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March Madness Recap Ahead of the Final Four- West Region

West Region

Round of 64

1 Kansas 96

16 Howard 68

Kansas did what they were supposed to do here. They won against the low seed, and showed why they were worthy of a top slot in the first place. The defending champions and their coach, Bill Self have their eyes on back-to-back championships, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the Florida Gators did it in 2006 and 2007. Jayhawks guard Gradey Dick put up a double-double in the game with 19 points and 11 assists and Kansas will need their guys to step up like that in a tough matchup with Arkansas in the round of 32.

8 Arkansas 73

9 Illinois 63

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman is getting a reputation in March. This is the guy that takes his shirt off when he celebrates win, gets the most out of his players and usually makes the Sweet 16 in March. Illinois was touted as a sleeper pick to make it out of the West, but so was Arkansas, so this first round matchup was heavily hyped prior to tip off. In the end, Arkansas was dominant on the glass, out boarding the Illini 43 to 34 and 11 to 3 on the offensive end. Those second chance opportunities created a gap that couldn’t be overcome, and the Razorbacks are moving on to Kansas. Ricky Council IV was the player of the game for Arkansas, scoring 18 points and snatching 10 rebounds in the win.

5 Saint Mary’s

63 12 VCU 51

There is always talk of the dreaded 5 vs 12 seed matchups in the tournament. It is common practice for anyone filling out a bracket to have at least one of the 4 matchups as an upset, because history tells us that there is always at least one. Not this one however. Saint Mary’s was just flat out better throughout 40 minutes. The Gaels relied on the combined efforts of guard Alex Ducas and center Mitchell Saxen, who both scored 17 points in the victory. The three ball was not falling for Saint Mary’s in this one, going only 3 for 17 on the day, it wasn’t an issue here, but it is something they will need to improve on as they move along in the tournament. Especially against a powerhouse like UCONN.

4 UCONN 87

13 Iona 63

Rick Pitino and the Gaels showed a ton of fight throughout this game, and were actually leading at halftime. It is a testament to the type of team that Pitino likes to put out on the floor, they seem to always get the most out of limited talent. That limit did catch up to them in the end, leading to a fairly decisive UCONN victory. There was no shame in the way the Gaels performed and we now know that this was Rick Pitino’s last game with the program. Pitino will move on the St John’s of the Big East Conference, so he will see UCONN again. The Huskies on the other hand are firing on all cylinders. Adama Sanogo showed why he is considered one of the best players in the country, after a 28-point, 13 rebound performance. Look out, UCONN may be back.

6 TCU 72

11 Arizona St 70

Texas Christian seems to be a hotbed for athletics these days. After the men’s football team made the National Championship game, the men’s basketball team, who are usually the superior sport, had some expectations to live up to. They pulled it off in this one, but it was damn close. Arizona State guard Frankie Horne hit a clutch 3 with under 30 seconds left in the game, after the Sun Devils had been down for the majority of the second half. It was looking like we would need overtime to decide it, but with 1.5 seconds left JaKobe Coles floated a teardrop through the basket, to seal it for the Horned Frogs. TCU will take on Gonzaga in the next round.

3 Gonzaga 82

14 Grand Canyon 70

Drew Timme is back. It seems like this guy has unlimited eligibility, as the mustached assassin walks into the tournament every march and has his way with opposing defences. Although Timme is the straw that stirs the drink for the Zags, his 21 points were bested by his teammate Julian Strawther’s 28. Grand Canyon entered the game as a known 3 and D squad, but were bested from behind the arc hitting only 37 percent to the Bulldog’s 46 percent. Sometimes round one games are just mismatches, this was one of them.

7 Northwestern 75

10 Boise St 67

Northwestern is a school that didn’t have high expectations heading into the Big 10 conference schedule. Against all odds the Wildcats put up a 22-11 record, earning them a 7 seed. March is all about good stories, and this underdog story would have another chapter after the win. Northwestern guard, Boo Buie, may have the best name in the entire tournament, and he also had the best performance in this game. His 22 points have propelled his team into a matchup with Mick Cronin and the UCLA Bruins.

2 UCLA 86

15 UNC Asheville 53 Mick Cronin is used to being the underdog. He brought his Bruins to the Final Four just two years ago as a low seed, but this year he is a two, so how will they gain that chip on their shoulder to make a run? Well, losing Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark to an Achilles injury might help. In this one, the team from California did their job and ousted the lowly UNC Asheville squad, besting the Bulldogs in nearly every single statistical category. We will see if Northwestern has the offensive firepower to make UCLA miss their defensive stalwart, or if Cronin can keep his team rolling to the Sweet 16.

Round of 32

1 Kansas 71

8 Arkansas 72

Down goes another 1 seed. The defending champions are out, and Eric Musselman’s shirt is off. The Razorback’s coach has now reached his second straight Sweet 16, and his reputation for tournament success is only growing. His top guard Davonte Davis left his mark on this game in the form of a 25-point eight rebound effort. I feel like I’m becoming a broken record when I say, second chance opportunities win tournament games. Arkansas dominated the offensive glass with 15 boards to the Jayhawks seven. Kansas fans can take solace in the championship they won last year, but there will be a new king this year.

5 Saint Mary’s 55

4 UCONN 70

UConn just keeps rolling. Dan Hurley and his boys from Connecticut are looking like the most dominant force in the tournament. Adama Sanogo continued his strong tournament play with a 24-point eight rebound game and the Huskies shot the lights out from beyond the arc, draining 45 percent of their attempts. The Huskies are beginning to feel inevitable, like the days where the legend Jim Calhoun was coaching them to 3 National Championships. Dan Hurley has big shoes to fill but he’s done a fantastic job so far.

6 TCU 81

3 Gonzaga 84

Gonzaga as a three seed is looking dangerous. The team that has been used to topping the bracket may be coming in with less hype than usual, but it doesn’t make them any less lethal. Drew Timme was once again the story of the matchup, as he is borderline uncontainable in the paint. His 28-point performance was instrumental in keeping this game close, but the final score makes it look closer than it really was. Gonzaga will head to the Sweet 16 for a huge game against UCLA, a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight classic.

7 Northwestern 63

2 UCLA 68

Northwestern could have very well won this game. They were in it throughout, and actually out rebounded the big bad Bruins. However, UCLA made their shots and Northwestern couldn’t keep up. Mick Cronin’s boys shot 40 percent from three-point range, and 50 percent from the field to create a mountain that was just too hard to climb for the underdog Wildcats. Jaime Jaquez Jr was the star of the game, posting 24 points and eight rebounds. Next up is the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Sweet 16. If they ever needed their defensive big man Jaylen Carter, it would be now, with Drew Timme blocking their path to the Elite Eight.

Sweet 16

8 Arkansas 65

4 UCONN 88

So, this is where the run ends. Two energetic, high tempo teams that emulate their coaches on the sideline, but only one could be victorious here. I said it earlier, but UConn is looking unstoppable. Adama Sanogo is an absolute force of nature, and he is willing his team towards a National Championship. But guard Jordan Hawkins made sure the fans knew that this is not a one-horse team, his 24 points highlighted another fantastic shooting performance from the Huskies. With all of the one seeds eliminated, UCONNN is looking like the favourite to cut down the nets on April 3rd.

3 Gonzaga 79

2 UCLA 76

Can Gonzaga and UCLA play in the tournament every year? Another instant classic between Mick Cronin and Mark Few, which saw the Bulldogs inch their way past the Bruins to the Elite Eight. We mentioned earlier that UCLA would desperately miss Jaylen Carter in this one, and boy was that an understatement. Drew Timme had his way with this defence, doing pretty much whatever he wanted in the paint on the way to a 36-point 13 rebound stat line. This one might be the cap on a fantastic career for Timme, despite missing two free throws with 25 seconds left, allowing UCLA to take the lead 76-75 on a clutch three by Amari Bailey. Gonzaga then said, anything you can do, we can do better and Julian Strawther nailed a long-range dagger from the logo, sealing the win for the Bulldogs. This sets up a battle of the old and new, one dominant force in Gonzaga against the old dynasty in UCONN. Here. We. Go.

Elite 8

4 UCONN 82

3 Gonzaga 54

Maybe I over hyped it, because UCONN did what they’ve been doing all tournament, and ran their opponents out of the gym. Gonzaga just couldn’t keep up with the shooting prowess of the Huskies, and they definitely tried to, putting up 20 threes in the game but only converting two of them. Huskies guard Jordan Hawkins had another stellar game, with 20 points on the night. Adama Sanogo was able to take it easy and rest up for the Final Four, as this one was in the bag relatively early. If there was any doubt as to who is the big dog in this year’s tournament, we now know it is a Husky. UCONN move on to the Final Four for the first time since they won it all in 2014. We may have a bit of a styles clash as well, as they go up against the sharpshooting Miami Hurricanes on April 1st at 8:49 PM EST. To any gamblers out there, I would say take the over and enjoy the ride.

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