2023 NCAA Tournament West Region Preview
Welcome to 2023 NCAA Tournament coverage! For other region previews, click below!
South Region | Midwest Region | East Region
No. 1 Seed Overview: Kansas Jayhawks
Entering the season, I was unsure about the Jayhawks after they lost seven of the top nine scorers from their national championship squad, which included four of five starters. Silly me. Bill Self reloaded and has this program right back in the mix to defend their title. Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson has been exceptional, averaging 20.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Gradey Dick made an immediate impact as a freshman, contributing 14.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 39.9% from three.
Point guard Dajuan Harris isn’t going to light up the stat sheet, but he’s the ideal floor general for this team of elite wings. After logging 27 minutes in the 2022 National Championship, the junior can certainly be trusted in big spots. Throw in KJ Adams and Kevin McCullar, and this is an extremely well-rounded Kansas team primed for another run to the Final Four.
The West is a very tough region containing five of KenPom’s top 11 teams. Kansas certainly won’t have an easy road to Houston, but the Jayhawks are the most battle-tested team in the country. Their 17 Quad 1 wins are three more than any other group. If anyone can make it happen, it’s them.
Sleeper Team to Win Region: No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini
While I would probably consider No. 5 Saint Mary’s a sleeper in this region as well, I went for a deep, deep sleeper. Truthfully, you might say they’ve been sleeping all season. The Illinois Fighting Illini have the talent of a Final Four-caliber team. The flashes were there, but this was a middling team in the Big Ten. However, they’ve got some tournament experience. If TJ Shannon and Matthew Mayer tap into that (and avoid caffeine poisoning), this Illinois team could do some damage. Coleman Hawkins impacts every part of the game for the Illini – he’s another guy to monitor if the Illini start to get hot.
Double-Digit Seed Most Likely to Make Noise: No. 11 Arizona State Sun Devils
It was difficult to find a double-digit seed in this region that I thought had a chance to do anything. With so many elite teams in the West, it was difficult to see the path for any Cinderellas. I’ll roll with this Arizona State Sun Devils team playing out of the First Four. We’ve seen programs carry momentum from the First Four to rattle off a few more wins, and I think this Arizona State team has the pieces to make that happen. They also have about as much momentum a First Four team could possibly have coming off a 98-73 thrashing of Nevada. Such an offensive explosion is extremely encouraging for a group that already possessed a top-20 defense per KenPom.
Arizona State is now slated to face No. 6 TCU, a team that had Final Four aspirations entering the season. However, some recent turmoil within the Horned Frogs’ program led to forward Eddie Lampkin entering the transfer portal just before the 2023 NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils have strong guard play in the Cambridge brothers and Michigan transfer Frankie Collins that can offset TCU’s Mike Miles and Damion Baugh. Seven-footer Warren Washington may have himself a game versus a TCU frontcourt sans Lampkin. Arizona State has athleticism, strong defense, and momentum. That may prove a scary combination.
Most Intriguing First-Round Game: No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini
This game features two superbly talented teams that never quite reached their ceiling for one reason or another. Arkansas was hit with the injury bug and got knocked around in SEC play. Illinois never quite gelled as team, going from as high as 16th in the AP Poll to unranked and 11-9 in the Big Ten. On their best night, either one of these teams can hang with Kansas. Throw in the coaching antics of Eric Musselman and Brad Underwood, you’ve got a pretty fun game.
Kansas got handed a very tough draw with the West Region and I think they stumble at some point along the way. UConn has great shooting and frontcourt play; I think they can take down the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16. In the other half of the bracket, I like Gonzaga’s offense to overwhelm any team they face in their pod. The Zags don’t have a target on their back this year, which should help them play pressure-free basketball. UCLA should manage without Jaylen Clark for a couple games, but they’ll feel the loss of their best defender and second-leading scorer when they face a Gonzaga squad that has scored at will over the past month. UConn and Gonzaga meet in the Elite Eight. Ultimately, Gonzaga’s defense hasn’t been very good for most of this season and I’m not sure it will suddenly hold up against an efficient UConn team. I’ll take the Huskies to reach the Final Four.
Region Final Prediction: No. 4 UConn over No. 3 Gonzaga
SUBSCRIBE to the Vendetta YouTube Channel!
SHOP for Vendetta Merch!
SUPPORT Vendetta on Patreon!