The East may be the most boring bracket, but the West is possibly the worst. Now before we get into an East coast/West coast battle rap, please hear me out. Zero of the seven top seeds won their conference tournament and only four even reached the championship game. By comparison, the Midwest has 3 of last year's Final Four and the South has the number one overall seed, the most NBA talent, and a team that started 25-0.
But somebody is going to have to win the West, so who emerges from this bracket of futility? Let's knock out the rest of the Perfect Bracket, so Warren Buffett can go homeless.
(1) Arizona Wildcats OVER (16) Weber State Wildcats
Again, why are so many teams named Wildcats? Don't pick a 16-seed stupid.
(9) Oklahoma State Cowboys OVER (8) Gonzaga Bulldogs
Marcus Smart is too good to not win at least one game. Travis Ford is today's version of Rick Barnes, who again, lost by 19 in the second round with both Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin on his team. The only way the Cowboys lose to a banged up Gonzaga, though, is if Coach Travis Ford gets confused enough to call football plays from the sideline.
(12) North Dakota State Bison OVER (5) Oklahoma Sooners
Whenever you're looking for your annual sexy 12-5 upset, look for teams with awesome offenses (remember Dunk City?) going against bad defenses. Behind stud scorer Taylor Braun, the Bison lead the nation in Field Goal Percentage (51%) and are 20th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom advanced metrics. This is dangerous for a Sooner squad that gives up 75.9 ppg. A western-style shootout should have the Bison emerging victorious.
(4) San Diego State Aztecs OVER (13) New Mexico State Aggies
San Diego State may be the least talked about 1-4 seed in the tournament, and that's a crime. San Diego State rolled to 29 wins including wins over Creighton, Marquette and Kansas in a game that ended the Jayhawks' 68-game home winning streak. The Aggies could keep it close simply because they have a Giant Beanstock playing center, a 7'5" 355 behemoth freshman center, Sim Bhullar. Basically, he's big enough to shoot free throws the way we shoot beer pong. But the Aztecs, with one of the league's stingiest defenses allowing only 56.6 ppg, will find a way to shut him down.
Baylor is a red hot team coming into the tournament, going 10-2 in their last 12 before losing to Iowa State in the Big 12 championship game. But they are hampered with one of the worst in-game coaches in the country, Scott Drew. Although I'm willing to forgive poor coaching with Oklahoma State, Baylor does not have a superstar like Marcus Smart. The Cornhuskers were fantastic at home this season, including a win over Wisconsin. The Bears won't have a defensive answer to Terran Petteway, and the Cornhuskers advance.
(3) Creighton Bluejays OVER (13) Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
Jason Terry taught us in the Mavericks' NBA finals to never bet against frivolous tattoos, and the Ragin' Cajuns' coach, Bob Marlin, is adding that x-factor. On Sunday, after guard Xavian Rimmer scored 27 points en-route to a 9 point late comeback to force overtime and a one-point narrow win for the Sun Belt title, their coach must pay the piper. But he hasn't gotten it yet, so karma is not yet on UL-Lafayette's side. Dougie McBucketts, however, always has karma on his side. Creighton makes it rain and Coach Marlin can finally schedule some ink.
(7) Oregon Ducks OVER (10) BYU Cougars
I used to think all the speed and flash of the Oregon Ducks was saved for the football team, until last years' surprising run as a 12-seed to the Sweet 16 and a pleasantly competitive exit at the hands of the eventual champs, Louisville. Now with tournament experience, the speed is still there, with Oregon scoring the 11th most points per game in the nation. BYU can score in bunches to, but when it comes to basketball, I will always pick Nike schools over Mormon ones.
(2) Wisconsin Badgers OVER (15) American Eagles
Even though every player on Wisconsin looks like an extra from A Few Good Men, these straight-laced white guys can ball. They match-up especially well with the equally boring, Princeton-offense running American squad. Wisconsin gets Badger fans overly excited with a blow out.
(9) Oklahoma State Cowboys OVER (1) Arizona Wildcats
Arizona has some studs and had a fantastic season with Aaron Gordon making NBA scouts drool. But while Gordon has gotten all the hype for his pro-potential, the Wildcats' best player this season has been forward Brandon Ashley, whose season ended with a foot injury against Cal in February. The team had won 21 consecutive games prior to the injury, and the streak, not coincidentally, ended that same night and they've looked vulnerable since. Oklahoma State is on an opposite trajectory. When Marcus Smart returned from suspension, the Cowboys carried a seven game losing streak, and with Smart back in the lineup, they proceeded to win the next four including a victory over Kansas. Smart has been on a tear and will be fighting hard to avenge last season's early exit. Oklahoma State knocks out the first one-seed.
This game is a classic offense vs defense matchup for basketball purists. North Dakota State never takes bad shots and San Diego State never allows them. But in these types of evenly matched games, the game-changing player survives, and Taylor Braun is the real deal. The senior guard can drive (49.1 FG%) and shoot from the outside (44.1%), a one-two combination that will make even the Aztecs' struggle to defend. San Diego State will make the Bison work for it, but North Dakota's sharp-shooting squad perserveres.
(3) Creighton Bluejays OVER (11) Nebraska Cornhuskers
Two squads that love to shoot it from deep will make this an exciting one as long as the ball doesn't keep clanking off the rim. It won't for Doug McDermott, the Naismith Award College Basketball player of the year. The cult following for Dougie Fresh McDermott has gotten so out of hand, that Sports Illustrated had him duplicate an old Larry Bird cover photo. The BlueJays set the nets on fire en-route to the Sweet 16.
(2) Wisconsin Badgers OVER (7) Oregon Ducks
Speaking of contrasting styles, this is like the tortoise and the hare. Wisconsin plays the methodical basketball that Bo Ryan squads love to play. Oregon will try perform the flying V up and down the court. But this Bo Ryan squad, better than previous years, actually can run when forced to as they demonstrated by scoring in the 90s or 100s in a couple games this year. Wisconsin wins.
The Bison would ride Taylor Braun to the Sweet 16, but in the battle of star power. Marcus Smart and Markell Brown will prove too much. The Oklahoma State squad may be the most talented in the region, and as long as they aren't held back by their coach, they will complete this surprising run to the Elite 8.
(3) Creighton Bluejays OVER (2) Wisconsin Badgers
Well this game might be the whitest thing to ever happen on the basketball court. Wisconsin has some rangy defenders with Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust and John Gasser that can disturb Creighton's 3-point shooting. But in a season where he's the unanimous best college player and being compared to Larry Bird, this is Dougie McDermott's coming out party. He puts the BlueJays on his shoulders to move past the Badgers.
(3) Creighton Bluejays OVER (9) Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Dougie McBuckets bandwagon is full steam ahead. Creighton matches up well against guard heavy teams, as evidenced with two 20+ point demolishings of Villanova earlier this season. Marcus Smart will play with a chip on his shoulder, as always, but the Cowboys won't be enough to keep McDermott and Creighton out of the Final Four.
WEST REGION CHAMPIONS: CREIGHTON BLUE JAYS
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