2014 NCAA Tournament: West Region Preview

Can Aaron Gordon lead the Wildcats to a Final 4?

Can Aaron Gordon lead the Wildcats to a Final 4?

The West Region may not have the best overall teams, but it has the most talent in terms of potential NBA prospects. With three lottery picks, two more first rounders, and an additional 12 potential draftable prospects there is a quality of depth in this region.

Last years NCAA Champions came from this region, the Louisville Cardinals, and their are a few candidates in here to cut down the nets. This year it is arguably the most athletic region overall.

There is a lot of opportunity here for prospects to move up the boards, fall down, and get noticed by NBA Decision-Makers if they are not on the radar as of right now. One of the deepest positions in this years draft is on the wing and at the combo forward position, which is the highlight of this region.

Midwest RegionEast RegionSouth Region — West Region

Top Rated Prospects (REGIONAL TALENT RATING 1/4)

Potential Lottery: Aaron Gordon (No.6), Marcus Smart (No.12) and Sam Dekker (No. 14)

First Round Talents: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (No.17) and Doug McDermott (No.26)

Best of the Rest: Kaleb Tarczewski (No. 41), Isaiah Austin (No.43), Cory Jefferson (No.45), Elfrid Payton (No.46), Nick Johnson (No.51), Brandon Ashley (No.57), Le’Bryan Nash (No.60), Winston Shepard (No. 62), Xavier Thames (No.66), Buddy Hield (No.67), Przemek Karnowski (No.69) and Daymean Dotson (No.70)

Other Prospects To Watch: Ryan Spangler (Oklahoma), Brady Heslip (Baylor), Ricardo Gathers (Baylor) and Shawn Long (Louisiana-Lafayette)

Small School Prospects

Davion Berry (Weber State), Sam Dower (Gonzaga), Taylor Braun (North Dakota State), Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State), Tyler Haws (BYU), and Tony Wroblicky (American)

Game To Watch

No. 3 Creighton Blue Jays vs. No. 14 Seed Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

This season the Ragin’ Cajuns played Arkansas, Baylor, and Louisville in the non-conference, losing all three games, but those games got them in a position to beat a quality Houston team and win their conference. They are not a push-over 14-Seed despite the lopsided history of the series. Historically, there have been 17 upsets with the most recent last year when Harvard knocked off New Mexico and in 2010 when Ohio bested Georgetown. With Elfrid Payton running the offense and Shawn Long commanding the paint on both ends of the floor this is a formidable Louisiana-Lafayette team. Payton and Creighton’s Doug McDermott have Team USA ties and will be the key in this first round match-up.

Not calling this as an upset as I have Creighton in the Elite 8 in this bracket, but this should be an entertaining basketball game.

Potential Match-Ups

No. 1 Seed Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 9 Seed Oklahoma State Cowboys (Gordon vs. Smart)

No. 2 Seed Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 3 Seed Creighton Blue Jays (Dekker vs. McDermott)

No. 2 Seed Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 6 Seed Baylor Bears (Dekker vs. Austin/Jefferson)

Most To Gain

Right now NDI has Doug McDermott listed as the No. Overall Prospect, but his ability to score the ball and the soft middle of the 2014 NBA Draft leaves the door open for him to move into the lottery. His ability to shoot the ball, score in the mid-range, and rebound the ball as a combo forward are both valuable traits for a limited athlete like McDermott is. Creighton is in a position to make a run to the Elite 8 or Final 4 behind the scoring ability of McDermott inside and out.

Most To Lose

This season has been the deconstruction of Marcus Smart after he was the name and face of basketball maturity just a season ago. After coming back for a sophomore year that could have been his rookie year in the NBA after being a Top 5 Pick last summer. With a quick exit in the NCAA Tournament Smart could continue his slide on NBA Boards as he is currently projected anywhere from 5-15 at this point after maturity questions, a suspension, and a down year production wise compared to last. As a point guard Smart is tasked with leading his team and losses weigh heavily on leaders of this magnitude. Smart and the Cowboys are talented enough to make a run at the Final Four, but could also see an early exit to either Gonzaga or Arizona if things deteriorate on the court for the Cowboys as they have at times this season.

Elite Eight Representatives

No. 1 Arizona Wildcats over No. 3 Creighton Blue Jays