The Wild, Wild West region is looking like it will quickly become the most fun region to watch throughout the entire tournament. No disrespect to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, but the West boasts the weakest No. 1 seed and the strongest field of upset candidates, especially on the bottom half of the bracket. Everyone, from the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs down to teams like the Notre Dame Irish and Ole Miss Rebels, have a chance at making deep runs in the bracket and coming out on top.
No. 1 Seed:
Arguably the weakest of all the No. 1 seeds, Gonzaga heads up the wildest of the all the regions and the represent everything that is both dazzlingly good and horribly bad about the teams in their bracket. The Zags haven’t lost since January 19th, which either means they’re due for a loss or they’re really as good as they’ve looked on paper. But March is when we have these questions answered and the question remains: what side will the Zags land on?
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As you can see, the West has upset written all over it. Ole Miss is the least likely to play the upset victor, but after watching them in the SEC tournament, the Rebels are real candidates to knock off the Wisconsin Badgers in the Round of 64. However, if the badgers win their game (in which they’re favored) they instantly become upset favorites over both Kansas State and Gonzaga as Bo Ryan’s squad knows how to limit turnovers and shut you down during the most important times in a game. Iowa State is one of the most fun teams to watch and could end up giving Notre Dame some problems in the Round of 64, as once the Irish start missing from three-point land, the bottom falls out. Belmont is an outside favorite to upset Arizona in the first round, as the Wildcats are streaky at best and don’t have the most confidence in the world when it comes to big games. But Pittsburgh will be the all-eyes-on team if they crawl out of a bitter 8-versus-9 matchup in the Round of 64 as they’d be poised to upset the no. 1 seeded Butler Bulldogs. Gonzaga hasn’t lost since January 19th, which not only means they’re due, but Pitt’s stingy defense may be able to limit a defensively charged Zags team. It’ll be a low scoring affair, but those are the types of games higher seeds tend to lose in March as the madness takes over in place of logic.
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We pick on the Zags, but really everyone can be considered both a strong and weak seed in the Wild West. But Gonzaga represents everything that is both good and bad about the region and that’s why they’re representing the weak seeds. Gonzaga essentially earned a No. 1 seed through a technicality which makes them the early favorites to be the first No. 1 seed knocked off. They’re streaky, they don’t always bring their best stuff but they still manage to win and do it convincingly. That’s basically the entire make up of the region from teams that are just getting hot like Ole Miss and Ohio State, to teams that have the potential to get hot and do serious damage like the Notre Dame Irish or Wisconsin Badgers. The Zags are just as likely to make the Final Four as they are to be upset and eliminated before the end of the first weekend. And if that’s not what March Madness is all about, then I’ll never figure it out.
Last Two Standing:
Here’s another case of the epitome of this region, which happens to also be the epitome of the entire bracket as a whole. Both the Badgers and Lobos have the ability to turn in off-performances and get bounced early on, but both also posses the ability to light things up and ignite a streak that carries them to the Elite Eight. Th Lobos have made a name for themselves out of being streaky, which is both their saving grace and their pitfall. The Badgers don’t always dominate you, but they hold you down late in games and put themselves in a position where they’re the only team that can beat themselves. Both teams play defensive which means both will be able to be consistent in their bracket a lot longer than other, offensive minded teams will be able to.
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The Badgers aren’t the best team in the tournament, but when do the best teams ever make it as far as they should. What Wisconsin has going for them is the fact that many view the Big Ten as overrated, meaning they likely won’t be prepared for what Wisconsin brings on the court. This isn’t to say game film won’t undo the magic of the Badgers, but see what the Badgers do to opponents like the Indiana Hoosiers and then experiencing it are two different things. They’re a five seed, but they are very capable of winning games on defense, and their ability to limit turnovers will be key down the stretch of close games.