The Selection Committee must have a hard time deciding which team, Arizona or Gonzaga, deserved the 1 seed in the March Madness West Region. Arizona won the Pac 12 Tournament Championship while Gonzaga lost only a single game during the regular season.
2017 March Madness West Region Preview
Gonzaga ended up with the 1 seed. Arizona ended up with the 2 seed. Both appear to have clear paths to the Elite 8. Out of the two top seeds, Arizona has the better path since they don’t have to possibly face Vanderbilt, West Virginia, or Notre Dame before the Elite 8. See below for who’s going to cut down the nets in the West Region!
Top Contenders: 1 Gonzaga, 2 Arizona, 4 West Virginia, 5 Notre Dame
Gonzaga’s lone loss on the season was 71 to 79 to Brigham Young on February 25. The Zags were perfect save for that single loss. Among the teams that Gonzaga beat were Florida, Iowa State, and Arizona. It’s clear that Gonzaga is one of the best teams in the country. The big knock against the Zags is that they beat Zona, Iowa State, and Florida before 2017. Is the Gonzaga team that shows up in the NCAA Tournament the same as the Gonzaga team that beat those 3 Final Four contenders?
Arizona beat both UCLA and Oregon to win the Pac 12 Tournament. There are only a few more teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Duke, Michigan, Wichita State, and Kentucky, that go into the tourney as hot as the West Coast Wildcats.
West Virginia lost to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament Championship. Because Bob Huggins is their coach, the Mountaineers almost always have a shot to make it to at least the Sweet 16. This year is no different.
Notre Dame lost to Duke in the ACC Tournament Championship. Coach Mike Bey has taken the Irish to the Elite 8 in each of the last two college basketball seasons. Notre Dame is a solid, tough, group.
What’s Wrong With: 3 Florida State
Sometimes, Florida State plays like the absolute best team in the nation. This season, the Seminoles beat Florida 83 to 78, they beat Duke 88 to 78, and they took down Louisville 73 to 68. But, FSU has a tough time guarding three-point shooters. Notre Dame shot over 48% from three against the Seminoles in FSU’s 73 to 77 loss in the ACC Tournament. Also, Florida State takes on a team that runs as much as they do in Florida Gulf Coast in Round 1. Anything can happen in that game.
Top Underdog: 9 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt was sneaky good in the SEC Tournament. Sure, Vandy lost 62 to 76 to Arkansas in the SEC Semifinals. The Commodores have an excuse. The day before, they had beaten Florida 72 to 62 in overtime. Vandy went into the game versus Arkansas exhausted. Before the Arkansas game, Vanderbilt had won 7 out of their last 8. They had gone 8 and 0 against the spread. The Commodores are much better than their 9-seed implies.
Key Game: 1 Gonzaga vs 9 Vanderbilt
Since Vanderbilt is such a good team, the key game should be Gonzaga versus Vanderbilt in Round 2. Gonzaga’s lone loss was to BYU, a team that plays tough defense. Vanderbilt plays like BYU. The Commodores allow 68 points per game on average.
Vandy also has the requisite inside game to push Gonzaga big man Jonathan Williams. I think Vanderbilt could give Gonzaga a run for their money in Round 2.
Top “No Way” Underdog: 14 Florida Gulf Coast
Florida Gulf Coast averages over 80 points per game. FGC is known for playing hard in the NCAA Tournament. This season, FGC could upset Florida State because there’s no contrast in styles and the Seminoles are prone to get out of control during games. If the Eagles can get past FSU in Round 1, who knows what’s going to happen? They won’t have to battle Arizona until the Sweet 16.
Winner: 2 Arizona
Miller said that he believes this is the best “offensive team” he’s ever had in Tucson. Well, if that’s the case, this must be the best team he’s ever had, right? Miller is a defensive coach. Not only does this Wildcat team allow only 65.4 points per game, but this Zona team also averages 76 points per game.
The Wildcats have two star players in Lauri Markkanen and Alonzo Trier. Trier can take the ball to the hoop, shoot the three, or pull up for a short range jumper. Markkanen, although he’s 7 feet, can take the ball to the hoop, shoot the three, or pull up for a short-range jumper. Arizona has a center that can play like a guard.
But, that doesn’t mean that Zona doesn’t have great guards. Kadeem Allen, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, and Rawle Alkins can all shoot the three, or drive to the hoop. Miller also has a 7- foot center in Dusan Rustic who can clog the middle.
Miller has taken the Arizona Wildcats to the Elite 8 in 3 out of the past 4 seasons. I don’t think Miller just gets the Cats to the Final Four this season. I think Miller and Arizona win the Final Four by beating Kentucky in the Final Four Championship.