West Regional Preview: Arizona remains the favorite
Top seeds are through in the West, but Arizona remains the team to beat.
With less than a minute to play in the first half Sunday, Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski stepped to the free throw line. He airballed his shot. That is a pretty fair representation of the West Region, which produced a bunch of blowouts in the Round of 32. The four teams here clearly deserve their trips to Anaheim.
Still, as much as it seems that the Wildcats will walk into the Final Four, it must be emphasized that the tournament is anything but predictable. Baylor and San Diego State are not to be taken lightly.
Three thoughts from the weekend
1. What happened to Creighton?
The Bluejays seemed the part, but Dougie Buckets had an off night and Baylor took advantage. Once a trendy pick to make the Final Four, Creighton looked every bit like a team overly reliant on its star -- Doug McDermott.
2. Arizona has had it easy
Look, making the Sweet 16 is not easy. In fact, it's an accomplishment. Still, the Wildcats have walked into the tournament's second weekend. Arizona has struggled at times, but, overall, Sean Miller's team has made it look easy.
3. Don't sleep on Wisconsin
It seems ridiculous, but it can't be overstated: Wisconsin, the No. 2 seed, is good. The Badgers looked dead to rights Saturday against Oregon, but they proved their mettle. Don't be surprised if Bo Ryan's team sneaks into the Final Four.
Three players to watch
1. Nick Johnson (Arizona): As Johnson goes, so go the Wildcats. The Naismith Award finalist has 35 points in the tournament thus far, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range, and has helped fuel a defensive effort that forced Gonzaga into 21 turnovers Sunday night. San Diego State will have its hands full with Johnson.
2. Xavier Thames (San Diego State): Thames has been one of the best players in this tournament, scoring 53 points in a pair of Aztec wins. Thames, the Mountain West Player of the Year, is playing like a senior who isn't ready for his career to end.
3. Cory Jefferson (Baylor): Jefferson has been the biggest part of a Baylor nucleus that has gone 12-2 in its past 14 games, and absolutely blew the doors off Creighton on Sunday night. The senior has 30 points and 10 boards in this tournament.
Three bold predictions for the West Region
1. Baylor will beat Wisconsin
Frankly, there's little basis for this prediction. However, the Badgers have laid an egg before, and Baylor is certainly capable of pulling the upset.
2. Aaron Gordon will make a name for himself
Gordon, a freshman, has been just what Arizona needed all year, but nothing more. If the Wildcats are going to reach the Final Four, they'll need Gordon to show out. He will.
3. The champion of the West Region will be ... Arizona
It feels lazy, but think about it, there's no better team here than Arizona. Wisconsin can certainly put up a fight, but if things fall as they should, it's the Wildcats in the Final Four.
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