of the familiar teams (Buckeyes, Wildcats) will play each other Thursday night in Los Angeles, and the other surprises (Shockers, Explorers) will play each other later. That will leave a nine seed or lower that will have the opportunity to play in the regional final Saturday.
There’s no question that Ohio State is a favorite against the field, but do the other teams have a chance to dethrone the Big Ten champions?
It may be a surprise to see the Buckeyes as just a 3.5-point favorite against the Arizona Wildcats. Despite Iowa State fans’ new hatred toward Aaron Craft, there’s no doubt he helped his team win a nail-biter despite not hitting free throws down the stretch. He got a favorable call against Will Clyburn and nailed a clutch 3-point shot to seal the victory. With the deepest team left in the field, along with the best defense, it’s hard to pick against Ohio State to win the region.
Yes, I was a little hesitant to really think the Wildcats deserved their seeding, but they’re making another deep run into the tournament. That’s a testament to Sean Miller, who’s in his sixth NCAA Tournament in his ninth year of head coaching (four straight appearances with Xavier). Mark Lyons is already the highest-averaging man scoring the ball (15.4 points per game) but stepped it up with 50 points in the last two games. Solomon Hill had a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in the win over Harvard.
The question is, has the competition really been that tough for Arizona? This could potentially spell a bad matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes.