NCAA Tournament West Region Reboot: Winner, Best Player, Best Coach, & Cinderella
The second weekend is rapidly approaching for the NCAA Tournament, and we’re here to give you a region-by-region breakdown of the remaining field. We break down the West Region, look at the highest remaining seed, the best player, a value play, and who we believe will head to Houston.
Highest Remaining Seed: UCLA (+185)
UCLA is one of few teams left in the field to avoid any late-game drama in the first weekend, handling both UNC Asheville and Northwestern relatively easily. The Bruins have a star in Jaime Jaquez, a trusty point guard in Tyger Campbell, and a genius head coach in Mick Cronin. This is the top defense in the nation per KenPom, and they’ve got the pieces to be the ones to cut down the nets on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Best Player: Drew Timme – Gonzaga
There could be some debate on this one, but Timme’s performance against TCU reminded folks why he is one of the best players in the nation. The senior forward scored 28 points on 12-for-21 shooting and seemed to have a bucket whenever the Zags needed one. It’s gotten to a point where teams have given up on completely stopping him rather than limiting his offensive production as much as they can. His offensive prowess and defensive struggles are a microcosm of the Bulldogs this year, but he remains the top player in this region.
Best Value Play: Arkansas (+600)
This team has incredible talent, with multiple players that will be on NBA rosters this October. Head coach Eric Musselman seems to be finally getting this team to play as one, and it paid dividends in their upset win over Kansas. This price feels too long on a team that ranks 18th on KenPom and sits just two games away from its first Final Four since 1995. They’ll have a tall task getting past an elite UConn team followed by either Gonzaga or UCLA, but we’ve found it best to stop doubting Musselman’s ability to catch fire in the Big Dance.
Winner: UConn (+185)
Dan Hurley’s got the Huskies back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since winning it all in 2014, and this team is far scarier. UConn’s got the guard play, size, and shooting to compete with any team in the country. They buried Iona, and Saint Mary’s in the second half by an aggregate score of 89-49 between the two games. They boast an offense that can get scorching hot on a moment’s notice and bury opponents in just a few minutes, as shown in the first weekend. There’s a reason they are co-favorites to win this region with UCLA, and they’re our pick to make the Final Four.