March Madness 2023 – West Region Preview

March Madness 2023 West Region Schedule, Preview & Picks

West Region Storylines

  • The top-seeded Jayhawks will look to become the first back-to-back national champions since Joakim Noah and the Florida Gators repeated in 2006 and 2007. Bill Self is returning to the sideline after missing the Big 12 tournament due to illness, and although history is not in their favor, Kansas has all the makings of a team that could be cutting down the nets in Houston
  • Their road to repeat titles will be difficult, though, as UCLA is a tough two-seed, even without injured wing Jaylen Clark, one of the best defenders in the land. No. 3 Gonzaga is still hungry for its first national title and is led by program legend Drew Timme, who has been to the tournament four times.
  • The region also contains a revived No. 4 UConn team, a surging No. 5 Saint Mary’s squad and Power 6 sleepers down the bracket like No. 6 TCU, No. 7 Northwestern, No. 8 Arkansas and No. 9 Illinois
  • Some double-digit seeds pose threats as well, specifically, a Rick Pitino-led No. 13 Iona club and No. 12 VCU, who both have ferocious defenses, a quality that bodes well this time of year

West Region Schedule & Preview

No. 1 Kansas vs. No 16. Howard (Thursday, 2:00pm ET, TBS)

  • The reigning national champions are back at the top of the bracket. Coming off a loss in the Big 12 championship, the Jayhawks still sport one of the NCAA’s best offenses that shoots the ball efficiently and is led by F Jalen Wilson (20.1 PPG) and freshman G Gradey Dick (14.1 PPG). Kansas has played tough opponents all year, including 14 games against top 25 opponents. It will take a true miracle for them to be knocked out in the Round of 64
  • Coming into this matchup as massive underdogs, Howard is still a talented and exciting team. The Bison play fast-paced and speed up opponents, forcing turnovers at a high rate. They are very solid from beyond the arc (37.7%) and will look to build on an MEAC championship and knock off the defending champs
  • Winner: Kansas

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 15 UNC Asheville (Thursday, 10:05pm ET, truTV)

  • UCLA took a huge blow last week, losing Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist Jaylen Clark for the season to an Achilles injury. The Bruins are still a strong Final Four contender and are very solid on both ends of the floor. They’ll need to rely on senior leaders G Jamie Jacquez Jr. and G Tyger Campbell to pick up some slack, but are not a team anyone wants to face off against
  • UNC Asheville is one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams (39%) and is led by a 6’11” unicorn in Drew Pember, who is the only player in the Big Dance shooting 37%+ from three while averaging over two blocks per game. The Bulldogs lack some physicality and rebounding that they will need to sure up if they want to pull off a historic upset
  • Winner: UCLA

No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No 14. Grand Canyon (Friday, 7:35pm ET, truTV)

  • Once again, Drew Timme and the Bulldogs are back with a championship on their minds. Gonzaga’s offense has been impressive, putting up 87.5 PPG, but they have struggled at the line all year (70.1%). The Zags have suffered blowout losses to some of the nation’s top teams, so it will be interesting to see where they stand in this year’s field
  • Making their second tournament appearance in three years, GCU relies on its offense which can catch fire at any moment. The Lopes are striping the ball at a 38% clip from three this year, and will rely on G Rayshon Harrison (17.7 PPG) to pull off a huge upset
  • Winner: Gonzaga

No. 4 UConn vs. No 13 Iona (Friday, 4:30pm ET, TBS)

  • After being unranked to open the year, the Huskies ripped off a 14-0 start. Their typically consistent offense struggled in a loss in the Big East semifinal, but expect them to bounce back. Dan Hurley’s squad has been aggressive all year, leading the NCAA in offensive rebounds, which could cause problems for Iona as long as the Huskies can stay out of foul trouble
  • The Gaels are back in March Madness and are looking for their first tournament win in program history. Their three-headed monster of 15+ PPG scorers is led by MAAC Player of the Year, Walter Clayton Jr., who leads the NCAA in free throw percentage (95.1%). With almost a week of preparation, expect Hall-of-Fame coach Rick Pitino to put Iona in a position to pull off an upset
  • Winner: UConn

No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 12 VCU (Friday, 2:00pm ET, TBS)

  • WCC Defensive Player of the Year Logan Johnson holds down one of the nation’s top defenses in Saint Mary’s, who only has allowed just 60.1 PPG this season. The Gaels will try to control the tempo of the game and will look to their backcourt tandem of Johnson (14.7 PPG) and Aidan Mahaney (14.5 PPG) to catch fire on offense
  • The Rams sport a ruthless defense of their own, only allowing 62.9 PPG. They will look to speed up the Gaels, who are normally steady on offense. VCU’s offense has been streaky all year, shooting under 35% from three and 69% from the line. Despite this, the Rams are coming off nine-straight wins and will look to ride that momentum to a 12 vs. 5 upset
  • Winner: VCU

No. 6 TCU vs. No 11. Arizona State/Nevada (Friday, 10:05pm ET, TBD)

  • TCU’s defense has been strong all year, especially in a tough Big 12 conference. However, their three-point shooting has been questionable at just 30.6%. The Frogs have some impressive wins over top seeds and are poised to make a run in the tournament if G Mike Miles Jr. (17.4 PPG) and the TCU offense can hit their stride
  • The Sun Devils have a talented roster but have been streaky on offense this season. They have a fiery defense, holding opponents to below 40% on field goals. ASU will look to put it together on the offensive end and secure a date with TCU in the Round of 64
  • Nevada is a team that is frequent and precise at the free-throw line. They are the 4th best FT shooting team in the nation (79.4%) and get to the line at a rate that is top 10 in the country. This should bode well for the Wolfpack, whose First Four opponent commits 18.5 fouls per game
  • First Four Winner: Nevada | First Round Winner: TCU

No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Boise State (Thursday, 7:35pm ET, truTV)

  • Northwestern’s stout defense has allowed under 63 points per game and has carried them to a tournament appearance despite a woeful offensive season. Shooting 32% from behind the arc and 40% from the field, the Wildcats have still managed to pull off impressive wins against top-tier Big Ten opponents this year
  • The Broncos starting 5 has been solid all year, with each player averaging double figures. Their problems begin when they turn to the bench, where no player is averaging more than 3.2 PPG. Boise is reliable on both ends of the floor but will have to avoid burning out if they want to make a run in the tournament.
  • Winner: Northwestern

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Illinois (Thursday, 4:30pm ET, TBS)

  • Arkansas has been stifling on defense all season long, with literal twin towers Makhel and Makhi Mitchell holding down the paint. The Razorbacks suffered some major injuries throughout the season, which has hurt their offensive production. Nonetheless, this should be one of the most exciting first-round matchups in the West Region
  • Similar to their opponents, Illinois’ defense has been strong all year. All-Big Ten G Terrance Shannon Jr. (17.1 PPG) leads an offense that has struggled from the three-point and free-throw line this season. The Fighting Illini have dropped three of their last four but will look to turn things around on the big stage this Thursday
  • Winner: Arkansas