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Breaking Down The NCAA Bracket: West Regional

Final_four_mediumWest Regional General Information:

Regional Site: Anaheim, California

Conference Tournament Champions: 8

At Large Teams:  8

Power Conference Teams:  9

Mid Majors:  7

Pods: Washington, D.C., Charlotte, Tulsa, Tuscon

Interesting Facts:

-Watch out for Oakland!  I heard a pair of references last night to Oakland being a possible Cinderella with a chance to play a Sweet 16 in their home state of California. Problem is, this is Oakland from the state of MICHIGAN!

-Since coaching at SDSU, Steve Fisher has not been past the first round with the Aztecs. Can Northern Colorado keep that streak going?


Team Capsules

#1 Seed Duke Blue Devils


Bid: ACC Champ

Location: Durham, NC

Record: 30-4

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:5

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency:3

Key Offensive Stat: eFG% #22 Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent eFG%#7 Nationally

Player to Know: Nolan Smith

Duke returns to defend their National Championship from a year ago and likely secured a top seed with an ACC tournament championship win over North Carolina.  The Blue Devils have senior leadership with Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler and a player that can score in a waves with Seth Curry.  The biggest concern?  Well, the Devils are an outside shooting team without a great interior presence.  They like to shoot the three, they do it well, but if things are off they are going to be in a battle when the competition picks up.

#2 Seed San Diego State


Bid: Mountain West Champion

Location: San Diego, CA

Record: 32-2

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:24

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency:4

Key Offensive Stat: Off. Reb% #18 Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent eFG% #9 Nationally

Player to Know: Kawhi Leonard

San Diego State has just two losses on the season, both coming at the hands of a full strength BYU team. What makes SDSU so good is their defense.  Nationally they boast one of the top defenses in the country and they are just as good on the interior as they are at defending the three.  The question becomes if that's a product of a slightly lower level of opponent or if the Aztecs are that good.  0-6 all time in the Big they try to win as the hunted.

#3 Seed Connecticut Huskies


Bid: Big East Tournament Champion

Location: Storrs, CT

Record: 26-9

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 21

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 31

Key Offensive Stat: Off Reb% 7th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opp. Opponent FT Attempt% 15th Nationally

Player to Know: Kemba Walker

The Huskies started the season red hot, fell off during conference play and catapulted back toward the top with a five wins in five days performance in the Big East tournament.  Throw in a player like Kemba Walk and it's the type of performance that captures the imagination of the college basketball hype machine.  Thus a jump from a team that many viewed as a likely 5-6 seed up to a 3.  The important thing over the next six games will be carrying over that momentum from last weekend, something that can prove to be easier said than done.

#4 Seed Texas Longhorns

Bid: At Large Texas-longhorns-vs

Location: Austin, TX

Record: 27-7

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:19

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 1

Key Offensive Stat: TO%26th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opp eFG% #1 Nationally

Player to Know: Jordan Hamilton

Texas was once considered a potential overall top seed before stumbling down the stretch.  The Longhorns do it with defense, Rick Barnes crew is the top defense in the country and that starts at the point with Dogus Balbay and underneath with Triston Thompson.  Jordan Hamilton makes the offense go and senior Gary Johnson provides solid leadership at the forward spot.  If Texas can regain their midseason form, things could get interesting out West.

#5 Seed Arizona Wildcats

Arizona_20wildcats_mediumBid: At Large 

Location:  Tuscon, AZ

Record: 27-7

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:14

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 67

Key Offensive Stat: eFG% 9th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent TO% 255 Nationally(They don't force many.

Player to Know: Derek Williams

Arizona might have the most explosive player in the tournament with Derek Williams and they are solid offensively.  The one area they are missing is on the defensive end.  They certainly aren't bad, but mediocrity on defense doesn't typically carry you through to the Final Four.  The biggest question mark for those evaluating Arizona is how good are they?  They don't have a win over an opponent currently ranked all season and the Pac10 had been widely considered a weak conference much like last year.

#6 Seed Cincinnati Bearcats


Bid: At Large 

Location:Cincinnati, OH


KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:55

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 15

Key Offensive Stat: Off Reb% 10th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Steal% 31st Nationally

Player to Know: Yancy Gates

One of the Big East at large teams, Cincinnati finished with an 11-7 record in a tough conference.  They are a deep team and have one of the better inside players from the Big East in Gates.  There strength is on the defensive end and given a different draw it would have been fun to see an Arizona vs. Cincy matchup to see Williams go against Gates.  How long the Bearcats can get by with a mediocre offense will ultimately determine what kind of noise they can make.

#7 Seed Temple Owls


Bid: At Large 

Location: Philadelphi, PA

Record: 25-7

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 53

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 36

Key Offensive Stat: Turnover % 7th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent FT Attempt % 14th Nationally

Player to Know: Lavoy Allen

Temple is a fundamentally sound team that plays decent on both ends of the court but overall they execute well and do the little things right.  They don't turn the ball over, they are good defensively in that they aren't foul heavy.  Plain and simple Temple makes you earn it and they aren't going to bail you out.

#8 Seed Michigan Wolverines

Butler_mediumBid: Big Ten

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Record: 20-13

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 45

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 47

Key Offensive Stat: TO%16th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opp. TO%254th Nationally

Player to Know: Tim Hardaway Jr

Michigan is a young team but they've been through games with tough opponents and fared nicely over the season.  They are a team that relies on hitting the three pointer in a similar fashion to Duke.  As the saying goes, you live by the sword, you die by the sword.  But anyone that is a fan of the three pointer would do well to catch a second round Duke V Michigan matchup. 

#9 Seed Tennessee Volunteerss


Bid: SEC

Location: Knoxville, TN

Record: 19-14

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 73

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency:50

Key Offensive Stat: Off Reb%12th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opp Steal% 62nd Nationally

Player to Know: Scotty Hopson

Tennessee went from a top 10 team to nearly missing the tournament.  Oddly that's a storyline that played out in a few places this season, but Tennessee might be the most questionable in terms of their ability to recover.  losing 7 of 11 down the stretch in a fairly weak conference doesn't look good when entering a tournament as tough as the NCAA.

#10 Seed Penn State


Bid: At Large 

Location:University Park, PA


KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:34

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency:58

Key Offensive Stat: TO%51st Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opp eFG%243rd

Player to Know: Talor Battle

Talor Battle is one of the top players at Penn State over the last 20 years and he's been able to lead the Nittany Lions to the Big Dance, a place they aren't often seen.  The Lions are riding a nice wave of momentum after reaching and competing in the Big 10 Conference title game and they get a first round draw against an interesting Temple team. Now how much farther can Battle carry this team?

#11 Seed Missouri Tigers


Bid: At Large

Location: Columbia, MO

Record: 23-10

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 28

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency:53

Key Offensive Stat: TO% 20th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat:Opponent: TO% 9th Nationally

Player to Know: Marcus Denmon

Missouri was very good at home and horrible on the road.  Now they have to take that show on the road and find a way to win. The biggest challenge for the Tigers has been on the offensive end where they just aren't very efficient in the half court and they don't have a consistent big.  Still the frantic style of Mike Anderson can cause teams trouble in the tourney if they aren't fully prepared for it.

#12 Seed Memphis Tigers

Memphis-tigers-logo_medium Bid: Conference USA Champ

Location: Memphis, TN

Record: 25-9

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 134

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 60

Key Offensive Stat: TO% 264th Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent eFG% 69th Nationally

Player to Know: Will Barton

Four freshman starters and a sloppy offensive team.  Memphis started the year ranked but have slowly descended down the ranks throughout the season.  They have shown improvement but unless you're John Calipari, starting four freshman can be difficult.  Interesting first round matchup against the Wildcats as some Arizona fans had lobbied for Josh Pastnor prior to hiring Sean Miller.

#13 Seed Oakland Grizzlies

Oakland-golden-grizzlies-alternate-logo-2-primary_mediumBid: Automatic, Summit Champ

Location: Rochester Michigan

Record: 25-9

KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 13

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency:200

Key Offensive Stat: eFG% 3rd Nationally

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent TO%327th Nationally

Player to Know: Keith Benson

Oakland looks to answer the question of offense vs. defense.  They are dangerously efficient on the offensive end but borderline poor defensively.  Really that's a product of being very conservative defensively because they have the size and experience on the offensive end to handle business in that department.  Oakland seems to have a good matchup in round one and could make a little noise over the first weekend with an explosive offensive performance.

#14 Seed Bucknell Bison

Bid: Patriot League Champ Bucknellbison3_medium

Location: Lewisburg, PA


KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 136

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 64

Key Offensive Stat: TO%27th

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent Off Reb%40th

Player to Know: Mike Muscala

I feel fortunate to not have Bucknell sitting in the same side or bracket as Kansas.  Sure the odds are slim that the Bison will make a huge amount of noise, but they do have the makings of a team that could pull an upset and they've done it before.  They are smart with the basketball on the offensive end, they play good defense and they have some decent size in 6'11" Muscala.

#15 Seed Northern Colorado Bears


Bid: Automatic, Big Sky Champ

Location: Greeley Colorado


KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 113

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 139

Key Offensive Stat: Free Attempt Throw% 37

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent Off Reb% 45

Player to Know: Devon Beitzel

Four senior starters and a player in Beitzel that leads the group.  This is the group that came into UNC as true freshman when the Bears made the transition to division one basketball.  Fitting that they would see an opportunity in the big dance and they might just be a team that could pull that occasional #15 over #2 upset.


#16 Seed Hampton


Bid: Automatic, Meac

Location: Hampton VA


KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 291

KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency:94

Key Offensive Stat: eFG% 295th

Key Defensive Stat: Opponent eFG% 4th

Player to Know: Kwame Morgan

Hampton is horrible offensively, decent defensively and the reward for winning with defense is the opportunity to matchup with a great offensive team in Duke. Both teams will bomb away from behind the arc, can Hampton hit a few more?


The Matchups

#1 Duke vs Hampton

What To Watch: Can Hampton's defense slow down the efficient Duke Offense

Hampton Will Win If: They get really hot from three and Duke goes ice cold.

Duke Will Win If:  Play like they did in any game they played this year...yes even their worst game.

#8 Michigan vs. #9 Tennessee

What To Watch:  Michigan scores from three Tennessee doesn't.  The Vols can't play from behind.

Michigan Will Win If:  Their freshman respond on a bigger stage

Tennesee Will Win If:  Keep a low scoring Michigan team from becoming a high scoring Michigan team.

#5 Arizona vs. #12 Memphis

What To Watch:  Derek Williams...just watch him.

Arizona Will Win If: They can keep a lid on a sloppy Memphis offense.

Memphis Will Win If: Take care of the ball and get Will Barton going

#4 Texas vs. #13 Oakland

What To Watch:  Which Texas shows up.  Oakland is very good offensively and Texas is very good  defensively.  

Texas Will Win If:  They can contain the Oakland offense like they contained most of the Big12.

Oakland Will Win If:  Keith Benson can neutralize Triston Thompson and Oakland wins the battle against the Texas defense.

#6 Cincinnati vs #11 Missouri

What To Watch:  Does the Mizzou pressure bother the Bearcats.

Cincinnati Will Win If:  They can keep Mizzou from running and force them to attempt to run their halfcourt offense against a stingy Bearcat defense.

Missouri Will Win If:  They can bother the Bearcats with pressure and get out in transition on offense.

#3 Connecticut vs. #14 Bucknell

What To Watch:  Does Connecticut's Big East Tourney momentum carry through to the NCAA tourney.

Connecticut Will Win If:  The Huskies and Kemba Walker continue to get help from those "other players" that have stepped up late in the season.

Bucknell Will Win If:  They can stay balanced on offense and slow down Walker.  Bucknell is decent.

#7 Temple vs. #10 Penn State

What To Watch:  Does the consistency of Temple win out over a team with a marquee player?

Temple Will Win If:  Play their game well.  It isn't flashy but it wins games by being very sound with the fundamentals.

Penn State Will Win If:  Talor Battle. He's key and the offense needs to run though him.

#2 SDSU vs. #15 Northern Colorado

What To Watch:  Defense, that's SDSU's calling card and this should be a matchup where that can shine.

SDSU Will Win If: Just don't crumble under expectations.

Northern Colorado Will Win If:  They get that magical March boost from a group of seniors who have already had a great season.

RCT Predictions

Most Likely to Pull an Upset:  Bucknell or Oakland.  Both teams have the pieces that make for a March feel good, but they certainly don't have easy opponents to do that against.

Most Likely to Pull a Surprise Run:  Penn State.  I don't know that I agree with them being in and they'll probably fall on their face as they've done in the past but I think they have a decent draw headed into this one and could make a Sweet 16 with a little luck.

Final Four Favorite:  Texas

Underseeded: Texas

Overseeded: Connecticut

Best Team No One Knows About:  Well you know about Oakland and Bucknell because they've done it before so how about....Temple...under the radar this year and a very sound team out of the A-10.