Your Guide To The 2019 NCAA Men’s Tournament: West region
- T5, 09 / 2019
Best seed perspective: Gonzaga is the best team in the West by a substantial margin, but the Zags, despite reaching the final two years ago, have performed well under this tournament’s lights. However, Gonzaga has a 70 percent likelihood of reaching the Elite Eight, based on our model, as well as the third-best chances of any team to reach the national championship game (26 percent).
Should Gonzaga face Syracuse in the next round, the zone defense of the Orange could give the Bulldogs trouble. This is the best offense Mark Few has experienced Spokane, but it could possibly be tested by any of those terrific defenses from the West: Four of the best 15 can be found in this area, including the top two at Texas Tech and Michigan.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 4 Florida State. A fixture in the KenPom Top 20 for most of the season, the Seminoles are hoping to build on last year’s championship run, which saw them come inside a 4-point margin of making the Final Four. FSU has a dominant defense (No. 9 in Pomeroy’s ratings) and a balanced roster that saw four players collect at least 2.5 win stocks. This draw isn’t terrible, either: Vermont isn’t particularly tough as a first-round foe, and Marquette is quite beatable (more on this below). No. 1 seeded Gonzaga probably looms then, and we give FSU a 24 percent chance from the Zags — but the Seminoles would have a 48 percent chance of creating the Final Four if they were to pull off the upset.
Don’t wager on: No. 5 Marquette. Teams seeded fifth are not generally good bets to make it past the Sweet 16 anyhow, but Marquette could be a particularly bad choice. As stated by the FiveThirtyEight power evaluations, the Golden Eagles are by far the worst No. 5 seed in the field, and also a first-round date with breakout mid-major superstar Ja Morant didn’t do them any favors. Marquette has some star power of its own in junior guard Markus Howard, who ranks sixth in the nation with an average of 25 points per game, but this team lost five of its final six games and has a challenging tournament road before it.
Cinderella watch: No. 10 Florida. The Gators might have been among the bubble teams to sneak in the area of 68, however they could be poised to do some damage today they are here. They drew Nevada, a so-so No. 7 seed, in the very first round, and we give Florida a 42 percent chance of pulling the upset that. Last year’s national runner-up, Michigan, likely waits in Round two, and that’s a difficult matchup (23 percent likelihood for Florida) — but if the Gators win, they’ve a 38 percent likelihood of earning the Elite Eight. In a region with a number of good-but-flawed options, Florida appears better than the typical 10-seed.
Player to watch: Brandon Clarke The Zags’ linchpin isn’t the consensus lottery selection, nor the two guards that have started 87 percent of Gonzaga’s games over the past two seasons. It is a move from San Jose State who’s in his first busy season with the group, Brandon Clarke. He’s perhaps the most underappreciated player in the nation.
On a group that typically comes with a it is Clarke. Clarke has responded by placing a single-season blocks record and posting the maximum block speed of any team under Couple.
“If I feel like when I could get a good, quick jump first, I’ll pretty much leap with anybody,” Clarke told me. “I mean, I have seen Zion (Williamson) coming down through the lane before TV, and when I can not jump at the right time, I probably wouldn’t jump , however… I don’t actually see myself not jumping with anyone.”
Likeliest first-round upsets: No. 9 Baylor over No. 8 Syracuse (48 percent); No. 10 Florida over No. 7 Nevada (42 percent); No. 12 Murray State over No. 5 Marquette (32 percent)
Read more: overtimesportsnation.com