Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

2022 March Madness Bracket Analysis: West Region


Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

The Top Seed: Gonzaga Bulldogs

For the second straight year, Gonzaga comfortably earned the top overall seed in the Tournament, following a season in which they went 26-3 and won yet another West Coast Conference Title. Is this the Gonzaga team that can finally reach the mountain top and bring home the first National Title to Spokane? They have a lot of the ingredients to do so; the backcourt has three experienced guards who can all handle the scoring load, spearheaded by one of the most efficient players in college basketball in Andrew Nembhard. The Bulldogs posses not one, but two, elite big men who can handle the ball and score in a variety of ways in Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. Then, there's the overall experience and motivation factor, as the Bulldogs came so agonizingly close to a perfect season a year ago before coming up short against Baylor in the National Championship. There's a lot to like, but the road is not an easy one. Of the three teams Gonzaga lost to this year two of them, Duke and Alabama, are in the region. Duke in particular is a concerning potential foe, as they hope to send Coach K off with a grand exit. Even before then, potential dates with a flaming hot Memphis team, or Arkansas or UConn in the Sweet 16 could be danger spots. This is unquestionably a strong Gonzaga team that was deserving of the top seed, but I think it's clearly a couple steps below last year's group. That doesn't mean they can't win a National Title, but the margin for error is even thinner.

The Cinderella Possibility: Vermont Catamounts

Vermont has become somewhat of a March staple at this point, as they play in their third Big Dance in six years. The first two trips under head man John Becker were short-lived, both first round defeats, but I have a feeling this Vermont squad could be different. For one, they're playing truly incredible basketball, with just one loss since a defeat at the hands of Providence in early December. They're fresh off a dominant showing in the America East Championship Game, as they pummeled UMBC by 39 points. Just as important, it's a balanced roster that plays both ends. They don't play crazy up-tempo but have an effective roster that shoots well from both the free throw line and three-point, and they play strong team defense. There isn't a superstar leading the team like past Catamount teams that were led by UVM great Anthony Lamb, but forward Ryan Davis and guard Ben Shungu are more than capable of leading this team on a run. The Catamounts open up with fourth-seeded Arkansas, an interesting matchup between two teams that play different styles. The Razorbacks seem to have the edge in the backcourt and will try to push the pace, but Vermont has the edge in the paint. I firmly expect UVM to try and muck this one up and play a more contained, slower form of basketball, which could be what they need to do to beat Eric Musselman and the Razorbacks. If they can pull off the upset, it sets up an intriguing matchup with the winner of UConn/New Mexico State with a trip to the second weekend on the line.

Don't Forget About: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Chris Beard may be coaching in Austin now, but Texas Tech still plays with a similar grit and toughness under new head man Mark Adams. The Red Raiders don't have a leading star like Jarrett Culver or Mac McClung on this team, but it's a well-rounded team that is going to be a tough out for anyone. The scoring load will mainly be handled by Terrance Shannon Jr. and Bryson Williams, but teams will also have to contend with Kevin Obanor and Kevin McCullar. Obanor played a leading role on the Oral Roberts team that shocked Ohio State a year ago and played in the Sweet 16, and he's having a strong season with Tech. There's also a pair of interesting guards in Adonis Arms and Davion Warren, who are both extremely fun to watch. Arms is on his third collegiate team and can play above the rim, while Warren is an elite defender who is a tough cover for defenders with his mix of size (6'6") and quickness. Overall, it plays a lot like the Beard-coached teams who went down regularly in March; there's size, toughness, versatility and an attitude that this team plays with, they might not win but they'll have you a hell of a fight for every second of the 40-minute contest. Montana State is not an easy opening game, as the Big Sky Champs are a tough basketball team, but the Red Raiders should win and I think they match up favorably with whoever they face in the next round, whether it's Alabama, Rutgers or Notre Dame. In fact, I think this is the type of team nobody wants to play in this region and I wouldn't be surprised if they toppled one, or both, of the two seeds ahead of them in the region. I'm such a big fan of this team and the way Adams has carried them on following Beard's departure I'm picking them, not Duke or Gonzaga, to come out of the West Region.

Don't Forget About: Davidson Wildcats

A decade-and-a-half ago, Steph Curry introduced the world to Davidson basketball with his magical play leading the Wildcats to an Elite Eight. The program has changed quite a bit since then, but don't be surprised if another sharpshooting Davidson guard catches the world by storm this March: South Korean transplant Hyunjung Lee. The 6'7" junior has an incredibly smooth stroke and is one of the best I've ever seen at moving without the basketball; he's shooting 38% from three despite shooting them at a very high rate, averaging over six attempts per game. He is likely to be the one to fuel a potential Davidson run, but he's far from the only Wildcat that can hurt you. Foster Loyer, who just so happens to be playing the team where he began his career in Michigan State, is averaging over 16 PPG, and forward Luka Brajkovic is a load to handle in the post. Those three, plus guard Michael Jones, form a fearsome foursome that should give any opponent troubles, even if the depth isn't quite there. I like Davidson's chances to beat Michigan State in the first round, which could then set up a fun second round duel with Duke, their fellow in-state foes.

The Storyline Team: Duke Blue Devils

If you haven't already heard a million times by now, this will be Coach K's final time leading the Duke Blue Devils in March. It's obviously the conclusion of a successful and iconic era in Duke hoops and college basketball in general, and you know that Coach K wants to add one more Title to his trophy case before moving on. He certainly has a team with the potential to do so, with a No. 1 pick possibility leading the charge in Paolo Banchero. Fellow freshman A.J. Griffin provides the much-needed shooting touch, while the "veterans" on the team, Wendell Moore, Mark Williams, and Jeremy Roach, are looking for some level of redemption after last year's disappointment. The offense has the firepower to put up points in a hurry, with a Top 10 offense nationally. My question is whether the defense is good enough to carry the Blue Devils on a long Tournament run. Williams is a tremendous rim protector, but the rest of the defense has been inconsistent all season and could face some dangerous offenses along the way. Additionally, I do have serious questions about Duke's lack of depth. Sure, a lot of teams only run 7-8 man rotations in modern college basketball, but what happens if a few of the starters, such as Williams or Banchero, get in foul trouble? I think this team is certainly good enough to win a few games and play past the Tournament's second weekend, but National Title good? I'm just not sure the ingredients are in place to send off K with a bang.

Picking the West

First Round

1 Gonzaga over 16 Georgia State ... The Sun Belt Champs have gone on a tremendous run just to get to the Big Dance, but I fear it will be short-lived as they run into the buzzsaw that is Gonzaga.

9 Memphis over 8 Boise State ... Don't assume this will be a breeze for a suddenly hot Memphis squad, but the Tigers just have so many weapons and are fully healthy.

5 UConn over 12 New Mexico State ... Upset-minded New Mexico State is always a scary 12-seed, but they have no answer for UConn big Adama Sanogo down low.

13 Vermont over 4 Arkansas ... Vermont has been a popular dark horse NCAA Tournament pick, but haven't been able to do serious damage just yet. I think this is the team to change that.

6 Alabama over 11 Rutgers ... This should be a very fun game with all the backcourt talent on display, but the Crimson Tide are simply a better team top-to-bottom than Rutgers.

3 Texas Tech over 14 Montana State ... The Bobcats went 27-7 en route to a Big Sky Title, but they don't have the necessary offense to take down Texas Tech.

10 Davidson over 7 Michigan State ... Hyunjung Lee and the sharpshooting Davidson Wildcats are too much for a Michigan State team that hasn't been playing great basketball these last few months.

2 Duke over 15 Cal State Fullerton ... Coach K and Duke have lost to 15 seeds before, but I just think this group has too much talent to fall to Cal State Fullerton.

Second Round

1 Gonzaga over 9 Memphis ... A lot of future NBA talent on the floor, even with Emoni Bates no longer with the Memphis program, but the Tigers aren't deep enough to compete with Gonzaga for 40 minutes.

5 UConn over 13 Vermont ... Should be a fun battle of New England foes, but this UConn team is disciplined and well-coached, they should be able to come out on top.

3 Texas Tech over 6 Alabama ... A battle of differing strengths. Alabama will play fast with their collection of guards, while Texas Tech wants to slow you down and battle for every inch. The Red Raiders come out victorious in a classic SEC-Big 12 duel.

2 Duke over 10 Davidson ... This could be a really scary second round matchup for Duke, but Paolo, A.J. Griffin, and Trevor Keels help them advance to the second weekend.

Sweet 16

1 Gonzaga over 5 UConn ... Two great basketball teams that should provide plenty of offensive fireworks, but I like the 'Zags to keep on rolling.

3 Texas Tech over 2 Duke ... The Red Raiders don't have the flash or future NBA picks like the Blue Devils, but they play a brand of basketball that should complicate things for Duke.

Elite Eight

3 Texas Tech over 1 Gonzaga ... Not picking Duke or Gonzaga in the West may be bold, but I think both of those teams have fatal flaws and something tells me Tech will be an incredibly tough out.

West Region Champ: 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders


Vince said...

Talk about March madness - $300-$500 for a first round game ticket:
No thank-you, I will watch on TV.

Anonymous said...

$300-$500 - Yikes! I'm with you. The view from the couch is just fine this year.

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.