NCAA Tournament Preview: West Region

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 9:19am

Why #1 Seed Oregon Will Make the Final Four

OregonOregonYou know that girl in high school that was kind of cute during senior year, then went to college and all of a sudden became the best looking girl around? That’s Oregon. In case you didn’t notice, this team is really good. The Ducks are led by sophomore forward Dillon Brooks but are so much more than a one man band. Chris Boucher has gotten a lot of buzz recently and with good reason. The senior has only been playing basketball for four years, is already a beast at defending the rim and is a capable shooter. Oregon has some great depth as well. Elgin Cook has quietly had a great season and Tyler Dorsey has broken out of his slump and begun to bomb from three-point land. The most important part about Oregon, they play together and with heart. The team really isn’t the most athletically gifted team, but they continue to play as a team and beat every opponent. Dana Altman is a great coach and has learned how to get the most out of this roster. Honestly, in a weaker division, Oregon should reach the final four.

Why #1 Seed Oregon Will Miss the Final Four

For how “weak” this bracket is, there are still some pretty tough teams. Duke has the talent and coaching to make the Final Four and Oklahoma has one of the best players in the entire nation in Buddy Hield. Texas A&M also has the horses and cohesivness to run the table to Houston. Oregon has two main weaknesses. First, other than Tyler Dorsey, the Ducks don’t really have anyone else that scares you from downtown. Yes, some of the players can make shots, but they don’t hit at a high valume rate. Most teams will probably live with the Ducks taking three-pointers. Their other main weakness is that they do not have a backup rim protector for Boucher. Dwayne Benjamin is capable and can play some minutes at center, but he is nowhere near the rim protector that Boucher is. The senior forward must avoid foul trouble for the Ducks to make the Final Four.

Best Non-#1 Seed

#2 Oklahoma Sooners

While this might seem like a cop-out, Texas A&M lacks the star power of the Sooners. Oklahoma has the talent to win this tournament. The Sooners are a cohesive bunch, and clearly have one of the best players in the nation to lead them. Buddy Hield swings games with his scoring ability. Everyone looks at the Sooners as a jump-shooting team, which is true. Both [players: Jordan Woodard] and Isaiah Cousins are, let’s put this lightly, volume scorers. Both have shot less than 42 percent on the year, putting an even bigger burden on Hield’s shoulders. If Hield doesn’t have it going, the Sooners can certainly fall. However, the team is battle tested, they went through the ringer that is the Big-12 schedule and look to avenge their early exit from last year’s tournament. The Sooners should cruise to the Sweet Sixteen where they figure to face the aforementioned Aggies. We subscribe to the Buddy system.

Sweet 16 Sleeper

#6 Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns may have had a disappointing season, but March is always when a Shaka Smart led squad performs. Texas gets back Cameron Ridley, balancing out its roster and posing the team to make a run. It’s always interesting watching a Smart coached team. The Longhorns only played one player more than 30 minutes a game, Isaiah Taylor, and always look to force teams into mistakes. You know the first-year Texas coach will have his team motivated and confident. If Ridley can return to form, they can certainly make it to the Sweet 16, maybe even the Final Four.

Final Four Sleeper

#4 Duke

The Blue Devils probably don’t count as a sleeper, but they should. Duke has been mediocre this year and have two major flaws, rebounding and defense. While Duke also doesn’t entirely have a true point guard, it doesn’t entirely matter. The Blue Devils are led by Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen and both can certainly fill it up. There really isn’t a player in the region that can cover Ingram, especially if he catches fire. Clearly, Duke has some issues, but they are a sleeper in this region. Be careful when picking the Blue Devils, they have two players that can win a game by themselves, but they also can be out in the first round. A true sleeper, even if many people don’t think so.

Top First Round Matchup

#7 Oregon St. vs #10 VCU

An incredibly difficult matchup to call, mainly because Oregon St. is probably seeded too high. The Beavers are led by Gary Payton II and don’t have much else. VCU has been to the tournament for six straight years and while it no longer has Shaka Smart leading the team, anyone would be scared to play them. Payton II is an amazing player, dominant and scary with the ball and an absolute terror on the defensive end. However, it seems like VCU is more of a complete team. Look to the Glove Jr. to have a stellar performance, if not, the Beavers will likely be one and out.

Top Potential Matchup

#3 Texas A&M vs #6 Texas

Despite the juicy Oklahoma vs Duke or Oregon matchup, this seems to be the most logical, and fun matchup. This matchup renews a rivalry and is actually a toss-up. While the Aggies did win the SEC tournament, the Longhorns are no slouch. The SEC this year was, let’s face it, and easier conference than most. The Big-12 was more of a dogfight night in and night out. Texas has monster forward Cameron Ridley back and a great coach in Shaka Smart. While the matchup is incredibly intriguing, both teams already played this year, with the Longhorns falling 84-73. Honestly, this just makes the potential match up even better. Coaching adjustments are incredibly important to basketball, it will be interesting to see what type of changes Smart makes. Look out for this in-state NCAA tournament game.

Top Potential Player Matchup

Dillon Brooks vs Brandon Ingram

Both players have already been mentioned, but boy would this be a fun matchup. Ingram is clearly the better NBA prospect, he’s taller and lankier, but Brooks can certainly play. Watching Brooks annoy Ingram and take it to him every single player would be awesome to watch. NBA scouts would see if Brooks can play against taller forwards and Ingram would have his chance to dominate against a rsmaller forward. The game should have an up and down pace as well, creating chances for both players to make some plays. Honestly, Brooks probably won’t guard Ingram, but a man can dream. Either way, the matchup would be incredibly fun to watch and could be really interesting for NBA scouts.

Top Coach

Mike Krzyzewski – Duke

Five time NCAA champion, four time Olympic gold medalist, three time coach of the year, 13 time ACC champion, 1041 wins. Enough said.

Sleeper Coach

Dana Altman – Oregon

Serious question, is this Oregon’s best season of all time? Yes, Oregon won the first ever NCAA tournament in 1939, but the school hasn’t been back to the Final Four since. Yes, Oregon is extremely talented, but they play with a different edge than most teams. The Ducks have neither the biggest players nor the fastest, yet they routinely win games by wide margins. Oregon plays like a team. Nobody is above the other while every single player will do anything they can to win the game. Stats don’t matter, only the W or L at the end does. Altman has to earn some credit for getting everything out of this Ducks squad, and bringing them on of their best seasons of all time.

Top 5 NBA Prospects in West Region

1. Brandon Ingram – Duke

Clearly, Ingram is the player to watch in the West region, especially if you are an NBA scout. Ingram stands at a skinny 6 foot 9 and only weighs 190 pounds. Ingram obviously needs to gain some weight if he wants to last the full 82 game NBA schedule, but for now, it’s just fine. The freshman can ball, score in a variety of ways and even play a tiny bit of defense. It will be interesting to see if Ingram can bring the best out of a mediocre Duke squad. If the freshman can, he might earn himself the number one draft selection.

2. Buddy Hield – Oklahoma

Hield has been a monster all year and honestly, has less help than people think. The senior guard returned back to school, and continued to have a career year, working tirelessly on his three-point shot and becoming an efficient scorer to boot. Hield has somehow ended the year shooting 50 percent on 16 shots per game. The senior scores 25 points a game while chipping in five boards and two assists a game. Hield is an interesting prospect, mainly because he is 22. If Hield was a freshman, he would definitely be in the discussion for the number one overall selection. Honestly, age really shouldn’t hurt the senior. Hield is average size for a shooting guard at 6 foot 4 and has long arms, with a reach reported to be 6 foot 8. The senior should do just fine in the NBA. For now, enjoy his last few games playing college basketball.

3. Grayson Allen – Duke

Allen is a bit of a reach here, but man can this guy score. The sophomore guard is averages 21 points per game on 46 percent shooting, but also sports nearly a 42 percent three-point shot. Allen can also dish the ball a tiny bit, averaging 3.6 assists a game. Obviously, the elephant in the room is Allen’s defense. The sophomore is way too slow to cover quick guards in the NBA and really only has a jump-shot. Everything is tougher in the NBA. Every player has more room to operate, so playing a slow footed guard is almost a death wish. If Allen can somehow improve his footwork and become an even deadlier shooter, he can succeed in the NBA. Think a shorter Kyle Korver. If anything, both Allen and Ingram should light it up in the West region.

4. Taurean Prince – Baylor

Baylor figures to provide one seed Oregon with a stiff test in the Sweet Sixteen and how Prince matches up with Oregon's length and athleticism could factor into Prince's first round chances. Prince is Baylor's jack of all trades guy, who can do a little of everything and brings a high level of intensity to the floor each time he plays. He's an underrated shooter and solid athlete and one of the top senior prospects in the country. The 6-foot-7 small forward has the ability to get hot from the perimeter. Prince can get a little careless with the ball at times, and obviously this will be something for him to focus on with the heat turned up in tourney games.

5. Gary Payton II – Oregon St.

Would you look at that, another upperclassman. If this region can teach young players anything, it’s return to school. Both Hield and Payon II kept returning to school, even when their prospects for being picked seemed rather good. In the end, Hield earned himself a ton of draft stock and will likely go in the lottery, while Payton II earned himself a long awaited NCAA tournament birth. Newsflash, this guy is really good at basketball. Payton II carried Oregon St. for most of the season and gives the team a swagger. The senior flies all over the court and is really an athletic monster. Payton II is nearly as much of a terror as his father on the defensive end and ended the year averaging 2.5 assists a game. Payton II is really the complete package. He finished the season putting up 15.9 points per game while also adding nearly eight rebounds and five assists a game. Honestly, the only thing Payton II really needs to work on is his three-point shot (he only shot 30 percent from deep). In the end, it shouldn’t matter. Payton’s name alone was good enough to get him some NBA looks, turns out he is a pretty good player as well.

Honorable Mention

Chris Boucher – Oregon

To the surprise of many, Boucher is actually 23 years old. However, the senior forward, who may be granted an additional year, has only played four years of real, competitive basketball. Boucher has played out of his mind this year, averaging 12 points and nearly eight rebounds, and an outstanding 3.1 blocks. Earlier in the year, Boucher was blocking nearly five shots a game. The senior is athletic and has quick feet, but has to get better with boxing out and playing his size. Boucher stands at 6 foot 10, but seems closer to 6 foot 9 in person. The best part about Boucher is how much room he has to grow. Boucher is still very raw and has even displayed a jump-shot every now and then this year. One thing is likely, an NBA will give Boucher a chance.

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