Photo courtesy of Kim Klement – USA Today Sports
It’s Madness Time ladies and gentleman, and with that comes Bracket Challenge season. I spend the entire week leading into the tournament doing bracketology, and in this series I’ll be giving you my entire 2021 Bracket Predictions as the opening tip draws near.
Each day we’ll run through my key thoughts on a specific region, and today we’re headed to the Wild, Wild West to see what’s going on with the top overall seed. I’ll update each post with links to the other regions as they come out, so if you haven’t gotten the chance to check out the East, South, or Midwest, then you’ll be able to find them as soon as the hyperlink appears on the region.
Trader’s Projected West Region Bracket
A Pair of Upsets
This region is generally not the most exciting in my personal opinion. I think we will see some extremely solid games in Iowa vs. Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen, as well as Gonzaga vs. Iowa in the Elite Eight, but generally I think the lower half will be relatively bleh.
The top split, however, is really interesting to me. Three of the four games will be very close in my eyes, and I think two of them could put the West as the biggest upset region of the tournament. Yes, you saw that right; I have Ohio and UC Santa Barbara upsetting Virginia and Creighton respectively.
Let’s start with the 4th seeded Cavaliers taking on the 13 seed Ohio Bobcats. The Cavaliers come in favored by 8.5, and I think this may be the upset of this year’s iteration of March Madness. The Bobcats come in as the 93rd highest tempo team in the country, while Virginia lands at 347th out of the 357 teams in the entirety of Division 1 basketball.
Looking at Virginia’s games, just twelve were won by 9 or more points, with the average opposing tempo ranking in at an abysmal 224th. Ohio on the other hand has only lost five such games, with a mean opposing tempo ranking 77th. On that issue, Virginia covered the 8.5 point line they will be faced with just twice against higher tempo teams than the Bobcats.
Enough speaking of the cover though, this Ohio team is good enough to win this game straight up, and I think they’ll take care of business and find themselves against this next team in the Round of 32.
Creighton may just be the next victim of the 5/12 tournament curse as they’re taking on a red hot Gaucho team. UC Santa Barbara has won a staggering 18 of their last 19, and look to extend that with a Cinderella run of their own. What better way to start of then against a disgruntled Creighton team?
This is one that many people are looking at, and I may just be the next sucker to buy it, but I see a debut Sweet Sixteen appearance for the team in a favorable draw for UCSB.
Chalk is Okay
I know how daunting it is to throw the 1, 2, and 3 regional seed’s into the Sweet Sixteen, but the seeding seems to be very key this year. Gonzaga is a heavy favorite to win the tournament at just over 2:1 odds as of this morning. Iowa and Kansas also round out the Top 10, making it tough to predict anything else.
Once those Top 3 start to meet, then we can see some differing opinions, but an upset of these teams outside of that seems highly unlikely to me.
This will be a fun region to watch down the stretch, and may even bring some of the best upsets in the entire tournament. The bottom split of the bracket seems pretty straightforward to me, but after all, it is March, so anything can happen. Make sure to check back every day to keep up with all the Bracketology at the Trader Talks Sports Network!