The West Region of the NCAA Tournament was almost as easy as
1-2-3-4, but the Baylor Bears spoiled that party and appear poised to upset the
college basketball odds this week in
One quadrant of this year's NCAA Tournament bracket almost went off according to plan. Three of the top four seeds in the West Region are on their way to Anaheim to decide things, but the fourth team in the battle might be the most dangerous of all.
Arizona delivered as the top seed, and the Wildcats are priced at 4/1 on the NCAA basketball odds to grab the crown next week at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Top 4 seeds Wisconsin (10/1) and San Diego State (35/1) will also appear at Anaheim's Honda Center later this week.
It's Baylor (20/1), however, that is receiving a lot of attention right now as the Bears reach the Sweet 16 playing their best basketball of the year.
No. 1 'Cats Survives Weber State,
Sean Miller hoped Arizona (32-4 straight up, 21-14 against the spread) would get an early test in the tournament opener against Weber State, and he got his wish. The Wildcat on Wildcat tilt began with Weber State taking an early lead to serve as a wake-up call for Arizona.
The top-seeded Wildcats did just enough for the eventual 68-59 victory, but never had enough to cover the huge 20 point spread. They did more than enough Sunday in San Diego for an 84-61 rout of Gonzaga, easily beating the -7.5 line and sending their third game in four past the total.
Arizona's vaunted defense came up with 15 steals while forcing the Zags into 21 turnovers; five Wildcats scored in double figures, including Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who tallied 18 off the bench.
No. 2 Badgers Need
Rallies In 1st two Tourney Games
Wisconsin (28-7 SU, 17-16-2 ATS) entered the NCAA Tournament on a 1-4 ATS run after falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten semis. The Badgers have since covered 14 and 6 point spreads, and needed to rally both times just to get the outright win, much less a cover.
They overcame a slow start in tournament opener last Thursday in Milwaukee before running away with a 40-point win vs. American. The Eagles led 19-13 12 minutes into the game when Wisconsin went on a 10-1 run and never looked back.
The Badgers committed just seven turnovers vs. American, true to form after leading the nation in fewest giveaways per game (8.0). But Wisconsin was anything but true to form in the first half of Saturday's matchup against No. 7 seed Oregon, turning it over six times in the initial 20 minutes to trail 49-37 at the half. The Badgers opened the second half with a 17-6 spurt to erase most of that deficit, and the game was tied 70-all with four minutes to go when Wisconsin ended on a 15-7 run.
No. 4 Aztecs Avoid
Early Upset To Stay In Picture
Steve Fisher knows San Diego State (31-4 SU, 19-13 ATS) was very fortunate to avoid being a 1-&-done line on this year's bracket. The Aztecs nearly stumbled out of the gate last Thursday in Spokane where 13th-seeded New Mexico State took them to overtime before Fisher's squad came staved off the upset attempt. Xavier Thames and Dwayne Polee III iced the eventual 73-69 win with six free throws between them in the final minute-&-a-half.
San Diego State missed the cover as 8.5 point chalk in that matchup, but had more than enough to spare on a -3.5 line in Saturday's tilt vs. North Dakota State. Thames went off for 30 against the Bison, and Fisher's crew controlled the boards for a relatively easy 63-44 triumph.
No. 6 Bears Stuff
Baylor (26-11 SU, 16-14-1 ATS) was supposed to challenge Kansas and Oklahoma State for this year's Big 12 title, but that never happened when the Bears began the conference schedule 2-8. They have since gone 12-2 -- 11-3 ATS -- and eventually made it to the conference championship before falling to Iowa State.
Scott Drew's lads now seem intent to continue their strong close to the campaign and take the show all the way back to Texas a week from now. Baylor jumped all over Nebraska last Friday in San Antonio for a 74-60 triumph while laying 3.5. It wasn't necessarily pretty, but rebounding and a lopsided 38-10 advantage from the free-throw line did the trick vs. the Cornhuskers.The Bears didn't need any assists from the refs in Sunday's collision with Creighton. Getting 3.5 points on the college basketball board, Baylor held Doug McDermott to 15 points in the runaway 85-55 upset. The Bears shot nearly 64% from the field in showing up the 3rd-seeded Bluejays, including making good on 11-of-18 from 3-point range.