The West Region could have looked far different in the Sweet 16. For example, only two of the Top 4 seeds advanced passed the first weekend. The No. 1 Xavier Musketeers lost in the second round to the Florida State Seminoles. However, the Musketeers had a double digit lead late in the game. They gave up the lead and became the second top seed to fall in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 2 seed North Carolina Tar Heels also lost in the second round. The defending champions were no match for the Texas A&M Aggies.
The region also had some buzzer beaters. The Michigan Wolverines went from a pool of tears to a Jordan Poole party when he hit a 35-footer at the buzzer to knock off Houston. Remember, the Houston Cougars defeated the San Diego State Aztecs with 1.1 seconds left in a first-round game. The Aztecs had a 3-pointer miss at the buzzer. Well, the Wolverines hit their shot to stun the Cougars and keep their Final Four hopes alive.
However, West Region failed to bring two Big Ten teams into the Sweet 16. The Gonzaga Bulldogs held off a comeback by the Ohio State Buckeyes. Meaning, last season’s runner-up is still alive after a pair of close victories in the first weekend.
Overall, the seeds add up to 23. By the numbers, this is the second worst in terms of Sweet 16 seeding upsets. By the play on the court, this could be the toughest region if the Aggies continue to play at their sustained level.
Host City- Los Angeles, CA
9 Florida State Seminoles (22-11) ACC
How They Got Here: Win vs. Missouri 67-54, Xavier 75-70
So, after weeks of speculation of whether the Florida State Seminoles will get in the NCAA Tournament or not, they have made the Sweet 16. They have two upsets over higher seeds, although one was in the 8-9 game. The Seminoles were thorough in their big win over the Missouri Tigers. They took a 22-point lead into halftime and won by 13. However, their win over the No. 1 seed Xavier Musketeers would have been a comeback for the ages if not for other NCAA Tournament teams this year. The Seminoles had five players score in double figures. Three of those players came off the bench, including Terance Mann with 10 points, on 4 of 5 shooting. Mann is coming off of a groin injury and he was questionable to play in the Round of 32. However, he should be back in the starting lineup this week.
X-factor- P.J. Savoy: Overall, the Seminoles have three players average double figure points. However, they have nine players scoring at least 6.6 points per game. Therefore, you never know which player will help lead the Seminoles to a victory. That might be P.J. Savoy’s job on Thursday. Yet, it won’t necessarily come down to Savoy scoring. He has to play a great game if the Seminoles expect to win. For example, Savoy was leading a 3-on-1 break in the first half of the Xavier game. He ended up missing a bad shot instead of finding the open man. Still, Savoy has reached double figure points in the last three games. Will it be a fourth?
4 Gonzaga Bulldogs (32-4) WCC
How They Got Here: Wins vs. UNC-Greensboro 68-64, Ohio State 90-84
The Gonzaga Bulldogs don’t hit lucky shots. They hit shots because they are prepared to take and make tough shots. And that’s exactly what they did in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. When the No. 4 seed should have been nervous in the first round, a freshman hit the go ahead 3-pointer. They turned a three point deficit into a four point win. Even after blowing a double digit second half lead, the Bulldogs made big shots down the stretch to advance to the Sweet 16. Once again, the freshman Zach Norvell Jr. came up big with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists. However, the Bulldogs are not a one-man team in the least. They have five players scoring in double figures. They have seven players scoring between 6.8 points and 13.6 points per game.
X-factor- Killian Tillie: Now, they will be waiting for their second leader scorer to show up in the second weekend. Killian Tillie was on fire during the WCC Tournament. He averaged 24 points in those three games. However, Tillie has accounted for nine points in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. He’s 3-of-12 from the field and 0 of 4 from 3-point range in two games. Well, the Seminoles are going to pay more attention to Norvell and Rui Hachimura. Meaning, Tillie might find more openings to shoot from long range.
3 Michigan Wolverines (30-7) Big Ten
How They Got Here: Wins vs. Montana 61-47, Houston 64-63
Did the Michigan Wolverines get a favorable whistle in the second half of the Round of 32? Yes. Remember, they were down five when they got a 5-point play. Were the Wolverines fortunate that Houston missed three foul shots? Yes. If the Cougars didn’t miss three foul shots down the stretch, the Wolverines wouldn’t have had a chance for a game-winning attempt. Were the Wolverines prepared to take advantage of their chance? Yep. Now, Jordan Poole is a hero just for sending the Wolverines into the Sweet 16. He played 11 minutes and scored 8 points. There’s no guarantee that Poole would have been in the game if Duncan Robinson didn’t foul out. However, he took advantage of that opportunity to send the Cougars packing.
X-factor- Charles Matthews: The Wolverines have three players scoring in double figures. Charles Matthews is second on the team with 12.8 points per game. With the Wolverines starting four guards, Matthews will probably have to spend time guarding Robert Williams. This might be the matchup to watch all game long. Texas A&M has a lot of size, so there will be mismatches on each side of the court. Michigan could go big with Jon Teske and put Matthews or Robinson at small forward if the defensive matchup is too much.
7 Texas A&M Aggies (22-12) SEC
How They Got Here: Wins vs. Texas A&M 73-69, North Carolina 86-65
Clearly, the Texas A&M Aggies were the most impressive team in the region. After an 0 for 10 start in the Round of 64, the Aggies have been a dominant team in the NCAA Tournament. They defeated the Providence Friars by four points, but the score was not as close down the stretch. Then, they obliterated the North Carolina Tar Heels by 21 points. Moreover, this is the team that Aggies were before SEC play started. The Aggies have five players scoring in double figures. Tyler Davis leads the way with 14.6 points and 9 rebounds per game. Robert Williams is producing 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
X-factor- D.J. Hogg: D.J. Hogg is a dude for the Aggies. He is third on the team in scoring, third on the team in rebounding and second on the team in assists. He’s also second on the Aggies at 38 percent from 3-point range behind guard Admon Gilder. More importantly, Hogg gives the Aggies traditional NBA size and he makes the team a walking mismatch on the perimeter. He’s able to guard the best wing player. Moreover, Hogg can move over to the power forward position against teams like Michigan if their perimeter lineup is too much for the Aggies.
Thursday 7:37 p.m.
7 Texas A&M vs. 3 Michigan
9 Florida State vs. 4 Gonzaga