2022 NCAA Tournament West Region Preview

by Tyler Marling
2022 NCAA Tournament West Region

It's that time of year again, March Madness is back! I'm going to do my best with this 2022 NCAA Tournament West Region preview to prepare you for the next two weeks of betting and sheer entertainment that comes along with March Madness.

The West Region has the top overall seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. They have been one of the top programs in the nation over the last decade and they will be a tough out in this region.

However, the West has some really talented teams. The Duke Blue Devils come in as the two seed after losing in the ACC tournament finals to the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Texas Tech Raiders and the Arkansas Razorbacks round out the top four seeds in the region.

Don't sleep on the seven seeded Michigan State Spartans, their opponent in the first round, the  10th seeded Davidson Wildcats, or the 13th seeded Vermont Catamounts. Any of those three teams have a glass-slipper type feel to them.

Without further ado, let's get into the 2022 NCAA Tournament West Region preview!

2022 NCAA Tournament West Region Preview

Breakdown of the Top-4 Seeds

#1-Seed Gonzaga Bulldogs (-140 to win the region, +300 to win the title)

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The Gonzaga Bulldogs have hovered around the number one ranking all season long and KenPom sees them in the same light, ranking them number one in his final rankings of the season. Gonzaga finished the season with a 26-3 record, with all three losses coming to NCAA Tournament teams.

The interesting thing about the West Region, in regards to Gonzaga, is that they have already played three teams in the region this season. However, two of their three losses came in those three games.

Duke upended them 84-81 back in November and the Alabama Crimson Tide knocked them off 91-82 in December. Gonzaga did beat Texas Tech, however, 69-55.

Gonzaga has a lot of size and can be tough to match up with. West Coast Conference Player of the Year Drew Timme and WCC Rookie of the Year Chet Holmgren make up one of the best front lines in America and both have ridiculous size. Timme stands at 6'10'' and Holmgren, while thin, is listed at 7' and usually does his best Inspector Gadget impersonation with his length.

The size doesn't stop there, however. 6'7'' Julian Strawther, 6'5'' Andrew Nembhard, and 6'3'' Rasir Bolton make up the rest of the starting unit. This is a really tough team to match up with from a size perspective, and it doesn't hurt that Holmgren moves like a guard.

Beating the DraftKings betting favorites (+300), will be a tough ask, but remember, it is March Madness for a reason.

#2-Seed Duke Blue Devils (+330 to win the region, +1600 to win the title)

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In coach Mike Krzyzewski's swan song, it's kind of felt like the Duke Blue Devils are a step below the national contenders. Don't get me wrong, this is a very good team who has some very good wins, including the aforementioned win over Gonzaga, and beating the Kentucky Wildcats. However, the good wins stop there. Of Duke's 28 wins, only six have come against tournament teams on the season.

The roster is full of talent, however. They have the ACC Rookie of the Year in Paolo Banchero, and his 17 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game averages. He is widely considered a lock to go in the top five of the 2022 NBA Draft. They also have do-it-all forward Wendell Moore. The All-ACC selection really has no weakness in his game and averaged 13.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists this season while also being Duke's best perimeter defender.

Duke is KenPom's 12th rated team and a lot of that is due to being very average in the adjusted defensive efficiency statistic. Duke checks in at 47th in that metric.

If the Blue Devils, who have the tools to be a good defensive team, can lock down teams in the tournament, they can make a run to New Orleans.

#3-Seed Texas Tech Red Raiders (+500 to win the region, +2200 to win the title)

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The transfer portal has been great to the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Of their six leading scorers, all at 8.4 points or above, four are transfers with UTEP transfer Bryson Williams leading the way at 13.7 points per game.

The Red Raiders are the definition of a "team." They hang their hats on the defensive side of the ball and they get a balanced scoring night in and night out. KenPom has the Red Raiders as the number one team in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

However, they rank just 65th in adjusted offensive efficiency. It feels like betting the under is an easy call in all Red Raider contests throughout the tournament.

Playing in the Big 12, Texas Tech has been tested throughout the season. They finished third behind two NCAA Tournament one seeds in the Baylor Bears and Kansas Jayhawks.

This is also a very experienced team so they will come ready to play each night. The Red Raiders will be a tough out and a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Duke will make for a compelling matchup of contrasting styles.

#4-Seed Arkansas Razorbacks (+1000 to win the region, +8000 to win the title)

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The Arkansas Razorbacks played in a very top-heavy SEC this season. Only six teams made the NCAA Tournament. However, the lowest-ranked SEC teams come in as sixth seeds in Alabama and LSU.

Arkansas is led by splendid guard play, which is huge in the NCAA Tournament. Historically, teams have made runs on the backs of great guard play in March. All-SEC guard selection JD Notae leads the way for the Razorbacks. He averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists this season. However, he did that on very poor shooting splits of 40.8/30.6/77. Notae will need to be more efficient in order for Arkansas to make a run.

Notae has two very good running mates in the backcourt. Stanley Umude is the team's second-leading scorer, checking in at 11.8 points per game. Au'Diese Toney is right behind Umude at 11 points per contest.

Fun fact, all three guards are transfers.

Like Texas Tech, Arkansas also hangs their hats on the defensive side of the ball. KenPom has them at 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 40th in adjusted offensive efficiency. If Notae, Umude, and Toney can get hot, this team can make a run.

Dark Horse Team of the Region

#13-Seed Vermont Catamounts

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The NCAA Tournament committee didn't do Arkansas any favors. They get matched up with one of the more dangerous 13 seeds in recent memory. The Vermont Catamounts are now becoming a staple in the NCAA Tournament out of the American East Conference.

This is a very experienced team that features six seniors and two juniors in its top eight guys. The Catamounts are led by two seniors, however. Big man Ryan Davis is the reigning two-time AEC POY and averaged 17.2 points and 5.7 rebounds while doing it in a very efficient manner. His shooting splits will make JD Notae salivate at 59/42.3/78.2.

Davis' running-mate is Ben Shungu. He is a two-time All-AEC selection and three-time AEC All-Defense selection. This season he has averaged 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 52.5/41.4/72.2 shooting splits.

We've seen guard/big combos make runs in the tournament. It happened just as recently as last year when 15th seeded Oral Roberts rode the backs of Max Abmas and now Texas Tech Red Raider Kevin OBanor to upsets of Ohio State and Florida before nearly beating Arkansas in the Sweet 16.

Vermont gets an inefficient Arkansas team and a win would mean facing the winner of UConn and New Mexico State. The Catamounts could put the glass slipper on this year.

Players to Watch - West Region

Ryan Davis - Vermont Catamounts

Ryan Davis has the feel of a Mike Daum from South Dakota State a few years ago. Davis isn't quite the volume scorer that Daum was but he does it just as efficiently and in the same style. He helped carry the Catamounts to a splendid 17-1 conference record and a sweep of the regular season and conference tournament championship.

Vermont only played one tournament team this season, the Providence Friars, and despite a loss, Davis was fantastic. He had 19 points on just eight field-goal attempts and added five rebounds.

After an up-and-down start to the season, Davis has scored in double figures in each of the Catamounts' last  24 games. The efficiency at which he's done so makes him a very scary matchup for any team in the 2022 NCAA Tournament

Jalen Duren - Memphis Tigers

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After a disappointing start to the season, the Memphis Tigers got hot down the stretch and made the tournament as an at-large bid out of the AAC. AAC ROY Jalen Duren was a big part of that success. The five-star big man had a splendid season for the Tigers, averaging 12.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.2 blocks per game. Duren makes for an interesting potential third-round matchup for Gonzaga's monster front line. He may be the one guy in the region who can neutralize Timme and/or Holmgren.

Duren is not going to stretch the floor and didn't even attempt a three this season, but he shot an incredible 62.6% from the field overall and is a menace on the offensive glass. He averaged 2.9 offensive rebounds per game.

Duren has the potential to be a breakout star this March, especially if he can help Memphis make a run by pulling off a monumental upset in the round of 32.

Game to Watch

#4-Seed Arkansas Razorbacks vs #13-Seed Vermont Catamounts

Despite a fantastic season, and a great ranking, Arkansas got a little hosed in their matchup. Vermont being a 13-seed, in my opinion, is laughable.

KenPom doesn't really like them, ranking them at 59th. They have only played one tournament team this season in a loss to Providence, so they aren't battle-tested. They don't show very well in any of the key metrics by KenPom either.

However, they are efficient with team shooting splits of 59.1/36.4/74.7. They don't turn the ball over often, only 9.7 turnovers per contest, and they are experienced with eight upperclassmen in their rotation. Vermont also has the guard/big combo that Cinderella teams always seem to possess come March. And lastly, Arkansas is the polar opposite of Vermont.

The Razorbacks are fairly inefficient with team shooting splits of 50.9/30.7/75.8. Plus, they turn it over 12.6 times per game. They will have an athletic advantage over Vermont. I expect this game to be tight and go down to the wire and wouldn't be surprised if Vermont springs the upset.

Pack Your Bags for New Orleans

The West Region has some potentially great matchups. However, I think Gonzaga has too much size and talent to not make it to New Orleans. I do think Memphis could potentially give them some trouble in the round of 32 but they have a pretty easy road to the Elite Eight. A potential rematch with Duke looms, a game in which Gonzaga lost earlier this season. However, I don't think history will repeat itself in that contest.

The other potential suitor from the bottom half of the bracket is Texas Tech. I don't think they have the horses to contain the Bulldogs in a potential Elite Eight matchup. Looking back through my 2022 NCAA Tournament West Region preview, it appears the number one overall seed got a pretty favorable draw and should get to New Orleans unless they have a major letdown along the way.

Check out Tomlin's NCAA Tournament Gambling tips!

Breaking Down the Brackets

South Region
East Region
Midwest Region

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