College Football

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

NCAA Tournament Breakdown: The West Region

By Joe Smeltzer

March Madness is here, and to celebrate, I will be previewing all four regions, providing a breakdown of all 68 teams. We kicked things off with the east region, and now its on to the west.. To whom it may concern, I will not be talking about the 16 seeds in any of my previews, as it is a waste of time. I will also not go too in-depth on seeds 13-15, as those teams hardley have any luckLet's get into it.

#1 Xavier
Scoring: Trevon Bluitt (19.5)
Rebounding: Trevon Bluitt (5.7)
Assists: Quentin Goodin (4.9)
J.P. Macura (12.2 PPG)
Kerem Kanter (10.4 PPG)
Naji Marshall (8.1 PPG)

What they do well
Although I'm not so sure the Musketeers warrant a one seed, this is probably the best team they've ever had. Led by Bluitt, Xavier tied for second in the Big East in scoring average, shooting a tad under 50 percent from the field. With Bluitt gone after this season, now might be the best chance Chris Mack has to reach the Final Four for a while.

What could be their downfall?
The Musketeers can score in bunches, and they can also get scored on easily. Xavier ranked just seventh in the conference in scoring defense. So overall, while the Musketeers are a good team, they are too one-dimensional, in my opinion, to make it as far.

#2: North Carolina 
Scoring: Luke Maye (17.2)
Rebounding: Luke Maye (10.1)
Assists: Theo Pinson (4.8)
Joel Berry (17.1 PPG)
Cameron Johnson (12.7 PPG)
Kenny Williams (11.4 PPG)

What they do well
I mean, look at the scoring averages. As usual, the Tarheels play that "run, baby run," brand of basketball, and it shows with five players averaging in double figures. Any team that has talents like Maybe, Berry and Pinson has a chance to go far. Well, to be honest, any UNC team has a chance to go far.

What they don't do well. 
They don't defend well. At all. In fact, only four teams in the massive ACC are worse at defense than Carolina is, and nobody in the conference is worse at defending the three ball. While the Tarheels might be able to mask their problems for the first weekend, once they play Michigan-- who is known for its defense-- the hopes of getting to a third straight championship game could well be crushed.

#3 Michigan
Scoring: Mo Wagner (14.5)
Rebounding: Mo Wagner (7.1)
Assists: Zavier Simpson (3.6)
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12.6 PPG)
Charles Matthews (12.6 PPG)
Duncan Robinson (9.6 PPG)
What they do well
Just like last season, the Wolverines come in as one of the hottest teams in the country having won the Big 10 tournament. Michigan's strength is its defense, which topped the conference by allowing just 63.5 PPG. With players like Wagner and Matthews to score the basketball, the Wolverines have a balance that could get them to the Final Four if all goes well.

What could be their downfall?
Only two teams in the Big Ten were worse at the foul line than the Wolverines this season, with Michigan shooting just 66 percent. Free throws could be the difference between a win and a loss, especially in the NCAA tournament. So if the Maize and Blue can't execute the easiest aspect of the game, they'll be in trouble.

#4 Gonzaga 
Scoring: Johnathan Williams (13.5)
Rebounding: Johnathan Williams (8.3)
Assists: Josh Perkins (5.4)
Killian Tille (13.4 PPG)
Zach Norvell JR (12.2 PPG)
Rui Hachimura (11.3 PPG)
What they do well
Gonzaga is Gonzaga. With five players averaging in double figures, they are, as usual, one of the best teams in the country, and them being in the tournament as a fairly high seed should surprise nobody.

What could be their downfall?
Aside from maybe last season, can anybody think of a time when the 'Zags overachieved in the tournament? Now that they are a four-seed instead of a one or a two, the standard is a little lower, and if the Bulldogs can't meet that standard, it would equal a loss in the Sweet 16, if not before.

#5 Ohio State 
Scoring: Keita Bates-Diop (19.4)
Rebounding: Keith Bates-Diop (8.8)
Assists: C.J. Jackson (3.9)
Jae'Sean Tate (12.5 PPG)
Kaleb Wesson (10.5 PPG)
Kam Williams (8.2 PPG)
What they do well
Aside from Purdue and Michigan State, no team in the Big 10 shoots better than the Buckeyes, who shot over 48 percent from the field. Led by Bates-Diop, the Big 10 player of the year, Chirs Holtmann's team has surprised everyone this season, and if they can shoot, they can hold their own in the West.

What could be their downfall?
Like the rival Wolverines, the Buckeyes struggle with at the line. They were just sixth in the conference in free throw shooting this season. When it comes down to it, you have to make your free throws, fellas.

#6 Houston 
Scoring: Rob Gray (18.5)
Rebounding: Devin Davis (6.2)
Assists: Rob Gray (4.5)
Corey Davis Jr. (13.5 PPG)
Armoni Brooks (9.8 PPG)
Wes VanBeck (6.2 PPG)
What they do well
The Cougars are solid offensively, especially from beyond-the-arc. Led by Corey Davis Jr., who shoots 44 percent from three, the Cougars were the best three-point shooting team in the American Athletic Conference. If they get hot, they can make it rain.

What could be their downfall?
There isn't a lot that Houston doesn't do well. The main thing that could bring them down is inexperience. They've made the tournament just twice since 1992, so they are strangers to the big time. While I think lack of tournament savvy can be overstated, it also could be a deterrent for those who haven't basked in the glory before.

#7 Texas A&M
Scoring: Tyler Davis (14.5)
Rebounding: Robert Williams (9.0)
Assists: Duane Wilson (4.0)
Admon Gilder (12.2 PPG)
D.J. Hogg (11.3 PPG)
What they do well
A&M's biggest strength is its ability to rebound. Led by Williams and Davis, who ranked No. 1 and 2 in the SEC in that department, respectively, the Aggies topped the conference on the glass. If they can force their opponents to miss shots, the Aggies know how to make sure that there will be no second chances.

What could be their downfall?
A&M ranked 12th of 14 SEC teams in three-point shooting. So it's up to the big fellas to score inside for its offense to get going. If not, points will be hard to come by.

#8 Missouri 
Scoring: Kassius Robertson (16.2)
Rebounding: Jontay Porter (6.8)
Assists: Blake Harris (3.1)
Jordan Bennett (13.7 PPG)
Michael Porter Jr.
What they do well

The Tigers were second in the SEC in three-point shooting. Oh, and Michael Porter Jr. is back.

What could be their downfall?
Michael Porter Jr. is back, and that could throw off Missouri's rotation. It's hard for such a drastic change to happen so late in the season, and while Porter's talent could make up for the adjustment, it's still a concern (see Irving, Kyrie, 2011.)

#9 Florida State 
Scoring: Terance Mann (13.2)
Rebounding: Terance Mann (5.7)
Assists: Trent Forrest (4)
Braian Angola (12.9 PPG)
CJ Walker (8.5 PPG)
M.J. Walker (7.6 PPG)
What they do well
FSU was second in the ACC in points per game. So yeah, they can score. However....

What could be their downfall?
Defense. The Seminoles were dead last in the ACC in scoring defense, and 13th in defending the three-pointer. So I'm not quite sure Missouri is a good matchup for Florida State.

#10 Providence 
Scoring: Rodney Bullock (14)
Rebounding: Alpha Diallo (6.6)
Assists: Kyron Cartwright (5.7)
Jalen Lindsey (8.9 PPG)
Isiah Jackson (7.6 PPG)
Nate Watson (6.8 PPG)

What they do well
Providence is on fire and nearly knocked off mighty Villanova in the Big East title game. The Friars are hot, and now is a pretty darn good time to be hot.

What could be their downfall? 
Out of 10 Big East teams, Providence eighth in points per game. This was because of their shooting. Providence was also eighth in field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Against a heavy rebounding team like Texas A&M, that could spell trouble.

#11 San Diego State
Scoring: Malik Pope (12.9)
Rebounding: Jalen McDaniels (7.5)
Assists: Trey Kell (4.1)
Devin Watson (12.3 PPG)
Matt Mitchell (10.7 PPG)
What they do well

Brian Dutcher's team is defensive minded, leading the Mountain West in scoring defense. The Aztecs led the league in field-goal percentage defense and were second to Nevada in defending the three. Against a player like Rob Gray, it will be intriguing to see if SDSU's defense can get it into the second round.

What could be their downfall
SDSU is great defensively, but there is a reason they are a double-digit seed; They don't score it too well. The first round against Houston will be a contrast and styles, and those types of games are always fun.

#12 South Dakota State 
Scoring: Mike Daum (23.8)
Rebounding: Mike Daum (10.4)
Assists: Brandon Key (3.3)
David Jenkins Jr. (16.1 PPG)
Reed Tellinghuisen (12 PPG)
What they do well.
They score a ton.

What could be their downfall?
The teams they play against also score a ton. When you place in the bottom three defensively in the Summit League, good luck stopping Ohio State.

#13 UNC Greensburg
They will not beat Gonzaga

#14 Montana 
They will not beat Michigan

#15 Lipscomb
They will not beat North Carolina

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