While there's a slew of mid-majors in the West Region, there is really only one who will make it to Los Angeles. The question remains: who will make it to Atlanta?
The last regional bracket to be announced was the West Regional, where West Coast Conference double-champions Gonzaga earned their first ever No. 1 seed. While there's much debate among the talking heads whether or not the Zags deserved the seed, the fact remains that this is a great accomplishment by the Bulldogs.
However, the issue remains: can they get to Atlanta?
Being the number one seed means that you get to face an "easier" schedule: Gonzaga has to get through Southern University in the first round, either Pitt or Wichita State in the round of 32 (look for the Shockers to shock Pitt into an early exit), and most likely an over-seeded Big Ten/Big 12 team for the Sweet 16 match. If Gonzaga moves on like they should, we could potentially see a very intriguing matchup with New Mexico.
The Lobos were snubbed as a No. 3 seed, with the committee favoring Ohio State over them as the last No. 2 seed in the bracket. The Lobos had a better final RPI and strength of schedule than the Buckeyes, but Ohio State ended strong, winning the Big Ten conference tournament, the best conference in the country this year. If we assume that up to the Sweet Sixteen, the highest seed moves up, we can be looking at a Ohio State/New Mexico matchup; one that I believe New Mexico can win easily as long as Tony Snell and Kendall Williams remain hot.
If this Elite Eight matchup does happen, it will then come down to who can shut down the other team's strengths. We've seen New Mexico shut down forwards before (we saw it in the MWC final where the Lobos held the UNLV starting forwards to 15 points...all coming from Anthony Bennett), but can they shut down Kelly Olynyk? Can the Zags defense slow Williams and Snell? If this matchup does happen, it can be one of the most intriguing of the tournament.
Some other observations:
- Boise State versus La Salle should be a great Dayton game, and I think the winner (regardless of who it is, though I'm pulling for my alma mater here) can possibly beat Kansas State to make it to the Round of 32
- Keep an eye on Wichita State and also Belmont. The Shockers should beat Pitt who had a very questionable loss against Rutgers earlier in the season, and at times have been known to let their guard down. Belmont can hope for a key upset against Arizona, who slipped at the end of the season, winning only two of their last five games.