2016 NCAA Tournament Preview: West Region

March 15, 2016

The next region that we’ll cover had some controversy regarding the No. 1 seed. But that isn’t to say that this is the weak link of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, some of the most talented and athletic teams in the Big Dance reside in this region.

Let’s take a look at the West region.

First Round Games to Watch

#8 Saint Joseph’s vs. #9 Cincinnati (Friday, 9:57 PM ET on TruTV)

Another 8 versus 9 matchup is one of the best games of the first round – go figure. While Cincinnati is not the most interesting team to watch, they are going to be everything that Phil Martelli’s team can handle on the defensive end. The Bearcats will pack it in against the Hawks and are capable of shutting down DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles in the paint, which isn’t an easy task. Mick Cronin’s team is No. 8 in the country in adjusted defense according to KenPom, the main reason why this one will be close. Cincinnati is not pretty offensively and if for some reason the Bearcats are not able to contain Bembry and Miles, this one could get out of hand quickly.

One of the hotter teams in the country after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament last weekend, Saint Joseph’s is a team built to win multiple games in the Big Dance. But Cronin’s teams have had a history of taking down solid opponents thanks to a grinding offensive style and suffocating defense. If you’re looking to see teams that run up and down the floor, this game won’t be for you. But if you like the prospect of a game that is almost surely to come down to the final two minutes, keep this one on your radar as Friday night rolls into the wee hours of Saturday morning in the Eastern time zone.

#6 Texas vs. #11 Northern Iowa (Friday, 9:50 PM ET on TBS)

Shaka Smart is about to find out just how much of a pest he was during his time as head coach at VCU. Smart’s Texas Longhorns, which finished fourth in the strong Big 12 conference, are essentially playing a mid-major version of itself in this game. The Longhorns have adopted Smart’s tendency to field a strong defensive squad, giving up just 68.1 points per contest. But the Panthers take it a step further, allowing a measly 62.9 points per game. Texas is at its best when guard Isaiah Taylor is hitting shots and finding his teammates for open looks. Northern Iowa thrives when its star guard Wes Washpun does the same. And the Longhorns caught the attention of the country when it knocked off then third ranked North Carolina on December 12. So did Northern Iowa, but it was three weeks earlier and the Tar Heels were then the top ranked team in the country.

Texas will have a sizable advantage (no pun intended) if Cameron Ridley is able to play, if only for a bit. Ridley suffered a broken midway through the season and saw his first minutes of action in last week’s Big 12 tournament. The Panthers really don’t have anyone to guard Ridley, so he could serve as a huge boost for the Longhorns when and if he plays in this game. But regardless, this one will come down to the wire. Both teams have won on buzzer beaters this year, Northern Iowa’s coming most recently in the Missouri Valley final to send the team to the tournament. Expect either Washpun, Taylor or both to step up on the perimeter for their teams and be the key to the victor’s success.

Team That Could Make a Run


This tournament has the possibility of either going very well or very poorly for the Bears, and chances are it won’t end up somewhere in between. Before Baylor can even think about next opponents, the Bears must get past a solid Yale team that will test the notion that the Bulldogs can’t hang with the athleticism of Scott Drew’s team. Inconsistency has been an issue for the Bears this season, but there is also no denying the talent on this team. Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers are long and can cover the floor with ease, which will likely wear out Yale in the first round. If they can hit their shots, then the Bulldogs won’t have an answer for the Bears.

The good news Bears are the best team in their pod of four in Providence, Rhode Island and won’t have any trouble reaching the Sweet 16 and potentially going further. The bad news Bears let significantly less talented teams hang around by becoming selfish on offense and sacrificing ball movement for isolation basketball. The more this team moves without the basketball, the further it will go in this tournament. Also keep in mind that its four losses in the last six games to end the regular season plus conference tournament came against a No.1, 2 and 3 seed.

My Picks

First Round

#1 Oregon over #16 Holy Cross/Southern

#8 Saint Joseph’s over #9 Cincinnati

#5 Baylor over #12 Yale

#4 Duke over #13 UNC-Wilmington

#11 Northern Iowa over #6 Texas (upset alert)

#3 Texas A&M over #14 Green Bay

#10 Virginia Commonwealth over #7 Oregon State

#2 Oklahoma over #15 Cal State Bakersfield

Second Round

#8 Saint Joseph’s over #1 Oregon (upset alert)

#5 Baylor over #4 Duke

#3 Texas A&M over #11 Northern Iowa

#2 Oklahoma over #10 Virginia Commonwealth

Sweet 16

#5 Baylor over #8 Saint Joseph’s

#2 Oklahoma over #3 Texas A&M

Elite 8

#2 Oklahoma over #5 Baylor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *