March Madness Predictions and Bracket Help: West Region
by Robert Ferringo - 3/15/2011
The West Region of the NCAA Tournament should be known as The Defending Champs and the Dangerous Dozen. Duke, the defending National Champion, has the inside track to another Final Four berth. But in order to make their way to Houston they will have to navigate a region that includes five other teams that were ranked in the Top 10 this year and at least a half-dozen others – Michigan, Memphis, Oakland, Missouri, Temple, Penn State – that are capable of stringing together two or three wins and busting brackets across the country.
Here are Doc’s Sports March Madness predictions and bracket help for the West (Anaheim) Region:
No. 1 Seed: Duke (30-4 straight-up, 19-14 ATS)
There isn’t much to say about the Blue Devils that hasn’t already been said. They are the defending champions and Las Vegas has instilled them as the favorites to repeat. They have the country’s best coach, the confidence that comes with being a champion, experience, they get slobbered on by officials the nation over, and they have talent. But I think there is one key to this team’s run this year: Kyle Singler. He has been pretty inconsistent this season. But if this club is going to make another Final Four he will have to have his ‘A’ game.
Duke March Madness Prediction: Outside of a potential matchup with Texas in the Sweet 16 I think Duke has a tailor-made bracket and a clear path to the Final Four. But this team isn’t as talented at closing games as last year’s. When I see them play I don’t see greatness and I don’t see back-to-back titles in the cards.
No. 2 Seed: San Diego State (32-2 SU, 20-12 ATS)
The Aztecs have been somewhat of a sleeper team all season long and now they seem to be thrust into the spotlight as one of the top seeds in the tournament. This team has one of the deepest, most talented frontcourts in the country. Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White form an elite foundation. The Aztecs are tough, athletic and have only been beaten by one team in the nation (BYU). The problem is that they have zero depth in the backcourt and don’t really have any elite guards. D.J. Gay is a solid college player with a lot of experience. But he’s not enough to carry this team. And if injury or foul trouble strikes thee guys are sunk.
San Diego State March Madness Prediction: It’s going to be tough sledding for the Aztecs now that they are the hunted. Their guards aren’t good enough to get to a Final Four, but if they play well they can probably bow out in the Sweet 16.
No. 3 Seed: Connecticut (26-9 SU, 18-11 ATS)
There is not a hotter team in the country right now than the Huskies. They just won five games in five days in the toughest, most emotional, most high-profile conference tournament in the nation. Compared to that the Big Dance should be easy. The Huskies also won the Maui Invitational earlier this year so they are 2-for-2 in tournament settings. And the reason they are so dangerous is because they always have the best player on the floor in Kemba Walker. This team is young, besides Walker, and they were plagued by inconsistencies this year. But they are probably the one team in the nation that no one wants to play right now.
Connecticut March Madness Prediction: They will go as far as Kemba will take them. But unfortunately I don’t think they have enough to make another stunning run. Eventually the emotion will wear off and when this team hits The Wall they will hit it hard.
No. 4 Seed: Texas (27-7 SU, 20-9 ATS)
If only Rick Barnes could coach as well as he can recruit. Once again the Longhorns are loaded with talent and are a dark horse pick to make it to the Final Four. And why not? They are 0.2 points away from having five double-digit scorers and are led by one of the most explosive scorers in the nation in Jordan Hamilton. Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson give them a frontcourt that can match up with any in the country and they have a four-guard rotation that defends, distributes and can make plays in the open court. In my opinion, the main issue is Barnes, who is not a good in-game coach and is constantly slow to make adjustments. This team was way underseeded though. And perhaps the feeling of disrespect will fuel this team to finally play focused basketball and live up to their potential.
Texas March Madness Prediction: I think that Texas will make it out of the opening weekend. And if they do I think they are one of only about two teams in this entire region that can beat Duke. If they do, watch out.
No. 5 Seed: Arizona (27-7 SU, 17-14-1 ATS)
Sean Miller is a proven NCAA Tournament entity and has a group that is eager to make a mark. The Pac-10 regular season champions are built similarly to Miller’s successful Xavier teams: a lot of long, athletic wing players, a couple shooters, one NBA-level go-to player, and a reliable point guard. Arizona’s strength, besides All-American Derrick Williams, is in its depth. They have nine players averaging double-digits in minutes and every one of them shoots the three. If they are hitting from deep then this is a team that could “surprise” some people. I put it in quotes because if you’ve been watching this club this year you know how good they are.
Arizona March Madness Prediction: Arizona is in the exact same boat as Texas. Whichever team comes out of that sick second round clash will be able to give Duke a hell of a run. But I don’t see Arizona making an Elite Eight run.
No. 6 Seed: Cincinnati (25-8 SU, 15-13 ATS)
The Bearcats are the most overseeded team in the NCAA Tournament, aside from maybe Florida. They played the No. 337 nonconference schedule in the country and their qualifications read pretty much exactly like Colorado’s. (You know, the Colorado team that didn’t make The Dance.) They benefitted from playing Georgetown twice without Chris Wright and those wins really padded an otherwise uninspiring resume. That is the negative. The positive is that this team has good chemistry and is built on upperclassmen. They have a pair of three-year starters and very experienced youngsters Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright. This team defends for days and has been hardened by the last two Big East seasons.
Cincinnati March Madness Prediction: I don’t mean to sell this team short, but I don’t see them hanging around very long. Their best-case scenario is a Sweet 16 run but I don’t see them knocking off Missouri AND Connecticut. This team is just happy to be here.
Best first-round matchup: No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Tennessee
This one is the proverbial contrast in styles. Michigan wasn’t even guaranteed a spot in the field but is suddenly a No. 8 seed. Tennessee was a team that flirted with the Top 10 this year and suddenly is a No. 9 seed. They are headed in opposite directions but this is still an interesting situation. Tennessee has as much talent as any team in the field and some explosive perimeter options in Scotty Hopson, Melvin Goins and Tobias Harris. They can also play tough perimeter defense when properly motivated. Michigan is one of the youngest teams in the country, but John Beilein is a Master of March and will have these boys focused and ready to go.
Best potential second-round matchup: No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Arizona
These are two of the most underseeded teams in the tournament and they are also two of the more talented teams in the field. There are NBA-level players on both sides and there should be a high level of hoops being played. The matchup of Jordan Hamilton vs. Derrick Williams would be must-see TV and the winner would definitely have a shot to knock off Duke in the next round. Of all the potential second round matchups in the entire tournament I think this would be the best.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Missouri
The Bearcats should be on red alert here. Missouri’s helter skelter style can be tough to prepare for on a short week and Cincinnati doesn’t really have a lot of proven ball handlers. Neither team really has that impressive of a nonconference resume and neither has been playing that great over the last month, so it is tough to tell how either will respond to this spot. But if the Bearcats can’t handle the pressure they won’t be overseeded for very long.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 2 San Diego State vs. No. 7 Temple/No. 10 Penn State
I have been riding San Diego State for three seasons now; they have few bigger supporters than me. But they have now moved into the realm of the nation’s elite and they have a big target on their back. If they play Penn State they will have to deal with the fact that the two best guards on the floor will be playing for the Nittany Lions. If they go up against Temple they will be facing a team that A) has a frontcourt that can match up, B) won’t be intimidated by physical play, and C) has more experience in the Dance. No. 2 seeds have been vulnerable in Round 2 over the last 20 years and this could be another spot for an upset.
Dark Horse team: No. 3 Connecticut
It has to be the Huskies. After watching them in New York City I don’t think anyone in the nation denies that the Huskies will be a tough out. They have kind of a “soft” No. 2 seed in the bottom of the bracket and if they make it to the Elite Eight to face Duke that means the Huskies will have won eight straight and will be walking on water. But there is a huge problem: no team in the nation is more dangerous, but no team in the nation is in a bigger letdown situation after that incredible Big East tourney run.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 4 Texas
There hasn’t been a more up-and-down, inconsistent, schizophrenic team in the country over the last two years than the Longhorns. When things were going right for this bunch in the middle of the season they looked like the best team in the nation. But they enter the tournament just 3-4 in their last seven games with no impressive victories. Is this the team that beat Kansas, North Carolina and went to OT with Connecticut? Or are they the team that lost to Nebraska and were bombed by the Jayhawks? They could make the Final Four. But they could also lose to super-sleeper Oakland in the first round.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained around +190 Units in the last 12-plus months in college basketball. He’s posted four of five winning Marches over the last five years and you can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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