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Last Updated Mar 17, 2022, 17:16 PM

NCAA Tournament West Region Breakdown

The NCAA Tournament field of 68 is set, and we have a lot of intriguing matchups. Below, we'll look at some of the top teams in the West region, some teams to avoid at all costs and players to watch.

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THREE TEAMS TO WATCH

  • Davidson (+10000 to win region)
  • New Mexico State (+13000)
  • Vermont (+17000)

Davidson has the potential to make some noise in the West Region, starting against an underwhelming Michigan State team, while potentially ending the career of Coach K in an all-North Carolina battle in the second round. A lot has to go right for that scenario to occur, but it certainly isn't implausible. Foster Loyer is a standout who could take over a game and work his way into the One Shining Moment highlight package.

New Mexico State could be the most dangerous 12-seed out of the four in this NCAA Tournament. The WAC champ won 25 games, including 11 games away from home. Defense wins championships, and the Aggies play a solid brand of defense. NMSU held the opposition to just 63.2 PPG, 32nd in the country, while the Aggies allowed opponents to shoot just 39.2% overall on the season, 20th in the country. The Aggies can score when they need to, and it all starts with Teddy Allen, who managed 19.5 PPG, .9 RPG and 44.8 FG% in 30 games during the regular season. Four players averaged 4.8 RPG or more this season.

Vermont is also a 25-win team, going 17-1 in the America East conference. The Catamounts also play a good brand of defense, yielding just 61.5 PPG to rank 20th in the country during the regular season. This is a good shooting team, too, hitting 48.6% from the field, ranking 15thg in the country. Ryan Davis is a do-everything player, going for 17.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 57.9 FG%, and Ben Shungu can also be a dangerous weapon. Arkansas is a great team, but it could easily be had by Vermont. In fact, it's very easy to see a possible New Mexico State-Vermont matchup for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

Davidson enters the NCAA Tournament covering six of the past eight games overall. (AP)

TEAMS TO AVOID

  • Connecticut (+1900)
  • Michigan State (+4800)
  • Notre Dame (+25000)

The UConn Huskies fought hard against Villanova in the Big East Tournament, but it came up just short. UConn has a pair of studs in R.J. Cole and Adama Sanogo, but after that the dropoff in talent is precipitous. UConn is the kind of team which could easily find its way into the Sweet Sixteen, or struggle in the opening round against a defensive-minded New Mexico State. There just isn't a lot of value playing the Huskies to win this region, as the price isn't high enough to warrant even a small-unit play.

The Michigan State Spartans are more inconsistent than any big-name team in the field. Head coach Tom Izzo usually is able to get the most out of his players, especially at this time of the year, but something just appears to be off with Sparty. Michigan State won 20 games, including 11 games inside the Big Ten, but it dropped its final five regular-season road games, while going 2-1 on a neutral floor in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State is a strong play when playing at Breslin Center in East Lansing in front of a raucous crowd in its favor, but the Spartans tend to become unhinged and make poor decisions when playing in front of a hostile throng of fans.

Notre Dame has an awfully high number if you think they're going to be this year's UCLA or VCU, playing their way to prominence from the play-in game. I mean, a $4 wager nets $1,000. But it's not going to happen. The Irish dropped its final three games off campus against Wake Forest and Florida State in the regular season, and Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament. Like Michigan State, Notre Dame was a completely different - and bad - team when not playing at home. It would be an amazing story to see Notre Dame face Duke in the Sweet 16, seeing former Duke assistant Mike Brey face Mike Krzyzewski one final time. But it's not going to happen. In fact, Notre Dame might not make it home from Dayton against Ron Harper, Jr. and the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Teddy Allen, G, New Mexico State
  • Paolo Banchero, G, Duke
  • R.J. Cole, G, Connecticut
  • Ryan Davis, F, Vermont
  • Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
  • Ron Harper, Jr., G, Rutgers
  • Chet Holmgrem, C, Gonzaga
  • Abu Kigab, F, Boise State
  • Foster Loyer, G, Davidson
  • Wendell Moore, Jr., F, Duke
  • JD Notae, G, Arkansas
  • Jahvon Quinerley, G, Alabama
  • Adama Sanogo, F, Connecticut
  • Jaden Shackelford, G, Alabama
  • Julian Strawther, G, Gonzaga
  • Drew Timme, F, Gonzaga
  • Stanley Umude, G, Arkansas
  • Bryson Williams, F, Texas Tech
Texas Tech is 16-5 ATS in the past 21 games against teams with a winning overall record. (AP)

REGION WINNER

  • Texas Tech (+550)

The Red Raiders are a great value from the three-line. I just don't trust Gonzaga, a team which has been a national runner-up twice. The Zags have been getting closer, but just can't seem to get over the hump. In fact, the Bulldogs have 22 trips to the NCAA Tournament since 1999-00 under head coach Mark Few, but they've been to the Final Four just twice.

Texas Tech has been to the Elite Eight in 2018, and it was a national runner-up in 2019, falling to Virginia in overtime for all the marbles. The Red Raiders are a battle-tested group who will give Gonzaga and Duke a very unwanted challenge. In fact, I don't see the latter making it out of the Sweet Sixteen, as the Red Raiders will be the trivia answer to the question, 'Who was the last team to beat Coach K?'. And I just don't trust Gonzaga, and think Arkansas and UConn are very beatable. The most complete team is Texas Tech, and it will be the final Big 12 team standing in the Final Four, not Kansas or Baylor, the league's one seeds.

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