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2017 NCAA Tournament: West Region Predictions, Picks and Analysis

What goes down out West is probably predictable. But, this is the NCAA Tournament after all...

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga vs Arizona Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

First Round

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) South Dakota State

South Dakota State has Mike Daum, the country’s second-leading scorer averaging 25.3 ppg. South Dakota State also doesn’t have a chance in this game.

Pick: Gonzaga

(8) Northwestern vs. (9) Vanderbilt

Northwestern is famously making its maiden NCAA Tournament appearance, but don’t think the Wildcats will be happy just to be here. That said, Northwestern faded down the stretch and runs into a hot Vanderbilt team that’s playing with a lot of confidence.

Pick: Vanderbilt

(5) Notre Dame vs. (12) Princeton

This is going to be a popular upset pick, and for good reason. Princeton hasn’t lost since December and while Notre Dame has been playing well of late, Princeton will take — and make — a ton of 3-pointers. That’s a good formula for an upset, and I think the Tigers will pull it off.

Pick: Princeton

(4) West Virginia vs. (13) Bucknell

Bucknell is fairly turnover-prone, which, uh, isn’t good when you’re going up against Press Virginia. West Virginia seems almost criminally underseeded as a 4 and I think they will win this one easily.

Pick: West Virginia

(6) Maryland vs. (11) Xavier

I don’t think that highly of Maryland, but even with the Big East Tournament win over Butler, Xavier just hasn’t been the same since Edmond Sumner went down. Maryland should advance.

Pick: Maryland

(3) Florida State vs. (14) Florida Gulf Coast

Oh, I’m tempted to pick Dunk City But while Florida State is a bit overseeded as a 3, they’re also not a great matchup for Florida Gulf Coast, what with the Seminoles having a ton of length and athleticism.

Pick: Florida State

(7) St. Mary’s vs. (10) VCU

While I realize that KenPom isn’t the be-all, end-all, Pomeroy’s numbers make this look much more like a 5-12 matchup than a 7-10. St. Mary’s has lost one game all season to teams that are not Gonzaga.

Pick: St. Mary’s

(2) Arizona vs. (15) North Dakota

The Fighting Hawks are in the (Division I) tournament for the first time ever, and Phil Jackson’s alma mater is probably just happy to be here.

Pick: Arizona

Second Round

(1) Gonzaga vs. (9) Vanderbilt

Spare me the talk that Gonzaga is overrated. There will be a lot of talk about the possibility that the Zags will not make it past the first weekend, and while that’s happened plenty of times before, I just can’t see this happening this year. Particularly if they draw Vanderbilt, who’s a dangerous shooting team, but Gonzaga shuts down the perimeter better than just about anyone.

Pick: Gonzaga

(12) Princeton vs. (4) West Virginia

Frankly, this would be a hilarious clash of styles, with Princeton being Princeton and West Virginia being Press Virginia. The latter will probably win out, and in particular if the officials decide to adhere to their usual March practice of swallowing their whistles and letting the players decide it.

Pick: West Virginia

(6) Maryland vs. (3) Florida State

Ugh. I’m not sold on Florida State, but I’m really not sold on Maryland. Somebody has to win this game, and I’ll pick Florida State, who is probably the more talented team here.

Pick: Florida State

(7) St. Mary’s vs. (2) Arizona

You might not have known that Arizona is below St. Mary’s in KenPom. The Pac-12 was very top-heavy in 2016-17, with three teams (Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA) getting top three seeds in the NCAA Tournament... and five teams that didn’t even sniff the NIT, much less the NCAA Tournament. That sounds quite a bit like the WCC, eh? Anyway, call it a gut feeling or call it me over-relying on KenPom, but I think St. Mary’s takes this one.

Pick: St. Mary’s

Sweet 16

(1) Gonzaga vs. (4) West Virginia

What the hell is West Virginia doing as a 4-seed, anyway? I’m not going to give you any hot takes about Gonzaga being overrated (if anything, giving them the lowest 1-seed might be underrating them), but West Virginia is in no way a 4-seed. Everybody would love to see the Zags finally get to a Final Four, but I think it ends for them in the Sweet 16. Sorry.

Pick: West Virginia

(3) Florida State vs. (7) St. Mary’s

I’m actually surprised I have Florida State advancing this far, but then I just don’t really love anybody in that pod. I think whoever emerges from that pod will lose to either St. Mary’s or Arizona in the Sweet 16.

Pick: St. Mary’s

Elite Eight

(4) West Virginia vs. (7) St. Mary’s

This is actually kind of a tough matchup for West Virginia. While St. Mary’s isn’t quite turnover-free (they rank 84th nationally in turnover percentage), they’re really, really good at shooting the ball and when they’re getting past the press, they’ll score a lot of points. They’re also sound defensively, but how much of that is built on the backs of bad WCC teams? West Virginia is one of the best teams in the country and I think they’ll get through to the Final Four.

Pick: West Virginia