2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview—West Region

The Sweet Sixteen

michigan
Yahoo Sports

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a wild one—filled with historic upsets and late game heroics. Let’s take a look at the Sweet Sixteen and who will advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.

The West Region—Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, March 22 & 24

The West Region lost its 1-seed Xavier and 2-seed North Carolina on Sunday, adding to upsets in the Round of 32. This opens up the bracket for Michigan and Gonzaga to get their shot at making the Final Four. Texas A&M and Florida State will have something to say about that, as they too will fight to punch their ticket to San Antonio.

#9 Florida State vs. #4 Gonzaga, Thursday, 10:07pm., TBS

Florida State is one of the surprises in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles took down Michael Porter Jr. and Missouri, 67-54, and then came back from a 12 point deficit late in the second half to bounce top-seeded Xavier from the “Big Dance.” Florida State’s strength is on the interior. Led by Terance Mann and Phil Cofer, the Seminoles were third in the ACC in scoring from inside the arc this season. Florida State has struggled shooting the ball from three-point range, shooting at a 33% clip, but the Seminoles have shot it at 39% from deep in the NCAA Tournament. Look for Gonzaga to force Florida State to shoot the three in their Sweet Sixteen match-up.

rui ncaa
The Spokesman-Review

The Zags will look to cut down the nets in Los Angeles and make it to their second consecutive Final Four. Only two starters from last year’s squad returned to Spokane this season, Jonathan Williams and Josh Perkins, but Mark Few has the Bulldogs back in a familiar spot and poised to make a run. Freshman Zach Norvell Jr. recorded a double-double in Gonzaga’s win over Ohio State Saturday with 28 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore Rui Hachimura added 25 points. The combination of experience and stars bursting out right before our eyes, the Zags have something special going. I’ll take the Bulldogs to end the Seminoles’ run in LA on Thursday night.

Gonzaga 84, Florida State 75

#7 Texas A&M vs. #3 Michigan, Thursday, 7:37pm., TBS

Texas A&M and Michigan advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in polar opposite ways. The Aggies trounced 2nd seeded North Carolina, while the Wolverines needed a buzzer beater from freshman Jordan Poole to hold off an upset scare from the 6-seed Houston. Texas A&M has been an enigma all year. The Aggies were in the top ten earlier in the season, but made their way to the bubble following a stretch of five straight losses to open SEC play. Texas A&M has won five of their last six games and have a frontcourt in Tyler Davis and Robert Williams that is one of the best in the country. Led by Davis and Williams, the Aggies outrebounded the Tar Heels, one of the best rebounding teams in the country, 50-36, on Sunday. Texas A&M hasn’t forced many turnovers and they’ve given up 51 three-point attempts in their first two games of the “Big Dance.” If Michigan can take care of the ball and make some shots from deep, it could be a different story for the Aggies on Thursday.

duncan robinson

Following an epic run at Madison Square Garden in the Big Ten Tournament two weeks earlier, the Wolverines struggled mightily on offense in their first two games of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan found their way to the Sweet Sixteen thanks to the art of the buzzer beater. The Wolverines have their best defensive team in recent memory and allowed just 55 points per game in the opening weekend. Michigan will need to counter Texas A&M’s strength on the interior with successful outside shooting to come away with the win. Look for Mo Wagner and Duncan Robinison to find their stroke and for the Wolverines to escape from the Aggies in a close one.

Michigan 73, Texas A&M 72

Winner of the West Region: Michigan

john beilein
clickondetroit.com

Michigan will have a new lease on life after escaping from the jaws of defeat in the Round of 32. I expect John Beilein’s team to snap out of their shooting funk from last weekend and return Big Ten Tournament form in the Sweet Sixteen. Better shooting and defense will help the Wolverines get past Texas A&M and Gonzaga on their way to San Antonio and their first Final Four since 2013.

2018 NCAA Tournament—West Region Preview

Upsets, Sleepers, Pick to Cut Down the Nets

west
ncaa.com

The NCAA Tournament is upon us. Let’s take a look at the West Region. The one seed in the West, Xavier, will look to avoid an upset and make it to the Final Four in San Antonio via Los Angeles. However, there are 16 other teams looking to do the same thing. Here’s what to watch for.

Upset Pick: #10 Providence over #7 Texas A&M

Providence enters the “Big Dance” as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Friars have already enjoyed their fair share of March madness thus far, having played three overtime games at Madison Square Garden at the Big East Tournament. Providence is wildly under-seeded as a ten seed and has proven they can beat the nation’s top competition. The Friars were the only team in the Big East to beat both Xavier and Villanova and took down the Musketeers twice. Rodney Bullock, Alpha Diallo, and Kyron Cartwright are a three-headed monster that will be tough to stop. Led by Tyler Davis, the Texas A&M Aggies will look to avoid an early exit from the Tournament this March. Texas A&M has battled through an up-and-down year to earn a 7-seed, but it will be interesting to see how the Aggies respond to being on the wrong side of Collin Sexton’s (Alabama) buzzer beater in the SEC Tournament. Look for Providence to pull off the upset in Charlotte.

Sleeper: Ohio State Buckeyes

My sleeper pick in the West Region is the Ohio State Buckeyes. As a 5-seed, Ohio State may not seem like a sleeper, but with Gonzaga being the 4-seed in the West Region, some may forget just how good the Buckeyes are. First-year head coach Chris Holtmann has a team, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, that can upset the Zags on their way to the second weekend.

Pick to Win the West Region: North Carolina Tar Heels

theo pinson
newser.com

The North Carolina Tar Heels, led by seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, will look to defend their title. North Carolina has won nine of their last twelve games and are coming off three wins in the ACC Tournament before losing to the number one overall seed Virginia in the championship game in Brooklyn. The senior leadership and the play of All-ACC First-Team selection Luke Maye will be enough lead the Tar Heels past Lipscomb, Providence, Michigan, and Ohio State on their way to the Final Four in San Antonio.

The Jimmy V Classic

The 2017 Jimmy V Classic featured two games: #4 Villanova vs. #12 Gonzaga and Syracuse vs. UConn. Here’s the recap below.

jimmy v

Villanova vs. Gonzaga

The first game of the Jimmy V Classic featured a battle between #4 Villanova and #12 Gonzaga. Villanova proved they’re legit and defeated the Zags 88-72 in the first meeting between the two schools.

Mikal Bridges led a balanced attack for the Wildcats with 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Phil Booth added 20 points, Jalen Brunson had 12 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, and Omari Spellman added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win.

mikal
nbcsports.com

Zach Norvell Jr. led wthe way for Gonzaga with 22 points and 4 rebounds, while Josh Perkins added 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, and Jacob Larsen finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds off the bench in the losing effort.

With the win, Villanova improved to 9-0 on the season and picked up its first win over a ranked opponent. The Wildcats look like a team that is poised to run the table in their conference and make a deep run in March. Gonzaga fell to 7-2, but has only lost to teams that have been ranked in the top 10.

Villanova will host LaSalle on Sunday, December 10 at 1pm, while Gonzaga will travel to Seattle to take on former Syracuse Assistant Coach Mike Hopkins and the Washington Huskies Sunday, December 10 at 8pm.

Syracuse vs. UConn

Syracuse defeated former Big East Rival UConn Tuesday night, 72-63, in the night cap of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City. With the win, Syracuse improved to 9-7 over the Huskies in games played at the Mecca.

Syracuse raced out of the gates behind stellar starts from freshmen Matthew Moyer and Oshae Brissett. The Orange built their lead up to 37-20 with three minutes left in the first half before UConn cut their lead to 11 at the break. The Orange withstood the Huskies attempt to comeback in the second half and pulled out a win in a sloppy game between the two former conference foes.

The Syracuse defense was suffocating all night. UConn struggled to get anything going against the 2-3 zone. The Orange forced the Huskies into 17 turnovers, grabbing 11 steals. Tyus Battle finished with a career high 5 steals in the win. The front line of the zone combined for 4 blocks on the night as well.

Offensively, the Orange were led by Battle who scored 22 points and dished out 3 assists. Moyer turned in a career performance with 18 points, 8 rebounds and electrified the crowd at MSG with two thunderous put-back dunks. Brissett recorded his fourth double-double in his first four games in Orange finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

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Photo by Michael J. Okoniewski

Frank Howard struggled. The junior point guard scored 5 points on 1-of-10 shooting, distributed 5 assists, and turned the ball over 9 times. Howard will need to get better at handling a full court press and needs to improve in assisting the Orange into its offense when he can’t find his own shot.

Jalen Adams led the way for the Huskies with 22 points.

In the absence of Geno Thorpe, who left the team last week, the Orange look to be 7-deep. Howard and Battle will seemingly get all the minutes at the guard positions, as Battle played all 40 minutes for the second straight game and freshman Howard Washington played just one minute after Howard committed a bad turnover in the first half.

Syracuse improved to 7-1 on the season, while UConn fell to 6-3. The Orange will host Colgate on Saturday, December 9 in the Carrier Dome. Tip-off is set for 2pm. The Huskies will host Coppin State at Gampel Pavilion on Campus in Storrs, Connecticut at the same time.