NCAA Tournament Preview: Odds, Sleepers And Pick For West Region
The West's top three seeds all competed in the Final Four within the last two years
The winner of the West region in the 2023 NCAA Tournament likely will emerge after the most challenging road of any Final Four team.
The top three seeds in the West — Kansas, UCLA, Gonzaga — all have earned trips to the Final Four in the last two years. Bill Self’s Jayhawks return to March Madness as the defending national champion while both Gonzaga and UCLA competed in a thrilling national semifinal in 2021.
No other combination of top seeds matches the West region’s recent NCAA Tournament success. And oddsmakers have taken notice with the Kansas Jayhawks (12-1), UCLA Bruins (12-1) and Gonzaga Bulldogs (15-1) representing three of the top prices to win the national championship.
Here’s a preview of the West region, including a pair of picks from NESN betting analyst Sam Panayotovich.
West region field:
(Odds to win region via FanDuel Sportsbook)
1. Kansas (+350)
2. UCLA (+350)
3. Gonzaga (+410)
4. Connecticut (+500)
5. Saint Mary’s (+1100)
6. TCU (+800)
7. Northwestern (+4000)
8. Arkansas (+2000)
9. Illinois (+3000)
10. Boise State (+5000)
11. Arizona State (+15000)/Nevada (+15000)
12. VCU (+6500)
13. Iona (+13000)
14. Grand Canyon (+15000)
15. UNC Ashville (+25000)
16. Howard (+25000)
Player to watch: Drew Timme, Gonzaga
The top-end talent headlining the West region might be unmatched. Both the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year, Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (20.1 points per game), and the Pac-12 Player of the Year, UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez (17.3 ppg), are among them while the UConn Huskies have a pair of All-Big East first-teamers in Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins. But college hoops fans will get one last look at Timme, Gonzaga’s March Madness veteran. Timme already is a three-time All-American and likely will receive All-American honors for his performance in the 2022-23 campaign. Arguably the greatest player in Gonzaga history, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward led the West Coast Conference with a career-high 20.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on 62.4% from the field. Timme and the Zags will have plenty to play for in his final run at a national championship, especially after being dealt an underwhelming exit in the 2022 Sweet 16 as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.
Upset alert: No. 12 VCU vs. (-4.5) No. 5 St. Mary’s
A program that represents one of the tournament’s most notable Cinderella stories, the VCU Rams have been playing their best basketball over the last month en route to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title. They have a relentless defense that causes turnovers at one of the best rates in the country which makes it feel like the Rams, who are ranked as KenPom’s No. 17 defense in the country, will be able to disrupt Saint Mary’s methodical offense.
SAMMY P’S PICKS
Pick to win region: Kansas
Expect the defending champs to look a lot different than the team that got curbed by Texas in the Big 12 championship. It was close for 25 minutes and then… it wasn’t. I truly believe Bill Self’s absence hindered the Jayhawks’ ability to make proper adjustments at the half. With Self back on the sidelines and two first-round draft picks on the floor, Kansas is still the team to beat.
If it were up to me, Northwestern would lose in the first game and its fans would cry under the covers for the entire weekend. But it’s not always about me. The Cats have a very legit 1-2 punch with guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige and with UCLA potentially down its best two defenders in the first two rounds, that’s a potentially problematic 2-10 matchup for the favorite.