The West figures to be one of the most unpredictable regions in the tournament, as several teams (Michigan State, Louisville, Missouri) won their respective conference championships. Others (New Mexico, Murray State, Davidson, Long Beach State, St. Louis) are looking to shed their status as mere mid-majors and make a statement against established teams. Perhaps the most interesting team of the region, though, is Memphis, who has undoubtedly fallen short of lofty pre-season expectations. Loaded with talent, the Tigers dropped five games out of conference but have only lost three since then.
Final Four pick: New Mexico
A bold pick, I know, but consider this: The Lobos are coming off of back-to-back top-25 wins over UNLV and San Diego State and have really started to gel as a team. Forward Drew Gordon is averaging a double-double and guard Kendall Williams is a great perimeter defender. The Mountain West was better than the Pac-12 [ed. note: So is my high school league] and deeper than the ACC and SEC. New Mexico is battle tested, senior-laden and hungry: Look for a deep run out of this team.
High Seed Most Likely to be Upset: Murray State
In the Racers’ one loss of the year, the team could not keep up with the guards of the vaunted Tennessee State Tigers, allowing them to shoot almost 50% from the field. Colorado State is shooting 48% this year and has the guards – namely, Wes Eikemeier and Dorian Green – to give the Racers trouble. This is a CSU squad that has beaten top-25 teams such as San Diego State and UNLV – and Murray State is next. Also the Racers only beat D-II Alaska-Anchorage by two points earlier this year. Which, though probably irrelevant, is still hilarious.
Low Seed Most Likely to Make a Run: Davidson
Long Beach State is the popular pick here, as the 49ers gained national attention with an early season win over then-No. 9 Pittsburgh. But that win – and a win later in the year over then-No. 15 Xavier – seem less impressive after the collapse of both teams. Davidson, however, has the rebounding and scoring potential to give Louisville fits. If the Wildcats can get a win over the Cardinals in the first round, they can look to make a run deeper into March.
Game to Watch:
Memphis vs. Saint Louis. Memphis is clearly one of the more talented teams in the region but has failed to put all the pieces together. Saint Louis, on the other hand, does not have the personnel to match the Tigers but has outperformed expectations drastically, earning a No. 15 ranking per KenPom.