NCAA Tournament breakdown: West Region preview
Reminder to check out the full bracket and our standard bracket contest and our Battle of the Mascots--both of which have great prizes.
Onto the West Region:
Favorite: No. 2 Missouri Tigers
Sure, Michigan State is the champion of arguably the deepest conference in the country (the Big Ten), but Missouri is scary good and athletic. The Tigers have more shooters than you can cover and just enough inside to survive. When they are playing well, Missouri can beat anyone in the country.
Cinderella: No. 12 Long Beach State 49ers
Okay, I'm not the first one to predict good things out of the 49ers, as they've clearly become a popular Cinderella pick. The hype is deserved, however, as the 49ers challenged themselves with one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. Consider this: seven of Long Beach State's eight losses came to other tournament teams. Not many 12 seeds can say that. They played Kansas, North Carolina, Creighton and San Diego State close--all teams that ended up with much higher seeds than the 49ers.
Overrated: No. 11 Colorado State Rams
Normally, you wouldn't say that a No. 11 seed is overrated, however, Colorado State is overrated insofar as they are in the tournament--because they don't belong. However, perhaps they can emulate another 11th-seeded Rams team that didn't belong in the tournament--last year's VCU squad, who rode the doubters all the way to the Final Four.
Underrated: No. 14 Iona Gaels
Iona may not even make it into the real tournament, given that they need to beat BYU in a play-in game just to qualify. However, if they win that game, they could be mighty dangerous to Marquette in the second (first) round. One of the most important things to have come tournament time is solid point guard play, and the Gaels have one of the best in the nation in Scott Machado.
Best second (first) round matchup: No. 5 New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 12 Long Beach State 49ers
All the talk of Long Beach State and their great schedule, but people forget that the 49ers have only beaten one team among the tournament's 68, and that was Xavier way back in December. New Mexico is no slouch of a No. 5 seed. The Lobos shared the Mountain West Conference regular season crown and won the conference tournament, and have seven wins over teams in the year's NCAA Tournament field. Still, Long Beach State remains a very popular pick here.
Best matchup down the line: No. 2 Missouri Tigers vs. No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles
Mizzou and Marquette would pit two of the nation's most athletic and physical teams against one another. I envision this game coming down to the last few possessions, and I'm sure Michigan State will be relishing the matchup, if for no other reason than the game might wear down both Missouri and Marquette.
Champion prediction: No. 2 Missouri Tigers
Here are previews of the Midwest, South and East regions.