With four major college basketball conferences—Mountain West, Pacific-12, Western Athletic and West Coast all possibly placing multiple teams in the 2018 NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, also known as ‘March Madness’, the region will be represented by a variety of playing styles.
Several teams will have a chance to make a ‘run’ in March, as a ‘run’ is defined by achieving the two or three wins needed to advance to the second weekend, also known as the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ round.
College basketball’s ‘one-and-done’ rule has lured the most talented players to leave to the professional ranks after one season, allowing for an equal distribution of talent as bigger schools trot out younger, more talented players while smaller schools produce older teams with more experience and chemistry.
This has led to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament becoming the most unpredictable major sporting event in the United States.
In this year’s tournament expect more memorable runs by West Coast teams, perhaps a UC Santa Barbara as a Cinderella team or maybe the University of Southern California Trojans will finally live up to preseason expectations and make the Sweet 16.
Last year’s national champion runner-up, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the uber-talented Arizona Wildcats are the region’s most-known teams and regional favorites to win the national championship. However, there are nearly a dozen other West Coast teams poised to make noise in the tournament with the right matchups.
You already know the favorites, so here’s a YurView West Coast preview of contenders and dark horses:
THE CONTENDING CALIFORNIA CREW
After two wins in the 2017 tournament, including an opening round play-in game victory, USC will not have to deal with that headache this year after a blistering 8-2 start in the Pacific 12 Conference.
If they win two tournament games this year, that means they will have advanced to the Sweet 16… so superstar sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright will need to recover from midseason injury to take up the scoring slack for a Trojan run.
St. Mary’s Gaels
2018 could be the year St. Mary’s finally makes its magical run to the Final Four, with another experienced team and scoring led by big man senior Jock Landale who averages over 20 points per game.
The Gaels could get a seed as high as third or fourth if they can beat Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament in March in Las Vegas. With many teams lacking a quality big man, St. Mary’s could cruise to the Sweet Sixteen with matchups against smaller-sized teams.
DARK HORSES IN DEVELOPMENT
UC Santa Barbara
Expect UC Santa Barbara to have a very winnable game in the first-round of the tournament as they may get as high as a 12-seed if they win the Big West conference tournament, something they were not able to do last year. However, if rivals UC Davis or UC Irvine pull the upset before or in the conference tournament championship game, a 16-seed and play-in game is almost guaranteed for the other schools.
Nevada Wolf Pack
After a 9-1 start in the Mountain West Conference, and a strong possibility to repeat as the conference tournament champion in 2018, nobody would be shocked if the Wolf Pack made the second weekend in March. The team boasts a balanced offense, led by twin transfer forwards Caleb and Cody Martin from the Wolfpack of North Carolina State.
With former longtime NBA head coach Eric Musselman at the helm, the Wolf Pack definitely enjoy a strategic coaching advantage over most teams, especially with in-game adjustments. Trust us, this is one pack of wolves that every team in the tournament wants to leave alone.
The up-and-down Bruins have been one of the country’s biggest sports stories, unfortunately for all the wrong off-court reasons.
With December’s drama behind them, the Bruins have settled down and played a solid stretch of basketball while demonstrating the ability to play with any team in the Pacific-12 Conference. To get into the NCAA tournament, all the Bruins will need to do is win one or two games at the conference tournament.
In the Big Dance, the Bruins’ best bet may be drawing a Big Ten team in the opening rounds so head coach Steve Alford can draw upon his prior coaching experience at Iowa to make up for his team’s shortcomings.
If you believe a successful, experienced one-on-one point guard and small forward play can charge a team’s run in the tournament, then you have to like Stanford’s changes led by athletic and versatile redshirt junior forward Reid Travis. Stanford bounced back from an embarrassing loss on national television to North Carolina to becoming one of the most efficient teams in the country. Travis’ ability to carry the Cardinal team will be tested early as Stanford seems destined to be slotted in the always close 8 vs. 9 seed game.