March Madness 2017: Previewing the West Region First and Second Round



by: Zachery Bonzheim
With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket selected, it is time to over analyze, predict, over hype, and under estimate the field. There are 68 teams, all with one goal, to win out. Winning 6 games in a row (7 for some) will mean bringing joy to alumni, fans, players, staff, and students of one college for years. Who will win it all and how? Let’s take a step back and first of all just look at it region by region. The West region this year is headlined by Gonzaga and Arizona, but it goes much deeper than that. 11 of the 16 teams in the region have a legitimate shot of winning the region.  Let’s round up the region’s first weekend.

West Region Times:
Game One for all West Regional Teams will be March 16th
Game Two for all West Regional Teams will be March 18th

(Game Schedule in Order by Tip-off)
#5 Notre Dame vs #12 Princeton- March 16th, Buffalo, 12:15 PM, CBS
#1 Gonzaga vs #16 South Dakota State- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 2 PM, TBS
#4 West Virginia vs #13 Bucknell- March 16th, Buffalo, 2:45 PM, CBS
#8 Northwestern vs #9 Vanderbilt- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 4:30 PM, TBS
#6 Maryland vs #11 Xavier- March 16th, Orlando, 6:50 PM, TNT
#7 St Mary’s vs #10 VCU- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 7:20 PM, TBS
#3 Florida State vs #14 Florida Gulf Coast, March 16th, Orlando, 9:20 PM, TNT
#2 Arizona vs #15 North Dakota- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 9:50 PM, TBS

-Best First Round Matchup
For best first round match up, three games were considered. The St Mary’s/VCU, Maryland/Xavier, and the Northwestern/Vanderbilt games were the games considered. Northwestern may be the best story, but Maryland vs Xavier will be the best match up. Xavier and Maryland are very similar. Xavier averages 74.6 per game, Maryland is 73.5, and in their last three they have both averaged around 69 per game. The leading scorers are within 1 point of each other, leading rebounders are .4 rebounds of each other, and lead assist man is within .5 assists of each other. There will not be many matchups so close as this one. Both, Trevon Bluiett and Melo Trimble had great seasons but still have to prove themselves. Look for terrific guard play and many buckets in this game.

-Best Potential Second Round Matchup
The best potential second-round matchup could be of Maryland and Princeton. If Princeton beats Notre Dame in round one, a possible upset, Maryland will have to focus. If they come into the game with any sense of ease they will get jumped on. Princeton ranks 19th in assist to turnover while Maryland ranks 138th. Both average between 75 and 70 points per game. America will be watching the game as the potential Cinderella would be taking on a proven Melo Trimble led Maryland squad. A good match up for a high scoring offense with many mistakes against a moderate scoring team that takes care of the ball.

-Most Upset Potential
Princeton will take on Notre Dame in Buffalo, New York and they are going to need their fanbase to make the couple hour trek. Princeton is riding a 19 game win streak as they went undefeated in the conference this year. Notre Dame survived the onslaught that was the ACC this year, dropping a few along the way. How can Princeton win? If Princeton is able to spread the floor and share the rock, not allowing Bonzie Colson to get into his defensive groove and not allow him to get close to inside range shots, they will have a good chance. There are five players on Princeton capable of scoring in double figures every game. Notre Dame does not rely entirely on Colson, but he is the definite centerpiece. Notre Dame will have a hard time preparing for Princeton while every single of Notre Dame’s games will be available for the Princeton Tigers. Will the Ivy league win another first round game? Harvard beat Cincy in 2015 and Yale beat Baylor 2016. Do not be surprised if the Ivy League comes up big again.

-Most Exciting Player Matchup
The most exciting game one player vs player matchup is the Trevon Bluiett and Melo Trimble matchup. Two players who were on the national radar to begin this season both have played a great season, but both did not make the jump to All-American. Both juniors, Bluiett with 18.1 points per game, Trimble with 17, both leading their teams as not only the best play but the heart and soul of the team. They will be going head to head all game and it will create great matchups.

-Most Exciting Potential Player Matchup
This only covers round one and round two and even then, the matchup of tremendous bigs Jock Landale and Lauri Markkanen will take place. Two west coast teams will face off with their seven footers (Ok Landale is only 6’11”) will battle it out down low. This game offers a lot of excitement because it is a real trap game for Arizona. If they were to win this game they would be facing a lot of favorable matchups until the Elite Eight. Both average around 17 a game and Landale rebounds 9 a game to Markkanen’s 7.5. A great potential second round matchup.

-Best Player You Have Never Heard Of
Mike Daum, Sophomore, Forward, South Dakota State…. Does he sound familiar? He may not be well known but trust me, Daum can play. He is averaging 25.3 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists a game. These numbers would give you huge national spotlight at a larger college yet they still need to be recognized. Gonzaga may completely run over the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, but Daum will still have the highest regular season scoring average of any player in the tournament.

-Best Storyline
The best storyline is the Northwestern and Vanderbilt matchup in the first round. Both sat on the edge of their seats on Selection Sunday. One team waiting to make history as their first NCAA tournament appearance ever and the other trying to get in with the most losses ever for an at-large bid. The nation will be split. Who do you root for? Do we want Vanderbilt to prove the doubters wrong and prove that they do belong or do we want Northwestern’s first bid to end past the first game? This game will be one to watch no only for the talent on both teams, but the storylines.

-Players to Watch

(* Predicted All-Region Team) (Players Listed in Order of Seeded Team)
*Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga, Junior, Guard
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga, Senior, Center
*Lauri Markkanen, Arizona, Freshman, Center
Allonzo Trier, Arizona, Sophomore, Guard
*Dwayne Bacon, Florida State, Sophomore, Guard
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State, Freshman, Forward
Jevon Carter, West Virginia, Junior, Guard
*Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame, Junior, Forward
V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame, Senior, Forward
*Melo Trimble, Maryland, Junior, Guard
Jock Landale, St Mary’s, Junior, Center
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, Junior, Guard
Mike Daum, South Dakota State, Sophomore, Forward

Who Moves On?
#5 Notre Dame vs #12 Princeton- March 16th, Buffalo, 12:15 PM, CBS
Notre Dame will come into this game with a huge advantage in player talent. But, the 5/12 matchup is one of the most upset-riddled and the Ivy league has upset two years in a row. I got Princeton moving on. Let it be known, Princeton is riding the second longest win streak in Division One Men’s Basketball, 16 games.

#1 Gonzaga vs #16 South Dakota State- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 2 PM, TBS
No sixteen seed has ever beat a one seed. Is this the year where it finally happens? No. Gonzaga moves on. Expect Williams-Goss and South Dakota State’s, Mike Daum, to have big games.
#4 West Virginia vs #13 Bucknell- March 16th, Buffalo, 2:45 PM, CBS
Last year Hawaii upset Cal in the 4/13 upset, can a team do it again this year? I think yes, but I do not see it here. West Virginia will press the lights out of Bucknell and never look back. West Virginia moves on.
#8 Northwestern vs #9 Vanderbilt- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 4:30 PM, TBS
Northwestern and Vanderbilt is a tough one to look at. They are very even in skill and statistically. Vanderbilt played the toughest schedule in the nation and was able to beat the tenth best RPI team, Florida, three times. Northwestern was able to climb the rough terrain of the Big Ten this year and had their fair share of rocky spots. Toss up!
#6 Maryland vs #11 Xavier- March 16th, Orlando, 6:50 PM, TNT
Maryland may be overhyped to a degree, but since Xavier’s Edmond Summer went down, they are 6-7 with three wins over the lowly DePaul. Maryland’s talent pulls through.
#7 St Mary’s vs #10 VCU- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 7:20 PM, TBS
Many saw both of these teams as higher seeds, but the only opinion that matters is the committees. This will be a great first round matchup but VCU will not have an answer for Jock Landale. St Mary’s will survive another day.
#3 Florida State vs #14 Florida Gulf Coast, March 16th, Orlando, 9:20 PM, TNT
Florida State should not have a problem with Florida Gulf Coast. The combo of Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Issac should be enough to seal the victory. They are playing in Florida, which means there will be more FGCU fans, but there will overall just be more fans at the game. If FSU stumbles to get early buckets and can’t convert at the line, it will be closer than wanted.
#2 Arizona vs #15 North Dakota- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 9:50 PM, TBS
Arizona wins. In my opinion, this Wildcat squad is the most underestimated of the 2-seeds and the most talented non-one seed. North Dakota State could pull off the win, because hey it’s March, but I think this Arizona squad will at least make it to game two.

Zachery Bonzheim