2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: The West Region
The West Region will be a tough one as the group features multiple conference champions and dangerous threats.
As the fourth No. 1 seed, Xavier will face a daunting task as they try to get past teams like North Carolina, red-hot Michigan, Gonzaga and Ohio State to advance to its first Final Four.
The Musketeers will likely face the winner of No. 8 seed Missouri and No. 9 seed Florida State as the Tigers will be a team to watch thanks to the status of star freshman Michael Porter Jr. The Tigers are potentially a major threat if Porter Jr., a potential top-five pick, can get rolling, but he only played in one tune-up game before the Big Dance. Florida State could just as easily take that matchup with its elite size and athleticism.
Defending national runner-up Gonzaga is a very tough No. 4 seed as they’ll have to get by No. 13 seed UNC Greensboro in the first game. No. 5 seed Ohio State and No. 12 seed South Dakota State might be one of the best first-round matchups as it features a pair of All-American candidates in Buckeyes forward Keita Bates-Diop and Jackrabbits big man Mike Daum.
Gonzaga and Ohio State would make for a potentially riveting second-round matchup. And who would say no to the potential of Xavier matching up with Ohio State in the Sweet 16 in an all-Ohio battle?
No. 2 seed North Carolina just missed out on a No. 1 seed after falling to Virginia in the ACC Tournament title game. The defending champion Tar Heels are one of the most experienced teams in the field as the open with No. 15 seed Lipscomb.
Keep an eye on the matchup between No. 7 seed Texas A&M and No. 10 seed Providence. The Aggies have the size to give North Carolina trouble in the second round if they advance while Providence just beat one No. 1 seed in Xavier and took another No. 1 seed, Villanova, to overtime over the weekend. The Tar Heels could be in for a battle with either team.
Watching No. 3 seed Michigan will be fascinating since they had the long layoff after the Big Ten Tournament victory. The Wolverines looked like one of the hottest teams in the country when they last played but will they have any rust when they face No. 14 seed Montana?
If Michigan wins, they could face an underrated No. 6 seed in Houston. Or we might get the Steve Fisher Bowl with a Michigan matchup against No. 11 seed San Diego State. Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher was the assistant coach largely responsible for recruiting the Fab Five, so that could be a fun subplot to watch.
Michigan re-gaining its late-season form means they could be a darkhorse Final Four team. But you also can’t count out North Carolina after back-to-back Final Four runs.