West Regional Picks
March 28, 2013
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After the first full weekend of NCAA tournament action there wasn't a crazier region than the West. Yes there are great underdog stories elsewhere (Florida Gulf Coast) and #12 Oregon proving their 12-seed was a gross oversight, but the West region of the bracket was blown up by upsets all weekend.
Through the first round of games, the 9, 10, 12, 13 and 14 seeds all won and moved on and by the time action was completed late Sunday, two of those four found themselves in the Sweet Sixteen. If #2 Ohio State didn't get a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Aaron Craft and fell to #10 Iowa State in OT later on, the West would have been the region to set NCAA tournament history. Never once have seeds 1-4 all been eliminated by the Sweet Sixteen but that's what we would have had here if the Buckeyes had fell. Instead we get two great games on Thursday to decide who will go to the Elite Eight.
#6 Arizona (+4) vs. #2 Ohio State (-4); Total set at 133.5
This is as "chalky" as it gets in the West region which now appears to be Ohio State's for the taking. But after spending their first two games in nearby Dayton, Ohio, the Buckeyes hit the road and travel cross-country to play an Arizona team that could enjoy a similar home court advantage.
This game will be played in L.A.'s Staples Center and given that it's Pac-12 country out there, Arizona will no doubt have plenty of support in the stands here. They are no strangers to the area with visits to UCLA and USC a regular occurrence every year and they will relish in that support in an underdog role.
Ohio State has won 10 in a row coming into this one but had some major flaws exposed against Iowa State in the round of 32 and the Wildcats coaching staff will definitely spend the next few days pouring over tape of how to exploit those weaknesses. The Buckeyes allowed opponents to score 70 or more against them in all seven of their losses this year and five of them came away from home in hostile territories. The two that were at home were against two #1 seeds (Indiana and Kansas) and five of their seven total losses have come against teams still alive in this tournament. Giving up 70+ has worked in their first two tournament games but Arizona is a much better team than Iona and Iowa State and loves to get out and run up and down the floor as well. If the Wildcats are able to establish a fast-pace early on, the "home" crowd will feed off that and Arizona will feed off the energy in the building. In a bracket that has become a stomping ground for lower seeds, it's near impossible not to like Arizona + the points here in their own backyard.
Take Arizona +4.
#13 La Salle (+4) vs. #9 Wichita State (-4); Total set at 135
The West region may be known for its upsets, but this is the one instance where I see the higher seed having a clear advantage.
Wichita State "shocked" everyone by beating #1 Gonzaga on Saturday night but that was only more of a validation for the guys on that team. Wichita State has been a very good, deep team all year and their ability to score in bunches should put them over the top against La Salle.
The Crusaders caught a break when they got to face #12 Ole Miss in the round of 32 as they play a similar style and as long as by containing Marshall Henderson they were able to get a shot to drop at the end to move on. But they played three games last week (Boise State, Kansas State, Ole Miss) and the mental fatigue of that has got to be wearing on them. Physically, the next few days off should help La Salle but it will be hard for them to get the engine firing on all cylinders again after spending this week in the adoring gaze of their friends and family back at home. They don't have the depth that Wichita State has and although the Shockers are coming off their own huge upset, they've more likely to remain focused on moving on as the better seed.
Lay the points with Wichita State.