2013 NCAA Tournament Predictions: West Region

March 20, 2013

If I had to pick one region in which I really had very little faith that things would play out as I predict they will, the West Region would be my choice. Things are wide open in this region, and not just because the No. 1 seed is from a mid-major conference.

Here are my predictions, which will likely be blown apart by the Sweet 16, for the West Region.

Second Round Games to Watch

#5 Wisconsin vs. #12 Mississippi (Fri, 12:40 PM)

This matchup couldn’t have been picked any better. To kick off our Friday fix of college hoops, we get to see one of the most boring and frustrating teams to watch (Wisconsin) take on a Mississippi team that is extremely fun to watch thanks to one player: Junior sharpshooter Marshall Henderson. Henderson is the kind of guy that will be in your face every time he does even the little things well, but that’s what makes him so exciting. He knows he’s the best player the Rebels have, and he’s going to take most of the team’s shots as a result.

Wisconsin probably won’t let Henderson dictate the way they play basketball, but it will be interesting to see what happens when he hits a couple of shots over Badger defenders. This is the kind of game where, if Wisconsin is to lose, you’ll see Bo Ryan’s team unraveling at the seams right on the court. In my opinion this isn’t the best spot to find a No. 12 over No. 5 upset, but I’m still curious to see how much of an impact the Rebels’ polarizing guard will have on the outcome of this game.

#6 Arizona vs. #11 Belmont (Thurs, 7:50 PM)

Belmont is like the really cute but quiet girl that you want to go talk to in class. She’s doesn’t talk to many people and always seems to be taking good notes, so she’s probably smart and couldn’t possibly rip your heart out, right? Belmont is almost always a candidate to take down one of the big boys, but like the girl in class, disappoints you and ends up not being quite the catch that you thought they were, fading in the second half of the game. But damn it, the girl is so cute, you have to give her another chance.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m giving Belmont another chance to prove me right. The Bruins shoot the ball extremely well (and extremely often) from outside, and Arizona isn’t very good at defending the three. However, Belmont will also probably face size and athleticism issues against the Wildcats, which could contribute to their downfall once again this year. That is, unless, they can force a lot of turnovers (the Bruins are 5th in the nation in steals). At any rate, if the Bruins are hot from behind the arc, this is a game people are going to be switching to as the second half comes to a close.

Team That Could Make a Run

New Mexico

I had to decide between Wisconsin (an incredibly consistent team) and New Mexico (a relatively inconsistent team) when choosing a team from this region that could make a run. The Lobos won out, primarily because when they are playing well, they are one of the best teams in the nation. New Mexico is extremely talented in the backcourt, but also has the size in the post to work things inside against power conference opponents.

While the Lobos are capable of putting up a lot of points, when they are playing their best their defense is suffocating and forces opponents to play very good half-court basketball. It’s incredibly hard to predict how New Mexico will play in this year’s tournament, but if the Mountain West Conference tournament is any indication, the Lobos are back to playing their preferred brand of basketball. This isn’t a team too many people have a lot of faith in, but there isn’t a team in the West Region that New Mexico cannot beat.

My Picks

Second Round

#1 Gonzaga over #16 Southern

#9 Wichita State over #8 Pittsburgh

#5 Wisconsin over #12 Mississippi

#4 Kansas State over #13 Boise State/La Salle

#11 Belmont over #6 Arizona (upset alert)

#7 Notre Dame over #10 Iowa State

#2 Ohio State over #15 Iona

Third Round

#1 Gonzaga over #9 Wichita State

#5 Wisconsin over #4 Kansas State

#3 New Mexico over #11 Belmont

#2 Ohio State over #7 Notre Dame

Sweet 16

#1 Gonzaga over #5 Wisconsin

#2 Ohio State over #3 New Mexico

Elite 8

#2 Ohio State over #1 Gonzaga

– K. Becks

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