Nick Popio| March 23rd, 2019
The breakdown of the West Region continues with a look at the matchups for this weekend. Trips to the Sweet 16 will be punched for 4 worthy teams who will attempt to knock out their respective opponents. Here’s a prelude of what will take place in the West Round of 32.
1 Gonzaga vs. 9 Baylor
The Zags flex their muscle coming into this encounter as heavy favorites. Mark Few’s bunch woke up Thursday night after the West Coast Conference Finals no show against St. Mary’s. Baylor upended Syracuse in a mild upset despite the traditional 2-3 zone of the Orange that tends to stifle clubs into a frenzy this time of year.
If the Bears have a shot to pull this one out, they will have to shoot like they did versus Syracuse. They nailed 16 three-pointers in the win with Senior guard Makai Mason posting 22 points. Plus, the Bears defense will be tested by arguably the best offense in the nation. Baylor has to find a way to slow down NBA prospect Rui Hachimura, and hope the Zags go cold from the field for the better part of this showdown. Generally speaking, Baylor has its work cut out for them to play for a right to get to Anaheim and the Sweet 16.
4 Florida State vs. 12 Murray State
Potential top 5 pick Ja Morant is the talk of the tournament. He held his weight in the Marquette victory while also dishing out 16 assists to get his teammates involved. Florida State’s defense should be a much sterner test for Morant and the Racers though. They have battled the likes of the ACC which makes them well prepared for this must-see contest.
Leonard Hamilton looks to continue his stellar run with the Seminoles. He’s quietly turning Florida State into a basketball school with so much recent success. He knows how imperative it is to stop Morant, he even compared his game to the legendary Magic Johnson. On paper, this duel seems to be one of the most exciting head to heads in the round of 32 with the winner most likely staring mighty Gonzaga in the eye.
3 Texas Tech vs. 6 Buffalo
The Bulls and Red Raiders will fight it out on Sunday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Buffalo ousted First Four survivor Arizona State 91-74 in a game that Buffalo dominated 42-26 on the glass. Four players notched double-digit points and the Bulls are trending towards a lengthy stay for the rest of the tournament. Although, Buffalo’s offensive gameplan needs to be precise when playing the third-best scoring defense in the country come Sunday evening.
Texas Tech outfought Northern Kentucky to set up this spicy second-round matchup. Sophomore standout Jarrett Culver nearly earned 30 points and a triple-double in the opener. He’s going to be the focal point for Buffalo to get him off his rhythm. Look for the Bulls to strike early and often to try to run the Red Raiders out of the gym and into a high scoring affair to prevail.
2 Michigan vs. 10 Florida
Florida is playing its best basketball right now. They beat a dangerous Nevada team that was favored to defeat them. Florida’s starters played a lot of minutes in the win which could be something to watch for with Michigan on the docket. Defensively, Florida must ratchet up the focus again, while giving up a size difference to Michigan’s center Jon Teske in the paint.
The Wolverines took care of business in round one. Now the competition amps up as they want to make another run to the Final Four. Junior point Zavier Simpson is the catalyst of this pick and roll heavy attack. Expect Michigan to hoist a lot of three-pointers and force Florida’s defense to cover all 5 positions behind the three-point arc. A low scoring, defensive struggle might be insight for this 2/10 West region battle.
West Regional Schedule
2 Michigan vs. 10 Florida 3/23 5:15 ET on CBS
4 Florida State vs. 12 Murray State 3/23 6:10 ET on TNT
1 Gonzaga vs 9 Baylor 3/23 7:10 ET on TBS
3 Texas Tech vs. 6 Buffalo 3/24 6:10 ET on TNT
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