March Madness 2015 Predictions: West Region- Wednesday, March 18th
Round of 64 picks(1) Wisconsin over (16) Coastal Carolina
For the first time in school history, the Badgers are a No. 1 seed and they have the nation's top-ranked offense based on adjusted offensive efficiency (via kenpom.com). They should coast to a victory against the Chanticleers.
(8) Oregon over (9) Oklahoma State
These two teams met in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and Oregon, the No. 12 seed that year, got the better of Oklahoma State, the No. 5 seed, with a 13-point victory. Once again, Oregon will get the better of this matchup.
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(5) Arkansas over (12) Wofford
Averaging 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, Bobby Portis is one of the best players in the country. The better team with the best player, the Razorbacks avoid a 12-over-5 upset.
(4) North Carolina over (13) Harvard
The Tar Heels have excellent size and length and only Quinnipiac has more rebounds per game than UNC (41.03/G). Their size and rebounding ability will make it an uphill battle for Harvard.
(11) Mississippi over (6) Xavier
Expectations for BYU were fairly high, but they couldn't close the deal against Ole Miss despite a 17-point halftime lead. In turn, the Rebels showed the resilience to fight their way back and scored a massive 50 points over the final 14 minutes. I like them to build upon their momentum from Tuesday's come-from-behind win.
(3) Baylor over (14) Georgia State
Georgia State has one of the better guards in the nation in R.J. Hunter, a first-round pick in my 2015 NBA Mock Draft, but Baylor is one of the best rebounding teams (39.18/G, third-most among tournament teams) in the country.
(10) Ohio State over (7) VCU
While VCU is the lower seed, the Buckeyes are favored by four points in this game and have one of the nation's most dynamic players in D'Angelo Russell, who should be a top-four pick in this year's draft. Shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range, Russell is averaging 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
(2) Arizona over (15) Texas Southern
The Wildcats may be the No. 2 seed in this region, but Sportsbook.ag has installed them as the favorites (+120) over Wisconsin (+140) to reach the Final Four. Coach Sean Miller may not overlook Texas Southern after watching their win in East Lansing, but Arizona will win comfortably and advance to the Round of 32.
Round of 32 picks(1) Wisconsin over (8) Oregon
No team turns the ball over less than Wisconsin, who commit an NCAA-low 7.4 turnovers per game. The odds-on favorite to win the Naismith award, Frank Kaminsky is a seven-foot senior center that leads the Badgers in scoring (18.2/G), rebounding (8.0/G) and blocks (1.6/G), but he also ranks second on the team in assists (2.7/G) and fourth in three-point percentage (.395).
(4) North Carolina over (5) Arkansas
Not only do the Tar Heels lead all tournament teams in rebounding, but junior guard Marcus Paige has been playing really well lately. Over his past five games, four of which have been against teams that are No. 4 (or better) seeds in the tournament, Paige has averaged 18.2 points, 5.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
(3) Baylor over (11) MIssissippi
This would mark three games in five days for the Rebels. Mississippi outscored BYU on points off turnover by a 25-0 margin; at least the "0" won't happen here. Baylor has five different players that average more than 1.0 steal per game.
(2) Arizona over (10) Ohio State
Not only does Ohio State lack depth beyond Russell, again one of the best players in the country, but when your point guard leads the team in rebounding, it also points out what's lacking from the team's bigs. Fully recovered from last season's foot injury, Arizona forward Brandon Ashley won the Pac-12 Tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award and averaged 19.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in three conference tournament games. Arizona moves on here.
Sweet Sixteen(1) Wisconsin over (4) North Carolina
This would be a good spot to make my homer disclaimer: I'm a Tar Heels fan. That said, I do think UNC could make a run into the Elite Eight based on strong play from Paige and their ability to rebound the ball. While I will be rooting to be wrong here, I'm also a realist and think Wisconsin's length and efficient offense will make it difficult for the Tar Heels.
(2) Arizona over (3) Baylor
Arizona has just three losses all season and those three losses were by four points or less. Their last loss was more than a month ago (Feb. 7th), and they bring an 11-game winning streak into the tournament and eight of those 11 wins were by 22 points or more. The Wildcats advance for my the only chalk Elite Eight matchup in my brackets.
Elite Eight(2) Arizona over (1) Wisconsin
Among potential 1-2 matchups among the four regions, this has the potential to be the best one of the group. As noted earlier, the Wildcats are slightly favored by Vegas to win the region, but both of these two teams are among the four teams with the best odds to win the title along with Kentucky and Duke. This game should be close and it's a rematch of last year's West Regional Final that Wisconsin won by one point.
That said, Arizona was without Ashley, who is playing his best basketball at the right time. In addition, Arizona is the more well-rounded team (11th in offensive efficiency and third in defensive efficiency). Arizona gets revenge for last year's loss and advances to the Final Four.
-> 2015 March Madness Final Four Predictions
-> Other brackets: East Region - Midwest Region - South Region
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