Sweet 16 Preview: East & West Regions

Story posted March 25, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Logan Bourandas

While these two sides of the bracket haven’t been as crazy as, let’s say, the Midwest, the East and West have seen their fair share of surprises.

For one, the only cancellation due to COVID-19 took place in the West when No. 10 seed VCU had to withdraw from the tournament, sending No. 7 seed Oregon to the second round.

These two sides of the bracket also featured upsets where teams such as Texas, Virginia and BYU all were knocked out of the first round. Of the winning teams in those matchups, only UCLA made it to the Sweet 16.

Now, let’s preview each matchup in the East and West.

East

No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 4 Florida State Seminoles

Nothing to see here, just two teams that were expected to make it to this point.

The Wolverines have been the only Big Ten team to live up to expectations, as out of nine teams in the conference to make the tournament, Michigan is the only team remaining.

The Wolverines cruised past Texas Southern in the first round before struggling early against LSU. They recovered in the second half, mostly due to 21 points from both Chaundee Brown and Eli Brooks.

As for the Seminoles, they have yet to find themselves in a close game during this tournament. They beat UNC Greensboro by 10 after only a three-point halftime lead before blowing out No. 5 Colorado with 22 points from Anthony Polite.

No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 11 UCLA Bruins

Interesting to see the 11-time tournament champion UCLA Bruins as an underdog, but here they are.

The Bruins have had to play not just two but three games to get to this point, including a First Four matchup against Michigan State. The Bruins were already underdogs in that game and had to overcome an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the Spartans in overtime.

From there, the Bruins upset No. 6 BYU in the first round by 11 points with 27 from Johnny Juzang. Last round, the Bruins were fortunate enough to face another Cinderella story in the No. 14 Abilene Christian Wildcats, whom the Bruins beat by 20.

After a brief scare against Iona, the Alabama Crimson Tide have been dominant so far in the tournament. They had a great second half against Rick Pitino’s Gaels before blowing out No. 10 Maryland, which had just come off an upset win over UConn. Two Crimson Tide players scored over 20 points in the game as the team recorded a 19-point victory.

West

No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 5 Creighton Bluejays

The Bulldogs rode their undefeated regular season into what has been a dominant tournament run thus far.

Both games have been blowouts for the Bulldogs, as they started out with an absolute show in the first round against Norfolk State. They were led by 23 points from Corey Kispert and rode that momentum to a 16-point win over No. 8 Oklahoma. This time, the leading scorer was Drew Timme, who put up 30 points in the win.

The Bluejays, however, could have been out in the first round, as they were in a close game against No. 12 seed UC Santa Barbara. With the events leading to the suspension of the team's head coach Greg McDermott, some saw Creighton as a team that could have an early exit in the tournament, and those people were almost right.

The game came down to the final shot, as Amadou Sow of Santa Barbara missed a game winning layup with four seconds left, and the Bluejays escaped with a one-point victory. Due to Virginia being upset by Ohio that same round, the Bluejays were tasked with facing the No. 13 Ohio Bobcats, who they beat by 14 points.

No. 6 USC Trojans vs. No. 7 Oregon Ducks

The Pac-12 has been fantastic this tournament, and we’ll see two of its best teams face off here.

As for the Trojans, they have been nothing short of dominant with two double-digit victories. They beat Drake by 16 before embarrassing No. 3 Kansas in the second round. Evan Mobley posted a double-double as the Trojans walloped the Jayhawks by 34 points.

The Ducks have only played one game this tournament being the only team to advance due to COVID-19. However, the one game they did play was a major upset over No. 2 Iowa. The 15-point win came in spite of star Luka Garza putting up 36 points. Incredibly, the Ducks held three Hawkeyes starters scoreless: a truly impressive feat for any seed, let alone a No. 7.

 

Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email lxb5412@psu.edu.