The Cats might not be in the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t have a rooting interest. Over the next two days, KSR will preview each region of the bracket, helping you figure out who to cheer for, and what the least offensive result would be. We’ll get through this together. First, we looked at the Midwest Bracket, aka the “Region of Death.” Next up: The West Region.
My feelings about the West Region are the same feelings I have about its #1 seed, Gonzaga: meh. The West Region is the weakest in the tournament, and likewise, the Zags are the weakest #1 seed. What saves it from being boring? Marshall F’ing Henderson, y’all. Grab your Coors Light and let’s do this.
Cinderella in waiting: #11 Belmont
People have been picking Belmont to make some noise in the tournament for years, and after watching them come back to win the OVC Tournament Final in OT, I understand why. Belmont is 4th in the nation in field goal percentage (49.4%), 12th in the nation in 3-point field goals made (8.5 per game), and has a plucky, never give up mentality required to knock off Arizona, who has been fading in recent weeks. Plus, they’re a Nashville school.
Team to adopt: #2 Ohio State
Ohio State’s only losses were to top 20 teams, and they’re currently riding an eight game winning streak that includes wins over Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are led by Deshaun Thomas, who averages 19.6 points per game and can score at will. Aided by a veteran point guard in Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes have both the toughness and talent to beat Gonzaga in the region final.
1. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
As I said above, Thomas has been a monster, scoring in double figures every single game this season. Thomas is the heart and soul of the squad, deciding to stay at Ohio State for another year despite being projected as a second-round pick. One of the reasons for Thomas’ growing maturity? He became a father during last year’s NCAA Tournament, which he said led to him to reevaluate his priorities.
2. Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Who else could lead Ole Miss to an unlikely SEC Tournament Championship, win ten games of beer pong hours later and brag about it on Twitter for all the world to see? Henderson is a polarizing figure, but he’s entertaining as hell. You couldn’t make someone like him up if you tried. Like he did against Kentucky earlier this season, I think Henderson will probably choke when the spotlight is on him, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching with a bucket of popcorn.
3. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Every NCAA Tournament needs a goofy white guy, and Olynyk more than fits the bill. Seven feet tall with hair that would make most soccer moms proud, Olynyk is a redshirt junior that is averaging 17.5 points and 7.2 rebounds after taking last season off to develop his game. Oh, and he hits his free throws.
1. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
Cooley could average 30 points and 20 rebounds a game and I probably still wouldn’t like him. He’s big, awkward, and will always remind me of one of Kentucky’s worst losses of the season.
2. Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
Yes, I also listed Henderson as a hero. That’s how conflicted I am about him. Plus, I kind of want to smack him every time he does that stupid land shark head thing.
3. The Notre Dame Leprechaun
Best possible outcome for UK fans: Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss make the SEC proud and advance to the Final Four, letting Kentucky fans comfort themselves slightly with the fact that they beat them back in January.
Worst possible outcome for UK fans: Eh, nothing majorly offensive with this region. I guess if Notre Dame were to advance to the Final Four, it would sting a little, but at least they’d look like idiots in the process thanks to their new adidas uniforms.
Heart prediction: Ohio State to the Final Four
Head prediction: Ohio State to the Final Four