Cleat Geeks

Tourney Talk: West Region

Another year of March Madness is finally upon us, so prepare yourself for three weekends full of buzzer beaters, bracket busters, and the occasional Cinderella story. In advance of each round, I’ll be breaking down the best games of each region, moving on with the most surprising, and maybe even dull, match-ups of the bunch.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Games to watch:

8 Saint Joseph’s vs 9 Cincinatti

Before automatically writing this game off as another 8-9 coin flip, take another look at this match-up, as the winner gets a chance at top-seeded Oregon in the Round of 32.  Cincy has the ability to produce, with four players averaging double figures, while Octavius Ellis and Gary Clark wreak havoc in the paint, scooping up almost seventeen rebounds per game collectively.  However, the Hawks’ Deandre Bembry and Isaiah Miles are two NBA prospects who, with the help of guard Aaron Brown, account for more than half of the team’s scoring.  This is one of the best Joe’s squads in recent years, and Cincy has a knack for being a threatening nine seed, almost knocking off Kentucky last year.  Watch as the winner of this game could steal one from the Ducks.

5 Baylor vs 12 Yale

After a stunning upset at the heels of Georgia State just a year ago, the Bears are poised to make a run into March, with two beats in the paint in Rico Gathers and Jonathan Motley, and Taurean Prince opening up the scoring from the outside.  However, Yale hasn’t seen the tournament in over fifty years, so they won’t be going down easy.  Plus, they have one of the country’s better backcourts in Makai Mason and Nik Victor, while Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod can compete inside.  Baylor lets its opponent shoot 37% from downtown; ironically, Yale averages the same from behind-the-arc.  If the Bulldogs get hot, the Ivy League will have knocked off another 5-seed. If the Bears hold on, they could make a deep run.

basketball56 Texas vs 11 Northern Iowa

Competing in one of the most challenging conferences this year, the Longhorns are undoubtedly battle-tested and ready to make an impact in March. Shaka Smart hasn’t coached against the Panthers since 2014, but has turned around this Texas team from awful last year to shattering expectations this year. However, despite starting the season 10-11, Northern Iowa featured wins against the top-ranked Tar Heels, Iowa State, and Wichita State twice. If they can successfully run the zone, they’ll create havoc in Texas’ halfcourt offense. As long as Wes Washpun has another big game, the Panthers could once again be a bracket buster.

Games to Hope For:

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1 Oregon vs 4 Duke

As long as each of these teams can survive their first couple matchups, we should see one of the most offensive-driven performances of the tournament. Each team scores over 78.5 points per game, and, in all honesty, lacks awesome defense.  An Oregon-Duke match-up would put an Elite Eight trip on the line, while reaching unprecedented scores into the eighties or nineties.  Hope for this game because it would be a fun one.

5 Baylor vs 2 Oklahoma

Now, if Duke can’t get past the Bears, or even the Round of 64, hope for Baylor to reach the Elite Eight and create an all-Big 12 match-up. Wouldn’t it be fitting if this region sent two of the best teams from the nation’s best conference to square off for a bid to the Final Four? This game would also hold a ton of offense, as both teams can score, while Oklahoma can shoot from the outside and features one of the nation’s most exciting in Buddy Hield. This could be a dandy and a half of an Elite Eight performance.Basketball3

Other Notes: Oregon has been ridiculed for their “undeserving” 1-seed, but keep in mind the Ducks feature wins against Baylor, USC, and Arizona, and ran away with the Pac 12 title in dominating fashion against 3-seed Utah.  The Ducks should prove why they’re a top seed.

Prediction: Given the easiest road up to the Elite Eight, Oklahoma really needs only one great performance to put itself in the Final Four.  The Sooners get it done with Buddy Hield leading the way.


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