While every bracket in the NCAA tournament has its strengths, it is tough to find a deeper region than out West.
Gonzaga earned the No. 1 seed after a great season, but Ohio State and New Mexico will also challenge for a trip to the Final Four. In addition, there are plenty of upset opportunities with Belmont, Wichita State and others sitting around with lower seeds.
There is a lot of information to process with this loaded bracket, so here is a complete guide of everything you need to know about the West region.
Opening Round Schedule
Boise State vs. La Salle, 9:10 p.m. ET
Round of 64
Salt Lake City
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Southern
No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Wichita State
No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 14 Harvard
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Belmont
No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss
No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 13 Boise State/La Salle
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Iona
No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Iowa State
Best Matchup in Round of 64
There are a lot of interesting battles right away in the West Region, but the best matchup out of the gate might be Arizona vs. Belmont.
The Wildcats started the year 14-0, but they have faded down the stretch and ended the year with an 11-7 record. Meanwhile, Belmont won the Ohio Valley regular season and conference tournament titles and is one of the best scoring teams in the country at an average of 77.2 points per game.
Arizona will have its hands full with a team that plays with a fast pace, passes well and shoots the lights out.
Four Stars to Watch
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Some will argue about whether or not Gonzaga deserved a No. 1 seed after playing in the West Coast Conference. However, there is no denying the talent on the roster.
The team is led by Kelly Olynyk, a seven-foot junior who helps his team in a lot of ways. He averages 17.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and can score at the rim or by shooting from the outside.
He is a National Player of the Year candidate, and he will lead his team far in the tournament.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
The Big Ten's leading scorer knows how to put points on the board. He has not been held to single digits all season long, and at times is the only player shooting for Ohio State.
Of course, that could end up being a problem when Deshaun Thomas starts forcing shots. The Buckeyes survived the forward making only 12 of his 38 shots in the last two games, including 2-of-17 from three-point range.
Still, there are few teams that will be able to stop the talented big man.
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State
One of the most underrated players in the country has to be Rodney McGruder from Kansas State. The senior has been a leader for the Wildcats all year, and he helped them win a share of the Big 12 regular season title.
McGruder averages 15.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and is always the person to take the ball when his team needs a big basket.
If Kansas State is going to make any sort of run in this region, the guard will have to have some big days.
Lamont Jones, Iona
At 23.0 points per game, Lamont Jones finished the regular season as the nation's third-leading scorer.
The Arizona transfer is only 6'0", but he is one of the quickest players in the country with the ball in his hands and is incredibly difficult to defend.
While the average college basketball fan has likely seen very little of Iona this season, Jones is worth watching.
Favorites on Upset Alert
As previously mentioned, Arizona could be in for a tough game against Belmont, who ranks fourth in the nation with a 49.4 shooting percentage. However, this region could be in for an even bigger upset in the round of 64.
Iona did not have a big season, but the Gaels can give Ohio State some trouble right away. While the Buckeyes have played well lately, they lack a true secondary scorer and struggle when Deshaun Thomas has a poor shooting day.
Meanwhile, Iona is the second-highest scoring team in the nation at an average of 80.1 points per game. The Gaels are better than their record indicates, with the last six losses being by three points or less, and they will be a tough out in this tournament.
Cinderella Story Waiting to Happen
Ole Miss does not have an easy run in this tournament as a No. 12 seed. Still, you have to respect what the team did over the past week.
While most analysts projected the Rebels to be out of the field, the team took it upon itself to earn a bid and it won the SEC tournament. Marshall Henderson has the confidence to make any shot, and Murphy Holloway is incredibly tough to defend inside.
This squad can lose early, but a run to the Sweet 16 would not be surprising either.
Dark-Horse Team Ready to Make a Run
The college basketball community is pretty split when it comes to New Mexico. The talented squad finished the year No. 2 in the RPI, but ranked only No. 15 in the latest AP Poll.
Still, the Lobos won an underrated Mountain West Conference and were solid from beginning to end. In a region without a single elite team, New Mexico has a chance to surprise the world and reach the Final Four.
Teams Who Will Make the Sweet 16
No. 1 Gonzaga
Between Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Pangos and Elias Harris, this is a complete team that can score in a bunch of ways and defend as well as anyone in the nation.
Mark Few's teams have ducked out of the tournament early in the past, but this might be his best squad since coming to Gonzaga.
No. 4 Kansas State
Wisconsin would be a very difficult matchup in the second round as a team that makes things very difficult on opposing offenses.
However, playing in Kansas City will be a huge advantage for the Wildcats, and the home crowd should help put this team over the top.
No. 3 New Mexico
While New Mexico has its faults, it is tough to imagine anyone else in the region providing the Lobos with a legitimate challenge.
Arizona's press causes many teams problems, but this is a veteran and well-coached squad that will be able to handle it with ease.
No. 10 Iowa State
The biggest upset of the region comes from Iowa State, even though the road is not easy. The Cyclones will have to beat Notre Dame and then likely Ohio State in Dayton.
Still, this group has six players that average over nine points per game and are athletic enough to hang with any team in the nation. The Cyclones could have two wins over Kansas and beat everyone else in the Big 12 at least once.
If they can defend Deshaun Thomas and score inside, they can beat Ohio State in the third round.
Dream Matchup We'd Love to See
The older college basketball fans would hate to see Gonzaga and New Mexico match up in the Elite Eight, but this is a perfect example of the new generation of the sport.
As more mid-majors continue to improve, it is apparent that the college basketball world is flat.
If these two advance to this point, it would justify their seeds and it would lead to more high seeds for small schools in the future.
Who Will Earn Final Four Berth?
It is never fun going chalk, especially when the No. 1 seed is heavily debated, but Gonzaga to the Final Four is the best pick for your bracket.
The Bulldogs have already beaten Kansas State easily this year and have proven to be consistent with a 31-2 overall record. With a relatively easy bracket (compared to the Midwest region), Gonzaga has what it takes to advance to Atlanta and compete for a championship.
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