College Basketball

NCAA Tournament Previews: East and West Regions

The NCAA Men’s Basketball National Tournament will be in full swing by midday tomorrow, capturing the attention of millions of sports fans and casual observers alike. We here at No Coast Bias will bring your our thoughts and previews of each of the four regions leading up to the First Round (not the First Four, the First Round, as it should be called) for your reading pleasure and analytical insights.

EAST REGION

Top 3 seeds: Indiana, Miami, Marquette

Top 3 Vegas Odds Favorites: (from 5Dimes)

Indiana (+100)

Miami (+300)

Syracuse (+600)

Top 3 KenPom Favorites:

Indiana (49.1%)

Miami (15.5%)

Syracuse (14.3%)

Best first round match ups:

5 UNLV vs 12 California

This game is a regular season rematch (something that the selection committee typically avoids) and features two teams that, in my opinion, have the potential to surprise people with a run. Both have these teams have underachieved so far but have components of a high-caliber team. California will win if Allen Crabbe can shoot consistently and step up his long-range game, and UNLV will win if Anthony Bennett can dominate Cal’s stingy interior defense.

6 Butler vs 11 Bucknell

These two teams are very similar in their style of play that like to grind it out at a slow pace. Butler is very-well balanced offensively, but Bucknell relies more on inside scoring, mainly behind Mike Muscala’s 414 field goal attempts from inside the arc this season. Muscala is a versatile, dominant center and standing at 6’11, is not easy to stop. He will be the key to Bucknell advancing in the tournament.

3 Marquette vs 14 Davidson

Davidson is a popular upset pick because of the experience under the belt of both the coach and the players and have won 17 in a row. Both of these teams rely heavily on free throws for points but Marquette scores inside far more often and Davidson shoots from the arc on 38.5% of field goal attempts. Marquette will win if they can score in the paint and Davidson will win if they can knock down threes. Davidson shoots 80.1% from the line (first in the nation) so Marquette will be in trouble if the officiating is tight.

Is this the year Davidson makes it back to the Sweet 16? (Rainier Ehrhardt — AP Photo)

Best potential match ups:

11 Bucknell vs 14 Davidson

1 Indiana vs 4 Syracuse

3 Marquette vs 6 Butler

Best potential upsets:

14 Davidson over 3 Marquette

Upset odds: 42.7% (Team Rankings) 34% (KenPom)

11 Bucknell over 6 Butler

Upset odds: 33.5% (TR) 46% (KP)

15 Pacific over 2 Miami

Upset odds: 11.1% (TR) 13% (KP)

3 Players to Watch:

Shane Larkin, Miami

14.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.0 steals

Cody Zeller, Indiana

16.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 57.3 FG%

Mike Muscala, Bucknell

19.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 2.4 blocks

Regional Finals Prediction:

2 Miami vs 4 Syracuse

winner: Miami 70-68

Miami is a basketball program that doesn’t find itself in contention for the national title too often (maybe ever) and Syracuse is a program that seems to find its way deep into the tournament no matter what. They are both evenly matched according to the KenPom predictive system (ranking 14th and 13th overall) and are both large, physical teams.

Miami has the size to frustrate the Orange in the paint and will try to force them to shoot the ball. The Hurricanes should be able to win if they can control the offensive glass and shoot effectively from long range.

Shane Larkin looks to lead the Miami Hurricanes to Atlanta out of the East Region. (Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

 

WEST REGION

Top 3 seeds: Gonzaga, Ohio State, New Mexico

Top 3 Vegas Odds Favorites:

Gonzaga (+245)

Ohio State (+330)

New Mexico (+500)

Top 5 KenPom favorites:

Gonzaga (27.9%)

Ohio State (24.4%)

Wisconsin (12.8%)

Pittsburgh (11.7%)

New Mexico (7.7%)

Best first round match ups: 

5 Wisconsin vs 12 Ole Miss

This is the ultimate clash of styles and personalities. Bo Ryan versus Marshall Henderson, 62 possessions per game up against 71 possessions per game. That is all you need to know.

6 Arizona vs 11 Belmont

Belmont over Arizona is another popular upset pick because of the Bruins’ dynamic backcourt combo of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson. Their frontcourt is not so impressive and will face a huge size disadvantage against the Wildcats, but quick and crafty playing by their guards could be enough for the win. If Belmont can not out-shoot Arizona and keep out of foul trouble, their hopes for advancing will be slim.

7 Notre Dame vs 10 Iowa State

Notre Dame and Iowa State are both offensive-minded teams but in two different manners. Notre Dame an excellent passing team and likes to move the ball around to find the most effective shot, averaging a sluggish 61.6 possessions per game. Iowa State, on the other hand, likes to gun it and shoot the three at a rate higher than all but eight teams in the nation. The Cyclones average 69.3 possessions per game and shoot from long range on 43.9 percent of field goal attempts. These teams are pretty evenly matched overall and this should be an exciting back-and-forth match.

Bo Ryan may lose it once and for all trying to deal with the antics of Marshall Henderson. (John Bazemore/ AP)

Best potential match ups:

1 Gonzaga vs 8 Pittsburgh

2 Ohio State vs 3 New Mexico

10 Iowa State vs 11 Belmont

Best potential upsets:

11 Belmont over 6 Arizona

Upset odds: 35% (TR) 38% (KP)

12 Mississippi over 5 Wisconsin

Upset odds: 28.5% (TR) 29% (KP)

14 Harvard over 3 New Mexico

Upset odds: 14.5% (TR) 17% (KP)

3 Players to Watch:

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 65.2 FG%

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

19.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 43.7 FG%

Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

20.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 88.0 FT%

Regional Finals Prediction:

1 Gonzaga vs 3 New Mexico

winner: Gonzaga 81-79

New Mexico and Gongaza are nearly equal in size, experience, defensive efficiency, and gettin’ no respect. Gonzaga is an offensive machine but may run into a bit of trouble breaking the Lobos’ lengthy zone to get inside where they thrive. On defense, the Zags will have to tighten up the passing lanes and prevent New Mexico from getting open looks from behind the arc.

I don’t know what’s going on here, but in the Zags’ 15th-consecutive tournament appearance they may finally reach that elusive Final Four. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

 

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