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NCAA Tournament: Thoughts, Tidbits and Things to Watch (West Region)

Well, here we are  one day away from the real start of March Madness (The first four games don’t count! They are merely an appetizer for the main course. Nice, but not filling) and the excitement couldn’t be any more palpable as the hysteria is about to envelop the whole nation. Yes, even your grandma, who likes Oregon because ducks are cute, will be hooting and hollering.

And just like I did for the Big East Tournament, I will be live blogging all day during the NCAA Tournament. (Yes, I have no life. Well, at least not on those two days, as to me they are the best two days of the year!)

However, before we start with that, let’s dissect this year’s bracket as I dispense some thoughts, tidbits and things to watch with some predictions thrown in as well. This will be a four-part series with a look at each region. Up next is a look at the West region.

West Region:

Perhaps the team best suited to stop Kentucky’s quest for perfection will be the Wisconsin Badgers, as they can space the floor and take the Wildcats’ bigs away from the basket. With two legit studs (Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker; and an emerging one in Nigel Hayes), the Badgers could have what it takes to beat Kentucky and cut down the nets when it it’s all said and done. This team sure can shoot, and that will be a prerequisite for beating Kentucky.

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 31 Wisconsin at Iowa

Nigel Hayes, often overlooked, could be the piece that puts Wisconsin in the Final Four.

  • Exciting player alert: If there is one guard in this region who can carry his team on his back, it just may be Joseph Young of Oregon. He has the clutch gene and can score in bunches. I don’t think his Ducks can beat Wisconsin (if they play in the round of 32), but he’ll will make his presence known regardless. By the way, that potential Wisconsin/Oregon contest would be a rematch from last year’s tournament (Wisconsin won 85-77), where they also played in the round of 32.
  • Here’s a trendy and popular sleeper pick I’m on the bandwagon with: Wofford over Arkansas. Karl Cochran is a dynamic guard for the Terriers and a player who can shock the world. I love Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, but the Razorbacks’ time is not now. Wofford, after some close calls before in the tournament, finally breaks through this time.
  • It will be interesting to see the Baylor/Georgia State matchup, too. If you recall, Georgia State is the school where Kevin Ware (he of that gruesome injury when he played with Louisville in the Elite Eight back in 2013) is playing. Not to mention, Georgia State has a fantastic duo in R.J. Hunter (an NBA hopeful, who averages 19.8 points) and Ryan Harrow (18.7 points per game). Expect the Panthers to to give the Bears fits.
  • Man, I can’t wait to watch D’Angelo Russell play against Shaka Smart’s pressing Rams. Don’t you? Don’t answer, that’s rhetorical! Of course you do!
  • It’s a crock BYU had to play in the play-in game. I felt they deserved a better fate. But I guess the Selection Committee knows more than us, as the Cougars were promptly eliminated Tuesday by Ole Miss in one of the first-four games.

Winner: Wisconsin. Arizona and their stable of elite athletes will no doubt be looking for a measure of revenge from last year’s West regional final when the Wildcats lost to the Badgers in thrilling fashion. Still, the Badgers are too experienced, well-coached and have the go-to player in Kaminsky to eek out the victory once again.

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