The West Region wasn’t as chaotic as some other regions. In the First Round, there was just one upset. But a couple of upsets in the Round of 32 have given us a Sweet 16 with the no. 1, 5, 6, and 7 seeds.
Undefeated Gonzaga remains undefeated two rounds into the Big Dance with Mark Few taking the Bulldogs to their sixth consecutive Sweet 16. Gonzaga barely broke a sweat in a 98-55 win over Norfolk State in the First Round but did get a challenge from Oklahoma in the Round of 32. The Bulldogs ultimately prevailed with a comfortable 16-point win. However, the Sooners got off to a fast start and made things interesting down the stretch. But the truth is that Gonzaga looks like a team that hasn’t lost all season, taking care of an Oklahoma team that beat multiple top-10 teams during the season.
Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 opponent will be the no. 5 Creighton Bluejays. All across the sports world, folks are throwing a fit over Creighton, who looked dead in the water after a pathetic showing against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament final. Amidst the controversy that saw coach Greg McDermott get suspended for a game, the Bluejays seemed like a good candidate to fall victim to an upset early in the tournament. Alas, Creighton survived a close call with UC-Santa Barbara in the First Round and pulled away from no. 13 Ohio in the Round of 32. The Bobcats, of course, deserve some credit for de-throning Virginia in the First Round. It was the second time in four years that Tony Bennett’s team suffered an embarrassing upset in the First Round. The Bluejays ultimately benefited from that, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974.
In the bottom half of the West bracket, things were a little complicated. No. 10 VCU had to bow out due to COVID concerns. That gave no. 7 Oregon a free pass to the Round of 32. The Ducks had to wait until Monday afternoon to play their first game, but they looked well-rested and not the least bit rusty. Oregon dropped 95 points on Iowa with four players scoring at least 17 points led by Chris Duarte’s 23 points. Even 36 points from Luka Garza couldn’t save the defensively-challenged Hawkeyes, who were one of several Big Ten teams to flop in the Big Dance.
In the Sweet 16, the Ducks will meet fellow Pac-12 team USC. The no. 6 Trojans were seen as a boom-or-bust team heading into the tournament, but Andy Enfield’s team has been all boom thus far. The Trojans handled Drake 72-56 in the First Round and then utterly dominated Kansas 85-51 to close out the Round of 32 on Monday night. The Jayhawks survived a scare from Eastern Washington in the First Round, trailing by eight points at halftime before getting their act together. But Bill Self’s team failed to realize that they had a second game to play. Brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley dominated Kansas in the paint, leading the Trojans to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
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