The best weekend of the year has been shifted back a day, but that just gives us another 24 hours to get ready. Xavier is emphasizing individual instruction to prepare for 2021-22, but the rest of us are just going to park in front of the television for 96 hours to watch 68 teams turn into 16. We’re going to be breaking down each region for you in the next couple of days.
Gonzaga is joined by some very flawed high seeds in Iowa, Kansas, and Virginia. Throw in Creighton and their end of season dramas and Big East Tournament final no-show and it is hard to see who exactly is going to keep the Bulldogs from cruising into the tournament’s final weekend.
Underseeded: No one
This is not to say the committee got this region completely spot on, but no one in the West can make a compelling case that they have been placed below where they belonged. USC is probably the closest, but their body of work and their talent level are slightly incongruous. They piled up a lot of wins and got good ones at Arizona and on a neutral against BYU, but they also lost 7 times including against Oregon State and Utah.
Overseeded: #11 Wichita State
Simply put, the Shockers do not belong in the field this season. Their body of work is not appreciably better than Xavier’s and the fact that they somehow were deemed more deserving than Louisville for a place is a travesty that would prompt the NCAA to provide some oversight for the selection committee if they had any interest in fairness.
Fun to Watch: #7 Oregon
If Dana Altman has proven one thing in his coaching career, it is that you should not assume a person’s gender based on their first name. If there is a second, it is that he can coach offense. The Ducks are athletic and shoot from three well enough to give those who have them meeting Iowa in the second round pause to consider just who will dictate how that game goes. The Ducks do not play at a breakneck pace, but they are ruthlessly efficient and rarely turn the ball over. If they can turn an opponent over enough to cover their defensive flaws, they can be a second weekend team.
Darkhorse Pick: #6 USC
The Trojans boast do-it-all 7 footer Evan Mobley as their star and tournament darling of yesteryear Andy Enfield at the helm. They bottomed out at 60th in KenPom, but rattled off 7 straight in January and February to cement themselves in the field and present a problem that can be had on the offensive glass like, say, Kansas and Iowa.
Favorite: #1 Gonzaga
What do you want from me? The Bulldogs are a juggernaut right now, as they have been all season, and have already beaten each of the other protected seeds in the region by double digits. Throw in the fact that Virginia and Kansas will be coming off COVID pauses and it really only leave Iowa and their 50th ranked defense or a cinderella from stopping what feels like an inevitable second trip to the Final Four for Mark Few. The myth of Gonzaga as a flat track bully who racks up superficial numbers belongs somewhere in the past with John Calipari’s dribble drive offense. It is them against the field in this region, and you would be a fool to pick the field.