Sweet 16 Preview: West Region

(image courtesy of the NCAA)

In a year where chaos has become normal in college basketball, it should shock no one that there is another region where only one of the top four seeds made it to the second weekend. The west region has been very kind to PAC-12 representatives Oregon and USC as they each defeated a lower seed to make it to the sweet sixteen. Big East regular season and tournament runner-up, Creighton, survived a scare in the first round by defeating 12-seed UCSB 63-62 followed by an impressive 72-58 victory over Jason Preston and the 13-seed Ohio Bobcats. While these teams have impressed up to this point and deserve high praise, there is no secret who the favorite is in this region. Mark Few has built a juggernaut at Gonzaga and the proof is starting to show in the recruiting game. For the Zags to put an end to any doubters, they must win it this year. With that said, let’s take a look at the west regional games.

(5) Creighton vs. (1) Gonzaga

I can only imagine what is going through the mind of Davion Mintz as he sits at home for the big dance while his former Blue Jays are getting ready to play for an opportunity to make it to the elite eight. Creighton is led by Marcus Zegarowski, the teams leading scorer and assister. The Blue Jays get it done on the defensive end by only allowing opponents an average of 60 PPG. So far in this tournament, their opponents have scored 62 and 58. As for Gonzaga, Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs will demand all the attention, but they are loaded at every position. For example, Drew Timmie scored a career-high 30 points in Monday’s win over Oklahoma. You never know who could show up and have an outstanding performance for the Zags. This game will stay close for about three quarters, but the offensive firepower of Gonzaga will be too much as they will win 86-75 and punch their ticket to the elite eight.

(7) Oregon vs. (6) USC

If it wasn’t for Oral Roberts and Loyola-Chicago, the PAC 12 would be the number one story of the tournament. Colorado is the only PAC 12 team in the field that did not advance to the second weekend. Oregon, USC, UCLA, and Oregon State all were able to pull of some upsets to represent the conference well and make Bill Walton the happiest man in the world right now. The headline of this matchup is USC star, Evan Mobley. Potentially the second best pro prospect behind Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, Mobley is an athletic freak who can do anything on the court with some level of success. The Trojans have a stellar defense as well, only giving up an average of 53.5 PPG. Oregon is a very streaky team. They caught lightning in a bottle in their second round matchup against Iowa, putting up 95 points. For the Ducks to pull of the upset, they will need another good day from the outside. In their only game this season, USC beat Oregon with ease in a 72-58 win back in late February. As for this matchup, I expect a more competitive game with the same team reigning supreme. I’ll take USC in a 77-72 win.

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