NCAA Bracket Preview – West

Kelly Olynyk

Gonzaga-(31-2, 16-0 WCC) – As usual, Head Coach Mark Few has the Zags playing great basketball as they head into March Madness. But this time, Coach Few has guided the sharp shooting team into a coveted #1 seed. Led by junior forward Kelly Olynyk (Kamloops BC), who averages 17.5 PPG and over 7 RPG, Coach Few and the Zags seemed poised to reach their first ever Final Four.

Southern U-(23-9, 15-3 SWAC) – Southern is going to the NCAA for the eighth time overall, and first since 2006. Less than two years ago, Roman Banks took over a program that finished last in the SWAC, was in the process of reducing scholarships, and had a one year ban from post season play for faulty academic progress. Today, he has his program entering the NCAA Tournament in what has to be considered a miraculous turnaround

Pittsburgh-(24-8, 12-6 Big East)- The Panther offense has been very efficient for most of the 2012-13 season. They are among the top 30 in field goal percentage and rank 7th in the country with over 16 assist per game. The one Achilles heel that Pitt may suffer from in the dance is the lack of a “Go to” guy. The lack of a big scorer may limit their travel along the road to the final four. Only two Panthers average double figure scoring, and neither player has an average above 12 PPG.

Wichita St – (26-8, 12-6 MVC) – Coach Gregg Marshall is making his ninth NCAA trip, seven coming with his former program at Winthrop. The Shockers last NCAA win came back in 2006, when it defeated Seton Hall and Tennessee. This will make Wichita State’s 10th overall appearance in the dance, and first back to back appearance since 1987. Coach Marshall’s team graduated five starters from last season, making this trip even more of a special trip for the program.

Wisconsin-(23-11, 12-6 Big Ten) – The Badgers showed everyone late in the season that they could play with anyone in the country. In the last 10 regular season games for Coach Ryan and the Badgers, Wisconsin defeated 4 teams that were nationally ranked #13 or better. The battle tested Badgers will be a tough out as they go searching for the programs third final four appearance and second National Title.

Ole Miss– (26-8, 12-6 SEC)- Ole Miss earned its way into the Dance by winning the SEC Conference Tournament. They found themselves battling a very talented Florida Gator team for the automatic bid and pulled out a 66-63 hard fought victory. This will be just the 7th appearance for the Ole Miss program in the NCAA, which made the sweet 16 in 2001. Junior guard Marshall Henderson (Hurst, TX) is a threat to score every time he touches the ball averaging 20.1 PPG.

Kansas St.– (27-7, 14-4 Big 12)- Kansas State is making its 34th postseason appearance, which includes 27 in the NCAA Tournament and seven in the Postseason NIT. This year’s bid extends its consecutive NCAA appearances to 4, which ties the school record. Seniors Jordan Henriquez(Port Chester NY), Martavious Irving (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and Rodney McGruder (Wash, DC), are just the second senior class to reach four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. They will try to keep their surging offense rolling and reach Atlanta for what would be the school’s 5th final four appearance.

Arizona-(25-7, 12-6 Pac-12)- The Wildcats go into their 30th NCAA appearance and will set out for Atlanta and what would be the program’s 5th final four. The Wildcats will be led by senior guard Mark Lyons (Schenectady, NY) who is averaging close to 15 PPG. Lyons is a transfer from Xavier. Arizona would fall to UCLA in the PAC 10 Tournament by just 2 points, and coach Sean Miller would voice his displeasure after the game. Miller was fined $25,ooo for his actions by the NCAA.

Belmont-(26-6, 14-2 OVC)- Belmont comes into its third consecutive NCAA tournament, and the schools 6th overall NCAA appearance still searching for its first tournament win. A high scoring offense that includes the nation’s 4th best shooting percentage should help their chances. The Bruins are led by senior guard Ian Clark (Memphis, TN) who averages 18.1 PPG. The Bruins don’t mind shooting the three as they take 39% of their shots from behind the arc, making nearly 40% of those.

New Mexico-(29-5, 13-3 MWC)- After winning a tough Mountain West Conference Championship, New Mexico was rewarded with a 3 seed in the NCAA West bracket. Coach Steve Alford has the Lobos ready to make a deep run into this year’s dance with two outstanding junior guards in Tony Snell (Riverside, CA) and Kendall Williams (Rancho Cucamonga, CA). Last season Alford would lose a hard fought game to Indiana in the third round of the NCAA.

Harvard-(19-9, 11-3 Ivy)- For the second straight season, and third time in program history, The Harvard Crimson basketball program will be a part of the NCAA tournament. Harvard will be led by combo guard/forward Wesley Saunders (Los Angeles, CA). Saunders is averaging 16.5 PPG and almost 5 RPG. Harvard will face New Mexico for the first time in school history.

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