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NCAA West Region preview

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Sports,College,John Keim,Kevin Dunleavy

The Favorite

No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State already had one of the best offensive players in the country in forward DeShaun Thomas. What the Buckeyes didn't have is a consistent second scorer. But they're getting steady help from the supporting cast, which is why in the past three weeks they have beaten Michigan State twice, Indiana and Wisconsin. But the real key is the Buckeyes' defense. Yes, Aaron Craft is terrific. But so, too, are their other perimeter players, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith.

THE Contender

No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs

The Bulldogs reached No. 1 for the first time thanks largely to a schedule full of cupcakes in the West Coast Conference. Questions remain as Gonzaga has the lowest-ranked strength of schedule (No. 97) of any No. 1 seed in 20 years, according to ESPN. Gonzaga's 14-game winning streak has been built on the frontcourt power of 7-foot Kelly Olynyk (17.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and 6-8 Elias Harris (14.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg).

One and done

No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Irish share the ball as junior guards Jerian Grant (DeMatha) and Eric Atkins (Mount St. Joseph) average 5.6 assists each. But in four of its last five appearances in the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame has been upset by double-digit seeds -- Winthrop (2007), Old Dominion (2010), Florida State (2011) and Xavier (2012). Mike Brey often gets as much as he can out of his team, but then it has little left for the tournament.

Cinderella

No. 3 New Mexico Lobos

They won the regular-season and tournament titles in the tough Mountain West, but the Lobos have flown under the radar, accumulating doubters despite ranking second in RPI. Maybe the skepticism is over New Mexico's undistinguished NCAA record. In 13 tournament appearances, the Lobos have never won back-to-back games. Hoping to change that is Mountain West player of the year Kendall Williams (13.5 ppg, 5.0 apg) and tournament MVP Tony Snell.

The Examiner predicts ...

No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

This is the most wide-open region in the tournament. Conference champions No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 New Mexico have maxed out. It could be argued that the most talented team in the region is No. 6 Arizona. In a wild scramble, the best strategy might be to pick the team with the toughest player. We'll go with Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes to start quickly, playing the first two rounds in Dayton.

Did you know ...

Gonzaga will make its 15th straight NCAA tournament appearance?

The only teams with longer streaks are Kansas (24), Duke (18) and Michigan State (16). During their respective streaks, the Bulldogs have never been to the Final Four, while the Jayhawks and Spartans have been six times with one national championship each. The Blue Devils have been to the Final Four four times with two national titles. Gonzaga made it as far as the Elite Eight only in the first year of the streak in 1999.

Key opening matchup

No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Wichita State

The 8-9 matchup usually has a who-cares feel as the winner is served in the next round to a powerhouse No. 1 seed. But with questionable Gonzaga the likely team awaiting the winner, there is perhaps more at stake. Few teams consistently underachieve in the tournament like Pitt, which has lost to lower seeds in five of its last six appearances. Playing the role of underdog might be the best approach for Jamie Dixon's Panthers.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com, jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

 

AP capsules for West Region teams

Gonzaga

Spokane, Wash., 31-2.

Nickname: Bulldogs. Coach: Mark Few.

Conference: West Coast. Bid: WCC champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 1.

Tournament Record: 17-15, 15 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (77.6); Kelly Olynyk 17.5; Elias Harris 14.9; Kevin Pangos 11.5; Gary Bell Jr. 9.2.

Rebounds: Team (37.3); Elias Harris 7.4; Kelly Olynyk 7.2.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (15.2/11.2); David Stockton 3.3/1.2; Kevin Pangos 3.2/1.4; Gary Bell Jr. 2.3/1.2.

3-pointers: Team (.371); Kevin Pangos 70; Gary Bell Jr. 53.

Last Ten: 10-0.

The Skinny: Zags, with few weaknesses, ended the regular season No. 1. A mid-major is the No. 1 seed in the West Region.

 

Southern U.

Baton Rouge, La., 23-9.

Nickname: Jaguars. Coach: Roman Banks.

Conference: Southwestern Athletic. Bid: SWAC champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 16.

Tournament Record: 1-7, 7 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2006.

Scoring: Team (67.7); Derick Beltran 15.9; Malcolm Miller 15.8; Javan Mitchell 9.5; Jameel Grace 9.2.

Rebounds: Team (35.2); Brandon Moore 7.1; Malcolm Miller 6.0; Javan Mitchell 4.9; Derick Beltran 4.5.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (11.4/10.9); Jameel Grace 3.6/2.0; Christopher Hyder 2.5/1.1.

3-pointers: Team (.362); Malcolm Miller 87; Derick Beltran 76.

Last Ten: 8-2.

The Skinny: Roman Banks has taken Jaguars from last to first in two seasons with a SWAC championship.

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Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, 24-8.

Nickname: Panthers. Coach: Jamie Dixon.

Conference: Big East. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 8.

Tournament Record: 23-24, 23 years. Last appearance: 2011.

Scoring: Team (69.6); Travon Woodall 11.8; Lamar Patterson 10.0; Talib Zanna 9.8.

Rebounds: Team (35.3); Steve Adams 6.2; Talib Zanna 6.0; Lamar Patterson 4.4; Dante Taylor 4.0.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (16.4/10.9); Travon Woodall 5.2/2.1; James Robinson 3.5/1.2; Lamar Patterson 2.8/1.8.

3-pointers: Team (.360); Travon Woodall 55; Lamar Patterson 37.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: The Panthers have wins over Georgetown, Syracuse and two over Villanova on their resume.

 

Wichita State

Wichita, Kan., 26-8.

Nickname: Shockers. Coach: Gregg Marshall.

Conference: Missouri Valley. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 9.

Tournament Record: 8-10, 9 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (69.4); Cleanthony Early 13.6; Carl Hall 12.8; Malcolm Armstead 10.4.

Rebounds: Team (38.4); Carl Hall 7.2; Cleanthony Early 5.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.8/12.8); Malcolm Armstead 4.0/2.3; Demetric Williams 2.4/1.8.

3-pointers: Team (.337); Malcolm Armstead 55; Cleanthony Early 39; Demetric Williams 31; Nick Wiggins 31.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: Strong nonconference schedule helped Shockers get into the bracket for the second straight season.

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Wisconsin

Madison, 23-11.

Nickname: Badgers. Coach: Bo Ryan.

Conference: Big Ten. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 5.

Tournament Record: 25-17, 18 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (66.2); Ben Brust 11.4; Jared Berggren 11.3; Ryan Evans 10.4; Sam Dekker 9.5.

Rebounds: Team (36.9); Ryan Evans 7.5; Jared Berggren 6.9; Mike Bruesewitz 5.3; Ben Brust 5.2.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.5/9.8); Ben Brust 2.4/1.2; Traevon Jackson 2.8/2.1; Ryan Evans 2.0/1.6.

3-pointers: Team (.338); Ben Brust 77; Sam Dekker 48; George Marshall 35.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: Winning the Big Ten tournament title says a lot. Having a coach like Bo Ryan certainly doesn't hurt.

 

Mississippi

University, Miss., 26-8.

Nickname: Rebels. Coach: Andy Kennedy.

Conference: Southeatern. Bid: SEC champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 12.

Tournament Record: 3-6, 6 year. Last NCAA Appearance: 2002.

Scoring: Team (79.1); Marshall Henderson 20.1; Murphy Holloway 14.6; Reginald Buckner 9.5; Jarvis Summers 9.0.

Rebounds: Team (39.5); Murphy Holloway 9.6; Reginald Buckner 7.4; Aaron Jones 4.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.7/11.5); Jarvis Summers 3.7/1.6.

3-pointers: Team (.336); Marshall Henderson 131; Nick Williams 27; LaDarius White 27.

Last Ten: 8-2.

The Skinny: Marshall Henderson could be this year's Jimmer Fredette.

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Kansas State

Manhattan, 27-7.

Nickname: Wildcats. Coach: Bruce Weber.

Conference: Big 12. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 4.

Tournament Record: 33-30, 26 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (69.2); Rodney McGruder 15.7; Angel Rodriguez 11.7; Shane Southwell 8.1.

Rebounds: Team (35.3); Rodney McGruder 5.4; Thomas Gipson 5.0; Jordan Henriquez 4.8.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (16.0/11.6); Angel Rodriguez 5.3/2.3; Shane Southwell 2.6/1.2; Will Spradling 2.4/1.0; Martavious Irving 2.1/1.1; Rodney McGuder 2.0/1.7.

3-pointers: Team (.363); Angel Rodriguez 55; Rodney McGruder 50; Will Spradling 46; Shame Southwell 45; Martavious Irving 35.

Last Ten: 8-2.

The Skinny: Won share of Big 12 regular-season title and got to tournament title game in first season under coach Bruce Weber. Not bad, not bad at all.

 

Boise State

Boise, Idaho, 21-10.

Nickname: Broncos. Coach: Leon Rice.

Conference: Mountain West. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 13.

Tournament Record: 0-5, 5 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2008.

Scoring: Team (73.3); Anthony Drmic 17.3; Derrick Marks 16.3; Jeff Elorriaga 10.3.

Rebounds: Team (33.9); Ryan Watkins 6.8; Kenny Buckner 5.1; Anthony Drmic 4.6.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.2/12.1); Derrick Marks 3.7/3.4; Anthony Drmic 2.4/2.1; Jeff Elorriaga 2.1/0.7; Igor Hadziomerovic 2.0/1.5.

3-pointers: Team (.391); Jeff Elorriaga 82; Anthony Drmic 75.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: The Broncos sneaked into the bracket for the first time since 2008 after finishing fifth in Mountain West. Get past La Salle and they might have trouble sneaking past Kansas State.

 

La Salle

Philadelphia, 21-9.

Nickname: Explorers. Coach: John Giannini.

Conference: Atlantic 10. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 13.

Tournament Record: 11-10, 11 years. Last appearance: 1992.

Scoring: Team (72.4); Ramon Galloway 17.0; Tyreek Duren 15.0; Tyrone Garland 12.9; Jerrell Wright 10.3.

Rebounds: Team (31.7); Jerrell Wright 6.9; Steve Zack 6.4; Ramon Galloway 4.6.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (14.4/11.7); Ramon Galloway 3.8/3.1; Tyreek Duren 3.3/2.0; Sam Mills 2.3/1.2; Tyrone Garland 2.0/1.5.

3-pointers: Team (.371); Ramon Galloway 80; Tyreek Duren 45; Sam Mills 40; D.J. Peterson 30.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: Wins over Butler and VCU helped erase a couple of early-season losses to get the Explorers into the bracket.

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Arizona

Tucson, 25-7.

Nickname: Wildcats. Coach: Sean Miller.

Conference: Pac-12. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 6.

Tournament Record: 46-28, 29 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2011.

Scoring: Team (73.3); Mark Lyons 14.8; Solomon Hill 13.4; Nick Johnson 11.7.

Rebounds: Team (36.2); Kaleb Tarczewski 6.1; Brandon Ashley 5.3; Solomon Hill 5.3; Kevin Parrom 4.9.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.8/13.1); Nick Johnson 3.2/1.8; Mark Lyons 3.0/2.8; Solomon Hill 2.8/2.3.

3-pointers: Team (.363); Mark Lyons 59; Solomon Hill 51; Kevin Parrom 39; Nick Johnson 38; Grant Jerrett 31.

Last Ten: 5-5.

The Skinny: Loads of talent, will need to find defensive consistency to make a run. Watch for Sean Miller's death stare. One of the best in college hoops.

 

Belmont

Nashville, Tenn., 26-6.

Nickname: Bruins. Coach: Rick Byrd.

Conference: Ohio Vally. Bid: OVC champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 11.

Tournament Record: 0-5, 5 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (77.2); Ian Clark 18.17; Kerron Johnson 13.7; Trevor Noack 12.5; J.J. Mann 10.5; Blake Jenkins 9.7.

Rebounds: Team (32.2); Trevor Noack 5.5; Blake Jenkins 4.7; J.J. Mann 4.7.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (15.9/13.5); Kerron Johnson 4.8/3.2; J.J. Mann 2.6/1.6; Ian Clark 2.5/2.7; Reece Chamberlain 2.2/1.3.

3-pointers: Team (.386); Ian Clark 99; J.J. Mann 61; Trevor Noack 38.

Last Ten: 8-2.

The Skinny: Bruins have become bracket regulars. They're still waiting to get past the first round, but may have a shot if Arizona doesn't guard them on the perimeter.

___

New Mexico

Albuquerque, 29-5.

Nickname: Lobos. Coach: Steve Alford.

Conference: Mountain West. Bid: MWC champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 3.

Tournament Record: 8-14, 13 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (67.4); Kendall Williams 13.5; Tony Snell 12.6; Alex Kirk 11.9; Cameron Bairstow 9.6.

Rebounds: Team (35.2); Alex Kirk 7.9; Cameron Bairstow 5.9; Hugh Greenwood 5.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (14.6/11.5); Kendall Williams 5.0/2.1; Tony Snell 2.9/2.1; Hugh Greenwood 2.4/1.3.

3-pointers: Team (.354); Tony Snell 63; Kendall Williams 48; Hugh Greenwood 40.

Last Ten: 9-1.

The Skinny: The tournament champion from the conference with the highest RPI, might have a chance to go deep in the bracket.

 

Harvard

Boston, 19-9.

Nickname: Crimson. Coach: Tommy Amaker.

Conference: Ivy League. Bid: Ivy champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 14.

Tournament Record: 0-3, 2 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (68.9); Wesley Saunders 16.5; Siyani Chambers 12.9; Laurent Rivard 10.4.

Rebounds: Team (29.4); Steve Moundou-Missi 5.1; Wesley Saunders 4.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.2/13.5); Siyani Chambers 5.7/3.4; Wesley Saunders 3.4/3.1.

3-pointers: Team (.401); Laurent Rivard 74; Christian Webster 53; Siyani Chambers 40.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: Won third straight Ivy League title, but making second straight NCAA appearance. Keep an eye on Siyani Chambers, the freshman with the cool name and sweet game.

___

Notre Dame

South Bend, Ind., 25-9.

Nickname: Fighting Irish. Coach: Mike Brey.

Conference: Big East. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 7.

Tournament Record: 31-36, 32 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (70.4); Jerian Grant 13.4; Jack Cooley 13.1; Eric Atkins 11.4; Pat Connaughton 9.0.

Rebounds: Team (36.2); Jack Cooley 10.3; Scott Martin 5.9; Pat Connaughton 4.7.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (17.0/11.1); Eric Atkins 5.6/2.1; Jerian Grant 5.6/2.8.

3-pointers: Team (.373); Pat Connaughton 57; Jerian Grant 50; Eric Atkins 48; Cameron Biedscheid 36; Scott Martin 31.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: After great start, Irish labored through Big East schedule. With bullish Jack Cooley roaming around, they'll be a tough matchup in the tournament.

 

Iowa State

Ames, 22-11.

Nickname: Cyclones. Coach: Fred Hoiberg.

Conference: Big 12. Bid: At large.

Region: West. Seed: No. 10.

Tournament Record: 13-14, 14 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (79.6); Will Clyburn 15.0; Tyrus McGee 13.2; Georges Niang 12.0; Melvin Ejim 11.2.

Rebounds: Team (38.7); Melvin Eljim 9.3; Will Clyburn 7.1; Georges Niang 4.5.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (16.0/13.3); Korie Lucious 5.7/3.3; Chris Babb 2.3/1.0; Will Clyburn 2.1/2.7.

3-pointers: Team (.370); Tyler McGee 90; Chris Babb 62; Korie Lucious 61; Will Clyburn 40; Georges Niang 37.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: Good RPI, strong finish to the season and a comeback win over Oklahoma in Big 12 tournament gets the Cyclones back in the tournament for the second straight season.

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Ohio State

Columbus, 26-7.

Nickname: Buckeyes. Coach: Thad Matta.

Conference: Big Ten. Bid: Big Ten champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 2.

Tournament Record: 51-27, 28 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (69.8); Deshaun Thomas 19.6; Aaron Craft 9.9; Lenzelle Smith Jr. 9.6.

Rebounds: Team (35.4); Deshaun Thomas 6.2; Lenzelle Smith Jr. 4.8.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.5/10.7); Aaron Craft 4.7/1.8; Shannon Scott 3.9/1.3.

3-pointers: Team (.359); Deshaun Thomas 64; Lenzelle Smith Jr. 44.

Last Ten: 9-1.

The Skinny: Buckeyes went to Final Four last season. Do-everything guard Aaron Craft could get them there again.

 

Iona

New Rochelle, N.Y., 20-13.

Nickname: Gaels. Coach: Tim Cluess.

Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic. Bid: MAAC champion.

Region: West. Seed: No. 15.

Tournament Record: 1-9, 9 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (80.7); Lamont Jones 23.0; Sean Armand 16.6; David Laury 13.1.

Rebounds: Team (36.0); David Laury 10.4; Taaj Ridley 5.5; Sean Armand 5.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (15.5/12.2); Lamont Jones 3.5/3.3; Tavon Sledge 3.2/1/8.

3-pointers: Team (.373); Sean Armand 108; Lamont Jones 55; Tre Bowman 32.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: MAAC champs play fast, shoot 3s and score in bunches. The key for the Gaels will be keeping the other team from scoring — they were 331st in scoring defense.

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