Regional Site: Phoenix Arizona - US Airways Center
Conference Tournament Champions: 10
At Large Teams: 7
Power Conference Teams: 6
Mid Majors: 11
Pods: Columbus, Louisville, Portland, Omaha
- The West Region features the fewest power conference teams with six. Yet another reason I'm glad Kansas didn't end up here.
- The second round features a potential matchup between the two Mid-Majors who gave Kansas the most trouble in the non-conference schedule: Davidson and Long Beach State
- Missouri and Norfolk State are the only teams that don't have any chance of playing a mid-major in the second round.
#1 Seed Michigan State Spartans
Bid: Automatic, Big Ten
Location: East Lansing, MI
KenPom Ranking: 3
Sagarin Ranking: 3
Player to Know:
Though Michigan State is considered the last team on the 1 seed line, Sagarin and KenPom agree they're the #3 team in the country. Keep an eye on Draymond Green, who's been good enough to earn some discussion in the National Player of the Year conversation. The Spartans have appeared in the Sweet 16 in three of the past four seasons.
#2 Seed Missouri Tigers
Location: Somewhere along the river from "Deliverance"
Sagarin Ranking: 7
Player to Know: Any of six players, depending on the night
Missouri was the last team on the two line, yet was somehow paired with the bottom 1 seed. Mizzou seems to be built for the tournament, boasting outstanding guard play and a lot of seniors. In what looks to me like the weakest region, the Tigers' upperclassmen will have a lot of pressure on them to try to become the school's first ever Final Four team.
#3 Seed Marquette Golden Eagles
Location: Milwaukee, WI
KenPom Ranking: 18
Player to Know: Darius Johnson-Odom
Marquette started 10-0 in a season that featured wins over tournament teams Wisconsin, South Florida, Lousiville, Cincinnati, UConn, West Virginia and Georgetown. In the second round, they will likely have to face a potentially underrated Murray State team, who lost only one game all year.
#4 Seed Lousiville Cardinals
Bid: Automatic, Big East
Location: Louisville, KY
KenPom Ranking: 20
Sagarin Ranking: 18
Player to Know: Kyle Kuric
Lousiville lost three out of four to finish the regular season, but rebounded nicely by winning the Big East Tournament. They may potentially face two KU non-con opponents (Davidson and LBSU) in back-to-back games.
#5 Seed New Mexico Lobos
Location: Albuquerque, NM
KenPom Ranking: 13
Sagarin Ranking: 16
Player to Know: Drew Gordon
The Lobos are a bit of a computer rankings darling. KenPom rates them higher than Marquette or Louisivllle. Still, they make it in as a 5 seed, and are rewarded with a fellow dangerous mid-major in Long Beach State.
#6 Seed Murray State Racers
Location: Murray, KY
KenPom Ranking: 45
Sagarin Ranking: 40
Player to Know: Isaiah Canaan
Speaking of potentially-underrated mid-majors, Murray State lands a 6 seed despite losing only one game this year. I know, the statisticians aren't big fans of this team, but I love great guard play in March, and Canaan has been outstanding this year, scoring nearly 20 points per contest and shooting a 61% eFG.
#7 Seed Florida Gators
Location: Gainesville, FL
KenPom Ranking: 19
Sagarin Ranking: 17
Player to Know: Bradley Beal
Florida has plenty on NBA talent in players like Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal, but have struggled to play consistently this year. Still, KenPom and Sagarin agree this team is undervalued at just a 7 seed, and may present a tough out for Missouri in the second round.
#8 Seed Memphis Tigers
Location: Memphis, TN
KenPom Ranking: 9
Sagarin Ranking: 13
Player to Know: Will Barton
Stat geeks (looking at you, Fetch) are going nuts about Memphis as an 8 seed, and there's talk of them posing a real threat to Michigan State in Round 2. Memphis is a top 10 team according to KenPom, and they're playing their best basketball at the right time of year.
Location: St. Louis, MO
KenPom Ranking: 15
Sagarin Ranking: 19
Player to Know: Brian Conklin
SLU's first round matchup with Memphis may feature the two most underrated mid-majors in the country. This is a dangerous sleeper team that has only two players hitting fewer than a third of their three pointers.
#10 Seed Virginia Cavaliers
Location: Charlottesville, VA
KenPom Ranking: 26
Sagarin Ranking: 26
Player to Know: Mike Scott
Virginia started 15-2 this year, before stumbling and splitting their last 14 games. They've lost 3 of their last 4, and if "peaking at the right time" is a thing, the Cavs ain't doing it.
#11 Seed Colorado State Rams
Location: Ft Scott, CO
KenPom Ranking: 76
Sagarin Ranking: 76
Player to Know: Dorian Green
If you ever needed proof that the Tournament Committee favors the RPI over the real computer ratings, look no further than Colorado State. Despite losing games to Stanford, TCU, Wyoming and Boise State, the Rams rode a 24 RPI ranking to an 11 seed they don't even have to play into.
#12 Seed Long Beach State 49ers
Bid: Automatic, Big West
Location: Long Beach, CA
KenPom Ranking: 37
Sagarin Ranking: 41
Player to Know: Casper Ware
It's probably just because of how well they played the Jayhawks in Lawrence, but I like this team. This team played just about every quality opponent close this year, including near-upsets against KU, North Carolina and Creighton.
#13 Seed Davidson Wildcats
Bid: Automatic, Southern
Location: Davidson, NC
KenPom Ranking: 68
Sagarin Ranking: 71
Player to Know: De'Mon Brooks
This is another team I probably only respect because of how they played KU. We all remember Davidson knocking off Kansas at the Sprint Center. Combing through their schedule, it's tough to find anything else qualifying as big wins, but Davidson put together a fairly strong season overall.
#14 Seed Brigham Young Cougars/Iona Gaels
Bid: At large (both)
Location: Provo, UT/New Rochelle, NY
KenPom Ranking: 50/57
Sagarin Ranking: 39/52
There's really only one reason to watch this First Round game, and his name is Scott Machado. Machado has logged over 4100 minutes of PT over his career, and this year averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds and 10 assists per game.
#15 Norfolk State Spartans
Bid: Automatic, MEAC
Location: Norfolk, VA
KenPom Ranking: 213
Sagarin Ranking: 182
Player to Know: Kyle O'Quinn
You have to get all the way to the 15 seed in this region before you start scraping the bottom of the barrel. Norfolk is one of only two teams in the West I give absolutely no chance of winning a game.
#16 Seed Long Island Blackbirds
Bid: Automatic, Northeast Conference
KenPom Ranking: 165
Sagarin Ranking: 159
Player to Know: Julian Boyd
Welcome to the other team with no chance of winning a game. Sorry, but I can't give the nod to a group that plays their games in something called the Athletic, Recreation and Wellness Center. Why not just play the games at the Y? Interestingly, this team does have three players who combine for over 56 points per game, so I'm guessing maybe this team can produce a little offense here and there. Maybe they'll keep it interesting for 12 or 13 minutes against the Spartans.
#1 Michigan State vs #16 Long Island
What To Watch: Draymond Green. Long Island's tallest player is 6'8, and they have three sub-6 footers. Green will likely look like a man amongst boys.
Long Island Will Win If: They started praying in November.
Michigan State Will Win If: They have five players on the court at all times.
#8 Memphis vs. #9 St. Louis
What To Watch: The entire game. This is a matchup between two very solid mid-majors.
Memphis Will Win If: Will Barton gets going early.
St Louis Will Win If: They are discriminate and efficient from behind the three point line.
#5 New Mexico vs. #12 Long Beach State
What To Watch: New Mexico's Drew Gordon.
New Mexico Will Win If: They get it inside and score some points.
Long Beach State Will Win If: They get hot shooting the ball. This is a team that tossed up 600+ threes this year.
#4 Lousiville vs. #13 Davidson
What To Watch: Offensive output. Yes, Davidson plays in a weak conference, but they scored 10 more points a game and shot 2% better from three this year.
Lousiville Will Win If: They play defense. Davidson likely needs to score in the high-60s at minimum to have a chance.
Davidson Will Win If: They make Louisville play to their tempo. A high-scoring, high-possession game works to their advantage.
#6 Murray State vs #11 Colorado State
What To Watch: The end of the game. These teams have remarkably similar statistical profiles, and this one may be a photo finish
Murray State Will Win If: Isaiah Canaan controls the game.
Colorado State Will Win If: They force turnovers. CSU only gets about 5 steals per game, and Canaan doesn't make many bad decisions. If they get Murray State out of their rhythm, this will likely go their way.
#3 Marquette vs. #14 BYU/Iona
What To Watch: Decision making. Marquette is better than either of these teams as long as they follow their gameplan.
Marquette Will Win If: They play within themselves and don't start trying to score 100 points.
BYU/Iona Will Win If: They score, and do it intelligently. Quette outscores their opponents by about 10/game, but can turn in some erratic offensive performances. BYU/Iona will need to keep the pressure on the Eagle's offense and see if they can make Marquette force some shots.
#7 Florida vs. #10 Virginia
What To Watch: Florida's play early. If they look focused, Virginia is in trouble.
Florida Will Win If: They show up mentally. Virginia has played some decent ball this year, but at the end of the day, the simply don't have the horses to hang with Florida.
Virginia Will Win If: The scattered, inefficient version of the Gators shows up. The outcome of this game is all on Florida.
#2 Missouri vs. #15 Norfolk State
What To Watch: Officiating. Missouri has been the beneficiary of some crews that are just sort of accustomed to the Tigers' constant reach-ins and diving in front of ballhandlers to draw charges. This game may serve as sign of whether that will be allowed by unfamiliar officiating crews. As for the game itself, no real reason to pay attention.
Missouri Will Win If: They hit at least nine of their 137 three point attempts.
Norfolk Will Win If: Someone slashes the tires on Missouri's bus from the hotel. Not that I'm any way endorsing the hell out of that idea.
Most Likely to Pull an Upset: LBSU over New Mexico
Most Likely to Pull a Surprise Run: Florida
Final Four Favorite: Missouri
Best Team No One Knows About: Iona