Wednesday, August 12, 2020

NCAA Tournament projection: West Region Sweet Sixteen

More upsets in the wild, wild West

April 1, 2020
Sophomore guard Miles Bridges (22) covers Michigan guard Zavier Simpson (3) during the men's basketball game against Michigan on Jan. 13, 2018 at Breslin Center. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines, 82-72. (Nic Antaya | The State News)
Sophomore guard Miles Bridges (22) covers Michigan guard Zavier Simpson (3) during the men's basketball game against Michigan on Jan. 13, 2018 at Breslin Center. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines, 82-72. (Nic Antaya | The State News) —

Yes, we don’t have March Madness, but because of great minds like Joe Lunardi at ESPN, we can have a glimpse at what the bracket might have looked like. In the latest State News series, we analyze and project what the NCAA tournament might have looked like, round by round, region by region.

Here is our projection of the West Region Sweet Sixteen.

#5 Michigan vs. #8 Louisiana State

Preview: Louisiana State and Michigan are both playing with house money in the tournament and their respective fanbases couldn’t be happier. Speculation regarding Will Wade’s alleged NCAA violations have finally taken a backseat to some big wins and Juwan Howard has proven to the nation that he can coach. Good feelings aside, only one can move on, so who’s got the better shot?

Michigan utilized it’s breadth of scoring options to down Oregon and they’ll be expected to do much of the same against the Tigers, although one or two big performances will be crucial to keeping it close. Their pace rating (68.6) isn’t all that far off from LSU’s (70.1) so if Isaiah Livers or Zavier Simpson show up to play and their defense can temper a brutal Tiger attack, Michigan’s definitely got a chance.

That being said, LSU will be the favorite here and for good reason. This is likely the most complete and dynamic roster Michigan will face in the tournament and while the Wolverines were superb in the first two rounds, the odds of them stringing together so many impressive performances in a row isn’t great. Meanwhile, the Tigers confidence will be through the roof after their win over Gonzaga, a grim outlook for any team that looks to square up against them.

Prediction: Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching an excessive amount of "Tiger King" over the last couple of days or maybe it’s the amount of LSU basketball I watched over the season. Either way, LSU is back to the Elite Eight after a second half that sees the Tigers pull away thanks to another stellar performance by Skylar Mays. Louisiana State 78-Michigan 69

#2 San Diego State vs. #6 BYU

Preview: San Diego State played its best basketball in quite some time against Arizona and they’ll need more of the same if they wish to stave off a surging BYU. The Aztecs previously toppled the Cougars 76-71 in only their second game of the season but this is destined to be a much better contest than before.

As mentioned before in this series, the Cougars are easily one of the best shooting teams in the nation. This team has gotten better and better with every performance so the concern isn’t whether or not they can keep up with their hot streak — it’s how much they can get out of it against a great opponent. Jake Toolson and Alex Barcello’s capabilities from deep have captivated viewers thus far but if one gets shut down completely, BYU will need to get out of their comfort zone and find scoring help elsewhere.

SDSU can’t beat BYU at their own game so expect them to elevate their game defensively. Already one of the best defensive teams in the nation, this won’t be an easy task and yet, if the Aztecs can control the pace and not have to worry about keeping up, they’ve got one of the best shots of anybody in the tournament at sending the Cougars back to Provo, Utah.

Prediction: SDSU manages to frustrate some of BYU’s best shooters and cool the Cougars down to take a five-point lead at the half. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, the second half becomes the Yoeli Childs show as he goes off for 28 points and single-handedly keeps BYU in reach.

SDSU leads 59-57 with less than 35 seconds left but the Cougars catch a break when K.J. Feagin turns it over late. As time winds down, BYU searches for the best option and finds T.J. Haws in the corner for the late three.

Haws sinks it and the Aztecs look to Malachi Flynn to keep their season alive with one last shot. Flynn misses and San Diego’s dream season comes to an end. BYU 60-San Diego State 59

Elite Eight matchup:

#9 Louisiana State vs. #6 BYU

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