March Madness 2017 Predictions: West Region

- Posted: Wednesday, March 15th

Bracket Predictions: East Region - South Region - Midwest Region - West Region - Final Four

Below you will find our predictions for the West region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament:

Round of 64 picks

(1) Gonzaga over (16) South Dakota State

Playing in their 19th consecutive tournament, Gonzaga has won more than one game in only four of their past 13 tournament bids although two of those four were in 2015 and 2016. Could this be their first-ever Final Four appearance? FiveThirtyEight has Gonzaga (41%) as the team most likely to advance to the Final Four -- Villanova is second (40%).

(8) Northwestern over (9) Vanderbilt

For the first time in school history, Northwestern has made the NCAA Tournament. Despite being the higher seed in this matchup, they are slight underdogs, but the feel-good story continues ... for at least a few more days.

(5) Notre Dame over (12) Princeton

It wouldn't surprise me if Princeton pulled off the not-so-uncommon 12-over-5 upset and in fact, an Ivy League school has won their first-round matchup in three of the past four tournaments. Princeton ranks 15th in the country in turnover margin (+3.4), but I have the Irish winning on St. Patrick's Day Eve.

(4) West Virginia over (13) Bucknell

No team forces more turnovers per game and West Virginia ranks fifth in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency margin (via Favored by double digits, the Mountaineers will advance with relative ease.

(11) Xavier over (6) Maryland

ESPN ranked their Giant Killers in terms of likelihood that a team at least five seeds lower than its opponent will win their matchup and Xavier ranked first on that list at 51.4 percent. I agree. I think the Musketeers -- currently two-point underdogs -- advance to face the Florida State-Florida Gulf Coast winner.

(14) Florida Gulf Coast over (3) Florida State

Perhaps I'm crazy, but we continue with another double-digit seed pulling off an upset. This spread is not so close like Xavier-Maryland and Florida State has a top-five pick in Jonathan Isaac, but I do think the Seminoles are over-seeded so I will go out on a limb here with Dunk City. (And this year's team actually broke the 2013 team's record for number of dunks.)

(10) VCU over (7) Saint Mary's

With four losses on the season, three of them were to top-seeded Gonzaga and the other was to Texas-Arlington. I think their fifth loss of the season happens on Thursday.

(2) Arizona over (15) North Dakota

Arizona is loaded and have won nine of their last 10 games with the only loss being against UCLA, whom they beat in the Pac-12 tournament. Making their third tournament appearance in four years, the Bison pulled off an upset as a 12 seed against Oklahoma in 2014, but Arizona will advance easily in the first round.

Round of 32 picks

(1) Gonzaga over (8) Northwestern

The feel-good story for Northwestern ends here, but they can certainly build upon the success of their first two games in tournament history. For Gonzaga, this will be their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance.

(5) Notre Dame over (4) West Virginia

As noted above, Press Virginia creates the most turnovers in the nation. That said, Notre Dame is tied with Michigan a national-fewest 9.4 turnovers per game. I went back and forth on this one, but I like Bonzie Colson and the Irish to advance.

(11) Xavier over (14) Florida Gulf Coast

The only matchup in my projected brackets between two double-digit seeds, it's Xavier that gets to the Sweet 16. Since 2008, the Musketeers have advanced to the Sweet 16 five times.

(2) Arizona over (10) VCU

Not only is Allonzo Trier back from suspension, but Lauri Markkanen is a skilled big man that has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and is a likely lottery pick in June. A talented team playing its best basketball at the right time, Arizona has the potential to win it all.

Sweet Sixteen

(1) Gonzaga over (5) Notre Dame

Granted, the Zags haven't had their tremendous regular seasons translate into a ton of tournament success, but this is arguably their best version of themselves. Ranked in the top 10 of both adjusted offensive and defense efficiency (via kenpom), Gonzaga advances to the regional finals for a 'Zona-Zags showdown.

(2) Arizona over (11) Xavier

Before taking over at Arizona in 2009, Sean Miller spent close to a decade at Xavier as an assistant or head coach. Losing to 11th-seeded Wichita State last year in the Round of 64, Arizona beats Miller's former school to advance to the Elite Eight.

Elite Eight

(2) Arizona over (1) Gonzaga

As noted above, Gonzaga has never reached the Final Four. Earlier this year, Gonzaga beat Arizona, 69-62, on a neutral court, but Arizona was without Parker Jackson-Cartwright (ankle injury) and Allonzo Trier (suspension). Having met twice in the tournament, Arizona has won both matchups including a 17-point win in 2014. Appearing in the Elite Eight for the third time in four years, Arizona will have a shot to play a couple of games at home -- Final Four is in Glendale, AZ -- in their quest for a national championship.

> Other brackets: East Region - Midwest Region - South Region

> 2017 March Madness Final Four Predictions

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