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NCAA Tournament Breakdowns - West, Part 1

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 19, 2013


Quick analysis of every team in the NCAA tournament so you'll know what you're doing.

2013 NCAA Basketball Tourney

West - Top Half


By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament Team Breakdowns
Play-In Games | South - Top Half | South - Bottom Half 
East - Top Half | East - Bottom Half
Midwest - Top Half | Midwest - Bottom Half
West - Top Half | West - Bottom Half

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know, we're CollegeFOOTBALLNews.com, but like the rest of the world, we take a wee bit of a break for the first round of the NCAA college basketball tournament. Before you fill out your bracket - DON'T GUESS - check out the quick breakdown of each team with what you need to know to make an informed decision.

1. Gonzaga (31-2)
Here’s The Deal: The Zags were the No. 1 ranked team at the end of the year after breezing through the West Coast Conference with both regular season and tournament titles. Not only does the team know how to win, but it has a bona-fide Player of the Year candidate in Kelly Olynyk, who hits half his shots and averages double digits in rebounds. Teams have to pick their poison when trying to guard an offense that plays different styles and paces with the firepower inside and out. The offense will look to get up and down the court once it steps off the bus, but can stifle teams on defense too. Now comes the big question; is this team really that good, or really good because of the soft schedule? It could be a little of both, but the pressure is on.
Player You Need To Care About: Olynyk. At 7-0, the senior center has the size to go along with the ability to run the court and step out to shoot the rock from long range – he’s a matchup nightmare. With a great work ethic, soft hands and great footwork, he averages over 17 points a game and seven rebounds per contest, but he needs to do more for the team to live up to a No. 1 seed.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? Everyone will be waiting for the I-Told-You-So moment, and if it doesn’t come against Pitt, it’ll come against Wisconsin.

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16. Southern University (23-9)
Here’s The Deal: Welcome to the party, Southern. The Jaguars finished just a game behind a Texas Southern ineligible for the conference tournament, giving Southern the break it needed. They took advantage and had their ticket punched to the dance via a SWAC conference tournament title, and they have a decent enough team to be more than doormat. They’re are adept at holding opponents shooting percentage and points down with a great defense on the perimeter while not giving away too many extra possessions.
Player You Need To Care About: Senior guard Malcolm Miller pours in over 16 points a game, leads the team in rebounding, makes more than half his shots from the field, and at 6-6, can get into the lane or nail deep threes. He’s not the only scoring option for Southern, he’s just the most dangerous one.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? Gonzaga will come out roaring as it looks to make a statement. Southern will get blown away early.

8. Pittsburgh (24-8)
Here’s The Deal: This is as blue-collar a program as they come, and it’s been that way from former head coach Ben Howland through current head man, Jamie Dixon. The Panthers have made a living out of playing tough, physical half-court defense, and this year is no exception contesting every shot, fighting for every rebound and battling for every loose ball. On offense, almost everything is within the three-point arc with an emphasis put on getting close shots for high-percentage looks or opportunities at the free throw-line.
Player You Need To Care About: Pitt uses a true team-by-committee approach to scoring with only one player averaging in double-figures, senior point guard Tray Woodall. The 6-0 senior from Brooklyn leads the team in steals, points, assists and minutes. While he brings the ball up the court and will defer to others as needed, he’s the team’s most dangerous outside threat and catalyst that will get the team into its grinding half-court sets. Take him off his game, and you declaw the Panthers.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? It’s going to be an ugly, ugly battle with a gritty Wichita State team, but the Panthers will find their way into the next round before getting outclassed by Gonzaga.

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9. Wichita State (26-8)
Here’s The Deal: If it weren’t for Creighton, everyone would be anointing Wichita State as the dangerous team from the Missouri Valley Conference. At home, the Shockers beat the Bluejays, and also took down a very good Iowa team on the beaches of Cancun early in the year. They hold opponents to just over 60 points a game, helped by being one of the top rebounding teams. This is a solid ball-club, and if it can limit the fouling that’s been a problem all year, stick some shots, and not blow it late at the free-throw line, a slipper could be in the future.
Player You Need To Care About: There’s not a gang of assassins on the Shockers roster, but senior forward Carl Hall could be dangerous. He’s not the leading scorer, but he still averages double figures, leads the team in rebounding and field-goal percentage, and is the closest thing to resistance the team has when things go down in the paint. If he can be a central part of the game plan and get more opportunities closer to the rim, he can be a difference maker.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? It’ll come down to the final few moments against Pitt, but fouling issues will become the difference in a first game loss.

5. Wisconsin (23-11)
Here’s The Deal: It’s the same every year. Everybody overlooks Wisconsin because of the perceived lack of elite talent on the roster, and then Bo Ryan gets his guys to buy-in to the physical style play and the vaunted swing offense. The Badgers started the season unranked, but that changed quickly when they began to exert their will in the rugged Big Ten, finishing in the upper-division of the toughest league in America. Like usual, the method to the madness all starts with solid defense and an offense that makes time fly on a sundial. They'll stay true to form by creating some mismatches out on the perimeter while also picking up the dirty laundry underneath on the boards. As is often the case, the same methodical style of play that can frustrate many teams can also keep teams that have less talent hanging around. As always, everyone is scared of dealing with such a sound team, but there’s a hard ceiling on what it can do.
Player You Need To Care About: Almost anyone can be the guy any given game because of the offense the Badgers run, but senior center and leading scorer Jared Berggren is the one who seems to come up with the big play inside when needed. At 6-10, he’s got the length, touch, and game to be a presence down low, but he’s also shown the ability to step out beyond the arc and knock down some big threes. He’s the perfect center for the UW O, and he’s a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses with his height and range. While he doesn’t have to carry the team, if he’s hot, this is a nasty team to get by.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? Good enough to blowout Ohio State, roll by Indiana and beat Michigan throughout the Big Ten season, the Badgers will power past Ole Miss, slug by Pitt, and beat up Gonzaga before being knocked out in the Elite Eight.

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12. Ole Miss (26-8)
Here’s The Deal: What bubble? Ole Miss put an end to all the speculation of whether they’d get selected by the tournament committee by going out and bagging the SEC tournament with an amazing rally over Florida, turning into one of the feel good stories of the year all the way into late January. They’re an offensive-minded machine that can leave teams in the dust with hot shooting and big runs that are hard to recover from, averaging almost 80 points a game. However, as with any team that looks to score first, there’s a tendency to get lackadaisical on the defensive end. This is an entertaining team to watch, but the ability to guard teams in crunch time will be huge right from Game One.
Player You Need To Care About: Guard Marshall Henderson is a microwave that can heat up at any time averaging almost 20 points per game while ranking second in the country in the number of three-point baskets made per game. The shooting percentage could be better, but when he’s hitting, he needs to have a defender on his hip at all times. When all else fails, he knows how to get cheap points by drawing contact and getting to the free-throw line where he's shooting 88%.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? There’s a chance the offense gets red hot against an scoring-challenged Wisconsin team, but there will be big problems against the toughness up front.

4. Kansas State (27-7)
Here’s The Deal: So much for time to get acclimated to the league. Bruce Weber was exiled from Illinois and the Big Ten, but it didn’t take long for him to make a splash in the Big 12, getting his team to buy into what he’s selling all the way to a share of the regular season conference crown with hard work on defense and a selfless attitude on the offensive side of the ball. K-State is dominated by great guard play, but the role players have checked their egos at the locker room door. With the right matchups and hot shooting, there’s a good chance to go on a nice run.
Player You Need To Care About: By far the guy that opposing defenses are going to want to corral is senior guard Rodney McGruder. At 6-4, he has a built-in length advantage that affords him the opportunity to shoot over smaller guards, but he also possesses the quickness and athleticism in his toolbox to take his game to the mid-range and closer into the paint. When he’s feeling it, he can carry his team. When he’s not, he still finds other ways to contribute.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? Getting by the Boise State/La Salle winner won’t be a problem, but slugging past Wisconsin won’t happen.

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13. Boise State/La Salle

2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament Team Breakdowns
Play-In Games | South - Top Half | South - Bottom Half 
East - Top Half | East - Bottom Half
Midwest - Top Half | Midwest - Bottom Half
West - Top Half | West - Bottom Half