If you’re a follower of international politics, this week you may have heard Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkoy dismiss U.S. sanctions and praise legendary West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur in the same sentence. Only the NCAA tournament could bring sanctions and legends of the West Coast any closer. So will Doug McDermott, Marcus Smart, and Aaron Gordon live or die in L.A. (Anaheim)? Or will another school make the trip to Cowboys Stadium and the Final Four?
Round of 64
(1) Arizona vs. (16) Weber St.
A No. 16 seed has managed to knock off a No. 1 exactly zero times in the history of the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats of Weber State will be heading home.
(8) Gonzaga vs. (9) Oklahoma St.
Marcus Smart and the Cowboys have had their struggles both on the court and in the stands this season, and they will definitely be tested by Zags. This looks to be on of the better 8 vs. 9 matchups of the opening round. While Sam Dower looks to have an advantage inside, Smart should be able to bully the Bulldogs backcourt and advance.
(5) Oklahoma vs. (12) North Dakota St.
Here is the 5 vs. 12 upset special. While Oklahoma managed to finish the regular season second in the Big 12, the Bison of North Dakota State led the NCAA in field goal percentage and should have no problem getting the Spokane, Washington crowd behind them.
(4) San Diego St. vs. (13) New Mexico St.
San Diego State is a mid-major team that has made headlines for a few years now. Their trademark defense that has sent Jamaal Franklin and Kawhi Leonard to the NBA has remained stifling, ranking second in the nation. They’ll put the clamps on the Aggies by forcing their giant big man, the 7’5″ Sim Bhullar, into turnovers.
(6) Baylor vs. (11) Nebraska
In a conference that sent seven of its 10 teams to the big dance, Baylor is coming into the tournament hot after making the Big 12 final. They should continue their run and knock off the Cornhuskers.
(3) Creighton vs. (14) LA-Lafayette
McDermott’s draft stock hasn’t risen despite his stellar senior season. A weak West bracket should give the Creighton star a chance to silence the haters. Creighton advances behind a big game from Dougie Fresh.
(7) Oregon vs. (10) BYU
In December, Oregon managed to squeak by BYU with an 100-96 overtime victory. The Cougars would love revenge, but after losing Kyle Collinsworth to a torn ACL it looks like an uphill battle against the Ducks.
(2) Wisconsin vs. (15) American
Wisconsin shouldn’t have much trouble with the American Eagles in what is essentially a home game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Easy win for the Badgers.
Round of 32
(1) Arizona vs. (9) Oklahoma St.
The Wildcats defense will slow down Smart in what will be his last game in college. Arizona’s defense should provide enough cushion that Aaron Gordon’s poor foul shooting won’t come into play.
(12) North Dakota St. vs. (4) San Diego St.
The buck stops here for this Cinderella. North Dakota State will have trouble scoring against the non-stop defensive intensity of the Aztecs. San Diego State heads to Anaheim.
(6) Baylor vs. (3) Creighton
The length of the Bears will cause Creighton some problems on the perimeter. McDermott will still manage to get points on the board but with a high rate of difficulty. The Bears advance.
(7) Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin has knocked off Virginia and Florida this year but those wins were way back in 2013. Oregon will look to get the Badgers into a shootout, but Wisconsin should be able to stay afloat by shooting the three effectively.
(1) Arizona vs. (4) San Diego St.
This type of matchup is when free-throw shooting becomes much more significant. With defenses like these this contest shouldn’t crack the 60s, which means that a few misses from the stripe can make all the difference. San Diego State moves on in front of the home faithful in Anaheim as Aaron Gordon fails his team in the clutch.
(6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin
Wisconsin has shown they have the potential to beat anyone this season, but Bo Ryan’s squad will fall short to the Bears. The amount of talent that Baylor has faced in the Big 12 will give them a mental edge over the Badgers.
(4) San Diego St. vs. (6) Baylor
After building a solid program, coach Steve Fisher, Xavier Thames, and the Aztecs will cut down the nets in Anaheim and head to North Texas, denying the Baylor Bears a chance to play for the title in Texas. In a region full of one-dimensional teams, the Aztecs defense and leadership will push them into the Final Four.
Featured image courtesy of Beaverbasketball/Flickr.