After our cheap, quick-hit, easy looks at each bracket, the gang at Storming The Floor take considerably closer looks, game-by-game. Here's the West Regional preview, the last of the four.
1 UCLA vs. 16 Mississippi Valley State (Anaheim)
If the 16 over 1 is ever going to happen this would be the most shocking one possible as the Delta Devils boast a 17-15 overall record and five 30-plus point losses to teams that either reached the dance or just missed. That includes a 71-26 point drubbing in Pullman to Washington State, a team the Bruins beat twice this season in the Pac-10.
The Pick: UCLA
8 BYU vs. 9 Texas A&M (Anaheim)
The player to see here is BYU big man Trent Plaisted. He's shown this year he can get the job done against prime competition, averaging a double-double against this year's field (MSU, L'Ville, and UNC). On the other side it's a bit of a tossup as the Aggies still lack the go-to threat they lost when Acie Law graduated after last season. Donald Sloan tries to fill the role, but his inability to do so has been a big part of the Aggies' inconsistency as a whole. If he's not hitting from the perimeter, the Cougar defense will key inside and make it almost impossible for A&M to win.
The Pick: BYU
5 Drake vs. 12 Western Kentucky (Tampa)
The Hilltoppers can play with anyone. Courtney Lee is one of the nation's top seniors and he can do it all, be it shoot from outside, rebound, or break down the defense off the dribble and get to the rim. The team as a whole can score in bunches, but it's that all-too-necessary defense that seems to get in the way. I think most people know what Drake can do at this point. They're one of the country's best three-point shooting squads, yet their most valuable player - Adam Emmenecker - attempted only two all season (he missed them both). He's a bit of a poor man's Steve Nash, as he makes the engine go while Josh Young and Jonathan Cox light up the scoreboard. WKU can certainly beat Drake if their shots aren't falling, but I think the Bulldogs will be ready to play.
The Pick: Drake
4 Connecticut vs. 13 San Diego (Tampa)
If you're searching hard for that upset special out west this may be the one. The Toreros' Brandon Johnson is a do-it-all guard who handles the ball at all times and possesses a smooth stroke from all over the court. The problem is a lack of consistent help as Freshmen Rob Jones and Trumaine Johnson aren't ready for prime time just yet, a fact that makes their WCC Tourney win that much more impressive. UConn has an enormous defensive presence in supreme shot blocker Hasheem Thabeet alongside Jeff Adrien. A.J. Price has been fantastic running the point. Add to that a continuously improving Stanley Robinson and San Diego looks like a real long shot. But hey, it's a shot.
The Pick: UConn
6 Purdue vs. 11 Baylor (Washington D.C.)
Despite their success this year in the sloth-styled Big Ten, many don't seem to think Purdue is a real threat to make some noise this year. Part of that is the four freshmen they rely heavily on to get the job done. In addition, none of their players jump out at you defensively. They're a polar opposite to their opponent across the board. While certainly not tourney experienced, the Bears (last appeared in 1988) start four juniors including work horse guard Curtis Jerrells. Jerrells can score with the best guards in the country and he's got super frosh LaceDarius Dunn to help out off the bench. Factor in the pair of seven-footers the Bears rotate and the defense starts to look good as well. It's a very balanced squad that goes 10 deep and relies heavily on upperclassmen. Hmm... smells like an upset doesn't it?
The Pick: Baylor
3 Xavier vs. 14 Georgia (Washington D.C.)
As fun as Georgia's run through the SEC tourney was to watch, I'm not sure it'll translate to the big dance with Xavier sitting on the other bench. The Musketeers are loaded and just about everyone can shoot the three and play in your face defense. The big question is the teams engine Drew Lavender, who's been slowed by injury recently. Leading to a pair of losses to St. Joe's over the last week, but all indications point to the semifinal tourney loss being a good thing, as it gave him time to rest. If he's good to go I have little reservation about Xavier reaching the Elite 8. Remember this team gave Ohio State their toughest test of the tournament last season and they're even better this year. Stanley Burrell, the teams best defender, should give Georgia's top player Sundiata Gaines fits all day and with Gaines' tendency to force shots it doesn't look good. All that said I think this could be a tougher game for Xavier than the possible Duke match up, despite Georgia's 4 SEC regular season wins.
The Pick: Xavier
7 West Virginia vs. 10 Arizona (Washington D.C.)
While Arizona's final profile doesn't look overly spectacular they can get the job done on both ends of the floor. In large part due to the defensive emphasis interim coach Kevin O'Neil has brought to the team. Their also tested as they played the nations 2nd toughest schedule. Nearly knocking off UCLA, Memphis and Kansas (in Lawrence) this season. The biggest of their offensive cogs is freshman Jerryd Bayless who may finally get the national recognition he deserves if the 'Cats can advance. He's dropped thirty multiple times this season and looks a lot like Arizona alums Gilbert Arenas and Mike Bibby (more Bibby). With West Virginia it all starts and ends with Joe Alexander. If he gets hot their may not be anyone in the country who can slow down the versatile big man. If he can't get going though it could be a long afternoon for West Virginia as they lack a second option as strong as Arizona's Chase Budinger. All in all it looks like the definition of a pick 'em.
The Pick: Arizona
2 Duke vs. 15 Belmont (Washington D.C.)
Belmont does one thing well and that's shoot, but so Duke and they have a solid frontcourt that Belmont can't compete with. If Belmont to pull the upset they'll need a shoot day for the ages and with Duke's defense I just don't think it happens. But expect Duke to have all kinds of trouble with teams like Xavier and Arizona should they advance as the Blue Devils struggle quite a bit against athletic point guards.
The Pick: Duke
Some West Region Superlatives...
Dark Horse for Final Four: Xavier
Dark Horse for Sweet 16: Arizona
Best First Round Upset: Baylor over Purdue
Best Opening Round Game: Arizona-West Virginia
Best Potential Game: UCLA-Xavier
Round of 32: UCLA over BYU, Drake over UCONN, Xavier over Baylor, Duke over Arizona
Sweet 16: UCLA over Drake, Xavier over Duke
Elite Eight: UCLA over Xavier
Regional Champ: UCLA