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2017 NCAA Tournament: Breaking down the West Region

Gonzaga has a good shot at the Final Four, but there might be some teams that have a say otherwise.

NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The initial reactions are in, and it is pretty good for the Gonzaga Bulldogs as the No. 1 seed in the West Region. Of course, now it is time to put the money where the mouth is, and the Zags have a great opportunity to do that.

There is also a lot of excitement in this specific region of the bracket, so let’s break it down a little into digestable chunks.

via @MarchMadness

Storylines to watch:

Final Four appearances for Gonzaga (and Arizona)

For the purposes of this blog, and much of the nation, the major storyline is whether or not Gonzaga will make the Final Four. We know Mark Few has his best team ever and his best chance ever. For the Zags this season, it truly feels like it is either now or never, and that is a rather depressing feeling to have.

But on the other side of the bracket, hanging out at the No. 2 seed, there is another coach with something to prove. Arizona head coach Sean Miller has had great success with the WIldcats, but he has also never taken that storied program to a Final Four. Miller is an elite recruiter, and an elite coach, but like Mark Few, he hasn’t tasted the final weekend yet. Unfortunately, this can’t be the year both coaches break that ceiling, so which one is it going to be?

Northwestern is really the story of the bracket.

Funny thing about this, if Gonzaga and Northwestern meet in the second round, you should highly expect the crowd to be overwhelmingly pro-Northwestern. Why? Because Northwestern has never made the NCAA Tournament. Just for reference, the NCAA Tournament began in 1939, and Northwestern, despite playing basketball every single year since, was no where to be found.

It is hard to expect any sort of darling run from the Northwestern Wildcats, but it is going to be a full blown road game for the Zags in the second round (if that matchup occurs).

Teams that are overrated

For this exercise, we will compare the Ken Pomeroy’s ranking of a team and the seeding of the team to see which team belongs where they should (this exercise is a little unfair to the lower seeded teams so we are leaving them off after VCU).

  • Arizona (No. 20 vs. No. 2 seed)
  • Florida State (No. 19 vs. No. 3 seed)
  • Notre Dame (No. 25 vs. No. 5 seed)
  • Maryland (No. 45 vs. No. 6 seed)
  • Northwestern (No. 39 vs. No. 8 seed)
  • VCU (No. 52 vs. No. 10 seed)

Teams that are underrated

Same deal, but the flipside of the coin. These are the teams that are ranked much higher in by Ken Pomeroy but find themselves on the short end of the stick.

  • West Virginia (No. 5 vs. No. 4 seed)
  • Saint Mary’s (No. 14 vs. No. 7 seed)

Most dangerous team for Gonzaga in this bracket: West Virginia

Everyone was talking about Wichita State and how Ken Pomeroy loves them but they got a low seed. Not many people have been talking about how West Virginia is one of the best schools in the country, but is only the No. 4 seed. The Mountaineers have been flying under the radar all year, mainly because of a loss to Temple and the fact that their non-conference slate is a trash fire that can never be put out.

Aside from that, Bob Huggins is still the coach of this team, and he has experience putting together some nasty to deal with squads. This year’s Mountaineers are exactly that. No team in the league is better than West Virginia at forcing you into mistakes. The Mountaineers’ defense has the highest turnover percentage in the country, and much of that comes from the relentless pressure they put on the ball.

It will be a hard one to prepare for as well. Bob Huggins’ defensive success comes from the fact his team employs a full court press for 40 straight minutes. Teams just don’t do that in college basketball, and Gonzaga would need to face an avalanche of traps and ball pressure just to get the ball up the court. West Virginia are kings at hurrying opposing offenses into taking dumb and panicked shots.

Who is heading to Phoenix?

This is a rather dumb question on the post from the No. 1 seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs on the Gonzaga blog. But the answer is quite simple.

This is the year Gonzaga finally advances to the Final Four.

The Zags really got the best No. 2 seed possible to face in a potential Elite Eight matchup. And yeah, we get it, Alonzo Trier wasn’t playing on Arizona when Gonzaga beat them. But on our end we can also say that was back when Nigel Williams-Goss wasn’t being full NWG yet. When the Zags met Arizona, the Wildcats had absolutely no answer for Przemek Karnowski and that opened up the offense for everyone else.

Maryland is highly overrated, and Florida State is at risk of an upset to “Dunk City.” Top it off with the fact that Saint Mary’s theoretically is a dangerous team, and there is enough turmoil in the bracket where everyone kills each other and the Zags walk out unscathed.

And if all else fails, Gonzaga is still the highest rated team in the country according to Pomeroy. The stars are aligned, and now it is finally time to make the plunge.