Is it finally the year Gonzaga fans get to go crazy?

The Gonzaga bench celebrates during the second half of a second-round college basketball game against Northwestern in the men's NCAA Tournament Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Which team will win the NCAA Tournament’s West Region?

Arizona v Xavier:

Sean Miller faces his old squad in the NCAA Tournament once again. The last time this happened was in 2015, where the Cats came away with a 68-60 victory led by T.J. McConnell, who scored 17 points and amassed five assists.

Allonzo Trier has moved into the top spot as the leading point scorer, scoring 17 a night since the return from his suspension. His presence is the reason why many are picking this team to reach the Final Four for the first time under Miller.

Xavier, meanwhile, has not had that great of a season. They finished conference play in seventh position in the Big East with a conference record of 9-9, going 23-13 overall.

In the tournament, however, the Musketeers look to be putting the pieces together, right when it matters the most, as they’ve already upset two higher seeds in the opening two rounds. Xavier knocked off the Maryland Terrapins by 11 points, and did one better against the Florida State Seminoles, putting up 91 points in a lopsided victory.

Sean Miller on Xavier:

“I’m never surprised at those guys because I know how good Chris Mack is,” Miller said. “They’re grind-it-out type of a team and they play for Xavier and when they hit tournament time they’re always at their best. Obviously they’ve gone through a lot of things and for them to be in a Sweet 16 it’s a testament to how great of a program that is and how great a coach (Mack) is.”

Arizona’s director of basketball operations:

“It was probably more weird the first time it happened,” said Arizona director of basketball operations Ryan Reynolds, who played for Miller at Xavier. “It’s been a while since we were there. Obviously we’re really close with Coach Mack. The players have all changed, so that helps. If we beat them, in a weird way, all of us are going to feel bad for them. If they beat us, they’re going to feel bad for us. You just have to deal with it. When you’re in the Sweet 16, everybody’s fighting for their life.”

Dan Wolken of USA Today Sports:

From every angle, it’s starting to feel like this is Arizona’s year to break through. The Wildcats have looked terrific winning 11 of their last 12. They’re blessed with a pair of gifted scorers in 7-footer Lauri Markkanen and wing Allonzo Trier, who missed the first 19 games of the season under suspension for a positive performance enhancing drug test. And with the Final Four in Phoenix, the obvious storybook ending would be for Miller to bring Arizona its first national championship since the magical 1997 tournament run.

Alec Brzezinski on why Xavier can win:

This team looks like a confident, cohesive unit. The Musketeers struggled after point guard Edmond Sumner went down with a season-ending knee injury, but they have found their rhythm and are playing even better than before losing Sumner.

J.P. Macura is fascinating to watch. He’s taken on some point-guard responsibilities while still knocking down shots from behind the arc. Kaiser Gates and Trevon Bluiett are Xavier’s most intimidating threats on offense right now, but Macura’s ability to handle multiple positions could give Arizona defenders fits.

Gonzaga v WVU:

Gonzaga cruised through their opening round test against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, using a big second half to eventually win 66-44. Against the Northwestern Wildcats, the Bulldogs ended the Big Ten school’s first tournament appearance, as Gonzaga held on to win 79-73.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers have handled their opponents with relative ease. While the scoreline was a little too close for comfort against Bucknell, WVU did come away with the six point victory. It was against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish where West Virginia shined. They played their normal up-tempo pace, which the Bulldogs will have to deal with for a majority of Saturday. This allowed the Neers to put up 83 points compared to Notre Dame’s 71.

How is Gonzaga going to deal with West Virginia’s fast-paced offense? The Bulldogs are a much more methodical team, and like to utilize their half-court offense.

But Gonzaga will have to deal with Jevon Carter and Esa Ahmad, who both average double digits in points, while putting up over four assists per game. It should be an intriguing game with two contrasting styles of offense.

 

Zags lucky to be here?:

As for Gonzaga, the Bulldogs received some help in a tight game against Northwestern, the feel-good story making its first-ever tournament appearance.

Two days later, people are still talking about the play that occurred with less than 5:00 remaining.

Gonzaga forward Zach Collins reached up through the basket to block a Northwestern shot, which should have resulted in two points for the Wildcats. Officials allowed play to continue and Northwestern Coach Chris Collins, expressing his displeasure, was hit with a technical foul.

Press Virginia:

People seem confident that Press Virginia is back, also. Notre Dame, who led the country in fewest turnovers per game, committed 14 of them against the Mountaineers relentless pressure, and although 14 does not seem like a huge number for WVU, it was for the Fighting Irish. In fact, it was the second most miscues they have had in a game this year.

Point guard Matt Ferrell was noticeably rattled and V.J. Beachem could not hit a shot to save his life (2-14 FG, 1-9 3-PT) as he rushed the majority of them trying to counter the WVU aggressiveness. Only Bonzie Colson and free throw shooting kept the Irish within striking distance but Jevon Carter and his teammates allowed nothing more than just a minor threat.

Huggins truly believes deep down in his West Virginia rooted heart that a national championship banner will soon be hanging from the Coliseum rafters. There are a couple final four banners hanging proudly up there already but coach Huggins is not satisfied with those. He wants more and so do the fans.

What do you think? Who will win the West?

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