NCAA Tournament West Region: Upset watch, Final Four pick, team capsules

By Jason Anderson, The Sports Xchange  |  March 14, 2016 at 7:07 PM
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Top seeds: 1) Oregon, 2) Oklahoma, 3) Texas A&M, 4) Duke

Upset Watch: Teams seeded fifth in the NCAA Tournament historically are vulnerable to first-round upsets, posting a modest 50-44 record against No. 12 seeds. In fact, a 12th-seeded team has knocked off a No. 5 every year except 1988, 2000, 2007 and 2015 under the current format since the field expanded to 64-plus teams in 1985. Eighteen of the 44 victorious No. 12 seeds went on to reach the Sweet 16.

Can 12th-seeded Yale turn this region into the Wild West? The Bulldogs, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962, could present problems for No. 5 Baylor. Yale, led by sophomore point guard Makai Mason and senior forward Justin Sears, won 17 of its past 18 games. The Bears lost three of their past four.

Get to know: Sophomore Dillon Brooks emerged as Oregon's leading scorer this season, averaging 16.8 points per game. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward is shooting 47 percent from the field and 82.6 percent from the free-throw line. He had a career-high 30 points in a Feb. 7 victory over Utah.

Oklahoma is led by senior guard Buddy Hield, the two-time Big 12 Conference Player of the Year. Hield, one of the most explosive scorers in the nation, is averaging 25 points per game this season, shooting 49.6 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from 3-point range. He had 46 points in a triple-overtime loss to Kansas on Jan. 4 and dropped 39 on Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament.

Sophomore guard Grayson Allen is the Duke player opponents love to hate. Allen, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and a second-team All-American, is averaging 21.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He had a season-high 33 points against Long Beach State on Dec. 30.

Senior guard Gary Payton II has followed in his father's footsteps at Oregon State, establishing his own legacy as one of the program's all-time greats. He was selected the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year each of the past two seasons, becoming the first player in conference history to win the award twice. He is averaging 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

One game to see: Another game that could produce an early upset is the matchup between No. 4 Duke and No. 13 UNC Wilmington. Thirteenth seeds have knocked off No. 4 seeds 24 times since David Robinson's Navy team became the first to do it against LSU in 1985.

Duke, which lacks depth, finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and lost two of its last three games, including an overtime defeat to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. UNC Wilmington won 16 of its past 18 games, including an overtime victory over Hofstra in the championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association tourney. Chris Flemmings, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, leads the team in scoring.

The Seahawks figure to savor the opportunity to knock off one of the state's heavyweights on the biggest stage.

Numbers Inc.:

0 -- Games Oregon lost to Top 25 teams this season. The Ducks are 5-0 against ranked opponents, with wins over Baylor, USC, Arizona (twice) and Utah.

7 -- Bids awarded to teams from the Pac-12 Conference, including two in the West Region.

10 -- 30-point games this season for Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield.

54 -- Years since Yale last reached the NCAA Tournament.

1 -- Times Texas A&M reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen since 1980: in 2007. The Aggies have never gone past the Sweet Sixteen.

See you in Houston: Oregon. The Ducks prove they deserve to enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed for the first time in school history, reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2004.

West capsules

1. Oregon (28-6). The Ducks have won eight in a row since dropping back-to-back games to Cal and Stanford. They posted a resounding 88-57 victory over Utah in the championship game of the Pac-12 tournament.

2. Oklahoma (25-7). Two-time Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield led the Sooners to a third-place finish in one of the nation's toughest conferences.

3. Texas A&M (26-8). The Aggies, led by senior guard Jalen Jones, won their first regular-season conference title since 1986.

4. Duke (23-10). The Blue Devils, who feature the dynamic duo of Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, are making their 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.

5. Baylor (22-11). The Bears lost four of their past six games, but they put up a fight in a 70-66 loss to Kansas in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.

6. Texas (20-12). The Longhorns lost five of their last nine during a brutal stretch run that included two games against No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 22 Baylor as well as matchups with No. 1 Kansas, No. 9 West Virginia and No. 21 Iowa State.

7. Oregon State (19-12). The Beavers, under second-year coach Wayne Tinkle, reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990.

8. St. Joseph's (27-7). The Hawks won the Atlantic 10 Conference tourney to reach the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in 21 seasons under coach Phil Martelli.

9. Cincinnati (22-10). The Bearcats posted their sixth consecutive 20-win season and reached the NCAA Tournament for the sixth year in a row.

10. VCU (24-10). The Rams, who reached the Final Four in 2011, are in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth year in a row.

11. Northern Iowa (22-12). The Panthers, who won 12 of their past 13 games, including dramatic victories over Wichita State and Evansville in the Missouri Valley tournament, feature four players with double-figure scoring averages.

12. Yale (22-6). The Ivy League champion Bulldogs are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962.

13. UNC Wilmington (25-7). The Colonial Athletic Association champions are led by junior guard Chris Flemmings, who averages 16.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest.

14. Green Bay (23-12). The Phoenix won the Horizon League tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years.

15. CSU Bakersfield (24-8). The Roadrunners, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since moving to Division I in 2007, beat New Mexico State at the buzzer to win their first Western Athletic Conference tournament title.

16/16. Holy Cross (14-19)/Southern (22-12). Holy Cross is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007 after winning the Patriot League Tournament as a No. 9 seed. Southern, which finished fourth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, earned its bid by beating Jackson State 54-53 to win the SWAC tournament.

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