2021 NCAA Tournament West Region Predictions
The West Region in the 2021 NCAA Tournament is Gonzaga’s to lose. The number one overall seed in the tournament may have the path of least resistance to make it to the final four. Especially in their own half of the bracket. The Bulldogs have already beaten the two, three, and four seeds in their region. But here are the matchup for the West Region:
(1) Gonzaga vs (16) Norfolk State/Appalachian State
Gonzaga will play the winner of Thursday’s matchup between Norfolk State and Appalachian State.
Norfolk State is the likely matchup for Gonzaga. The Spartans finished first in the regular season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference before winning the conference tournament.
Appalachian State had to take the long road to get the automatic bid. The Mountaineers won four games in four days to capture the Sun Belt championship. All four of the wins were by seven points or less including two in overtime.
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Gonzaga is the heavy favorite regardless of the matchup. The Bulldogs should run away with this game by 30 points.
(8) Oklahoma vs (9) Missouri
The Oklahoma Sooners took a major loss without playing a game. Guard De’Vion Harmon, Oklahoma’s second-leading scorer, tested positive for Covid and will miss at least the first two games of the tournament.
The Sooners already were already faltering down the stretch, losing five of their last six games to end the season. But early wins against West Virginia, Kansas, Alabama, and Texas helped build a solid resume.
Missouri is also in a tough stretch losing six of their final nine games. But the Tigers also have some very impressive wins against Illinois, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee.
This is a very even matchup that had me leaning towards the Sooners. But replacing Harmon’s 13 points per game will be tough. Give me Missouri by four.
(5) Creighton vs (12) UC Santa Barbara
Creighton has been a trendy mid-major pick all year with a win against Villanova and a one-point loss to Kansas. But they are coming off a 25 point loss to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament. That will leave a bad taste in your mouth if you’re the Blue Jays. Georgetown also beat Creighton in February so maybe that was just a bad matchup for Creighton.
The University of California at Santa Barbara have won 18 of their last 19 games. But the Gauchos haven’t played anyone of significance this season.
This year’s bracket is full of vulnerable five seeds, but I’ll hesitantly take Creighton as the lone five seed to advance to the second round.
In an unprecedented season, Virginia is in an unprecedented situation prior to starting the tournament. The Cavaliers had to leave the ACC tournament due to a positive Covid test within the program. Now, most of the team has been under quarantine this week and haven’t been able to practice.
On the court, Virginia had a nice season but got blown out against the better competition. A 23 point loss to Gonzaga and a 21 point loss to Florida State stand out. Their best quality wins were over Clemson, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech.
Ohio is led by junior guard Jason Preston who averages 16 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game. He also has a backstory that will make you root for the Bobcats this tournament. Ohio’s most notable result was a two-point loss early in the season to Illinois.
Virginia plays at a snail’s pace and at times that can frustrate the opponent but it can also keep the opponent in the game the later it gets. Without any practice in what has to be a weird week for Virginia, Ohio can pull off this upset. Ohio advances with a three-point win.
(6) USC vs (11) Wichita State/Drake
USC doesn’t have a resume that jumps out at you. They have a 26 point blowout win over BYU and a couple of wins over UCLA this season. Forward Even Mobley averages 17 points and eight rebounds and is the go-to player for the Trojans.
Wichita State had to sweat out selection Sunday after losing by one to Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference tournament. With close losses to Oklahoma State and Houston, the Shockers should be the favorite to play USC.
Drake also had to wait nervously Sunday after they lost the Missouri Valley Conference final to Loyola Chicago. The Bulldogs haven’t had many tests on their schedule other than the 1-2 record against Loyola Chicago.
Sometimes the bubble teams are the most dangerous especially when they get to play in the first four and get a win. I don’t have a good pulse on this matchup so I’ll play it safe and take USC to get through.
(3) Kansas vs (14) Eastern Washington
The Jayhawks have had a very up and down year including being removed from the Big 12 tournament due to a positive Covid test. Forward David McCormack should be ready for the opener but forward Jalen Wilson will miss the opener and possibly the second-round matchup as well.
Eastern Washington had a strong showing in the Big Sky Conference this year to clinch their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015. The best team Eastern Washington played this year was Oregon resulting in a 17 point loss for the Eagles.
Wilson is the third leading scorer for Kansas but the Jayhawks should still be able to take care of business and move on.
Oregon had won 11 of 12 games before falling to Oregon State last week. The Ducks’ most impressive wins are against Colorado and UCLA. They have two players, Eugene Omoruyi and Chris Duarte, who average 17 points per game.
VCU doesn’t quite have the resume to give anyone confidence they can pull off the upset here. The Rams have one win against a tournament team and that is conference rival, St. Bonaventure. Guard Nah’Shon Hyland averages close to 20 points per game but there is a significant drop off after that.
Oregon has more quality wins and quality opponents in general. That alone should benefit them in this game and give them the edge to advance to the second round.
(2) Iowa vs (15) Grand Canyon
Iowa is a huge favorite in this game thanks to big man Luka Garza. Garza is averaging 24 points per game for the Hawkeyes and should be able to dominate this matchup.
Grand Canyon is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The Antelopes had a respectable 10 point loss to Colorado earlier this season but their first tourney appearance will be short-lived.
Garza alone will be too much to handle for the Antelopes and Iowa should cruise to victory.
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Round of 32
(1) Gonzaga vs (9) Missouri
Gonzaga comes into the NCAA Tournament undefeated with no stop in sight. Their resume stacks up with anyone with wins against Kansas, Iowa, West Virginia, and Virginia. Forwards Corey Kispert and Drew Timme each average 19 points per game and can help stretch the floor for the Bulldogs.
Missouri has some nice wins this year but that feels like an eternity ago. Lately, they haven’t been playing well. Guards Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson each average 14 points per game and will be tasked with keeping up with the Gonzaga offense.
The teams have one common opponent in Auburn. Missouri lost by six. Gonzaga won by 23. That’s all you need to know right there. Gonzaga wins comfortably.
(5) Creighton vs (13) Ohio
Creighton is hard to figure out but one that is certain is they can shoot the long ball. The Blue Jays shoot almost 37% from beyond the arc. Creighton needs to make a run in one of these tournaments as they haven’t made it to the sweet sixteen since 2014.
Ohio probably has the impactful player on the court in Jason Preston but the Bobcats are more than that. Forwards Dwight Wilson III and Ben Vander Plas average 15 and 13 points respectively. Five Bobcats in total average over 10 points per game.
The blowout loss to Georgetown is stuck in the back of my mind and won’t go away. If Ohio comes ready to win they most definitely will come out on top. Plus Ohio has the feel-good story and it feels like the Bobcats will find their way to the sweet sixteen.
(3) Kansas vs (6) USC
Kansas is probably the biggest threat to Gonzaga in the region. They have quality wins Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. The only concern is if forward Jalen Wilson, who averages 12 points and eight rebounds, will be able to play after testing positive for Covid.
USC doesn’t have the same quality wins that Kansas has. They also didn’t play the same quality schedule that the Big 12 has to offer.
If Wilson doesn’t play the matchup becomes much more even but Kansas has found a way to beat teams of this caliber all season. Give me Kansas by seven.
(2) Iowa vs (7) Oregon
On the surface, it is tempting to go with the upset in this matchup. Although Iowa is a solid team, they aren’t necessarily a team that I would be scared to play. Oregon wasn’t very consistent against middle-of-the-road teams and Iowa is more than that. Iowa struggled to beat the elite teams but was able to handle the teams in the next tier. I expect Iowa can handle this one and move on to the sweet sixteen.
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(1) Gonzaga vs (13) Ohio
The Ohio Bobcats could become the Cinderella of the tournament after the first weekend. But week two is a different story when you are matched up against the best team in the country. Gonzaga is averaging over 90 points per game. Ohio is a nice story but that story ends here as Gonzaga won’t need all 90 points to advance to the elite eight.
(2) Iowa vs (3) Kansas
Iowa’s Luka Garza can dominate in the post but is a liability defensively. However, he doesn’t quite have the lateral quickness to defend the pick and roll and Kansas has the athleticism to take advantage of that. Also by the second weekend, Kansas should have their full roster back assuming there are no more positive cases from their team.
As I said before, Kansas is the biggest threat to Gonzaga in this region. Although both teams have similar resumes in regards to records against the top teams, I think Kansas has a slight edge and will win a close game.
(1) Gonzaga vs (3) Kansas
A rematch of the first game of the season for both teams back in November. Gonzaga won the game 102-90. I wouldn’t expect that much scoring in this game with the nerves of going to the final four in the back of the player’s minds. Gonzaga is 26-0 going into the tournament and has won all but one of those games by double digits. West Virginia had the closest result, losing by five.
I would expect the first three games for Gonzaga to be comfortable double-digit wins and this one to be a win as well. Kansas also has losses to Tennessee and Texas twice. They did split with Oklahoma State and West Virginia but those struggles against top-notch talent don’t bode well for this rematch.
Gonzaga will beat Kansas, beat Alabama in the final four, and beat Illinois in the national championship game to capture their first NCAA basketball title in school history with a perfect record of 32-0. They will become the first team to go undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers who also went 32-0.
How do you see the west region playing out in the NCAA Tournament? Leave a comment below.
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