Monday, March 14, 2016

Complete West Region Analysis

My Picks:
16. Holy Cross over 16. Southern

1. Oregon over 16. Holy Cross
9. Cincinnati over 8. St. Joseph's
5. Baylor over 12. Yale
4. Duke over 13. UNC-Wilmington
6. Texas over 11. Northern Iowa
3. Texas A&M over 14. Green Bay
10. VCU over 7. Oregon State
2. Oklahoma over 15. Cal State Bakersfield

1. Oregon over 9. Cincinnati
5. Baylor over 4. Duke
6. Texas over 3. Texas A&M
2. Oklahoma over 7. VCU

1. Oregon over 5. Baylor
2. Oklahoma over 6. Texas

2. Oklahoma over 1. Oregon

The West is the "Region Of Life": From top to bottom, this is the weakest region. Oregon is obviously the weakest 1 seed, and there isn't another seed line that is particularly strong, other than perhaps Cincinnati as a strong 9 seed. Duke will be a popular pick, but that's on reputation rather than performance. Without Amile Jefferson they are very thin, particularly in the front court, and they have scuffled quite a bit down the stretch. If we have a region where a 9+ seed goes to an Elite 8, this would be the region. In the end, I'm going with the best team, which I believe is Oklahoma. They also have the best player, and probably a slightly easier draw to the Elite 8 than Oregon or any other team faces. But don't be surprised to see this region blow up your bracket.

VCU will give Oklahoma problems... if they get there: We have seen all season that Oklahoma can be turnover prone, and it's hurt them badly in their losses. That said, VCU is no sure thing to get past Oregon State despite how over-seeded the Beavers are (VCU is currently a 4.5 point favorite in Vegas). Oregon State led the Pac-12 in both offensive and defensive turnover rate, and VCU doesn't win too often when they lose the turnover battle.

Yale has a real shot: If you are in a bracket competition where you get extra value for picking upsets, I'd think very hard about taking Yale over Baylor in a classic 12/5 upset. Justin Sears is a true stud (his absence led to their one disastrous performance of the season against Albany), and the computers rate Yale as nearly as good as Baylor. My one concern, and the reason why I think Baylor still has the slight edge, is that Yale depends heavily on offensive rebounds and drawing fouls, which are two skills that often do not translate well when small conference teams against more athletic opponents.

Yeah, Northern Iowa beat North Carolina and Iowa State, but...: Northern Iowa had two very narrow wins over elite teams, yes, but they were one or two plays from losing both games, so don't draw too many "giant killer" narratives. More importantly, Northern Iowa relies heavily on hitting threes (they led the Missouri Valley in 3PA/FGA and hit them at a 37% clip) while Texas is excellent at stopping three-point shooting. Texas is the deserved favorite.

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