NCAA Predictions West

by Ruben Meza

The Indiana Hoosiers, with my Freshman of The Year Cody Zeller and probable National Coach of The Year Tom Crean, boast one of the most efficient offenses in the tournament. However, the Orange and their shutdown zone defense simply have the overall package to hoist the crown and put the Cinderella team to rest with a 66-59 victory in the championship game.

Final Four predictions
Final Four: Indiana, Syracuse, Michigan State, Kansas
Champion: Syracuse

Player to watch
While Michigan State’s Draymond Green will get all of the attention in this bracket, Marquette forward Jae Crowder is the one to keep an eye on. As if being the Player of The Year in the deepest conference in the nation isn’t enough, the Big East star put up the most consistent numbers averaging 17.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. He’s proven himself in big games as he helped the Golden Eagles clinch a second-place finish in the Big East against No. 3 seed Georgetown with 24 points and 14 rebounds. He really can do it all, but Crowder’s physical stature and dominating presence will be the toughest aspect of his game to handle for anyone who plays against him.

Matchup to watch
Murray State and Colorado State have dealt with a ton of questions this year. Murray State: Can the Racers go undefeated? A 68-72 loss to a 20-win Tennessee State team put an end to that. Colorado State: Will its weak 3-9 road record cost the Rams an at-large bid? Luckily, it wasn’t snubbed by the selection committee and earned a solid No. 11 seed. All in all, neither team will mind if the game turns into a shootout, making this a game the typical college basketball fan would love to watch.

Early upset
The Florida Gators are a very streaky team but its probably the only team in this bracket capable of upsetting Missouri. Both teams play a fast, up-tempo style and can score at will. Missouri’s four losses this season come from teams that managed to score 75 or more points on it, and the Gators have averaged 76 a game this season. The only knock on the Gators is their lack of length in the backcourt, but the Tigers’ size in that department is nothing to rave about either. The Gators will knock the Tigers out with a 79-73 win and a trip to the Sweet 16.

Bracket Buster
With one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Long Beach State had nice victories against Xavier and Pittsburgh, while really putting teams such as North Carolina, Kansas, Kansas State, San Diego State and Creighton to the test. Led by head coach Dan Monson, it dominated the Big West conference and earned an automatic bid to take on No. 5 seed New Mexico in the first round. Tony Snell really gets the Lobos going. The lengthy Snell may not be able to find his stroke as easily, considering the Big West Defensive Player of The Year Larry Anderson should be able to return from his knee injury. As the tournament goes along senior guard Casper Ware will stand out.