Selection Sunday is officially in the books, and after a one-year absence, the NCAA Tournament is upon us. Ahead of the opening round, theScore previews each region to get you prepared to pick your bracket. After previously looking at the South, East, and Midwest, we finish with the West.
No. 1 Gonzaga
There's nothing to be said about Gonzaga that hasn't already been covered - the Bulldogs are a juggernaut. The WCC champions find themselves in a favorable bracket as Mark Few's program looks to finish the quest for the first perfect Division I season since 1975-76. Gonzaga has already played No. 2 Iowa, No. 3 Kansas, and No. 4 Virginia this season and beat all three by double-digits. The Bulldogs have five guys who average more than 9 points per game, led by the electric trio of Corey Kispert, Drew Timme and Jalen Suggs. March Madness has produced some incredible upsets in the past, but it would be a stunner if Gonzaga didn't make a deep run in the bracket this year.
No. 2 Iowa
Gonzaga might be the best team in the country, but Iowa can at least lay claim to having arguably the nation's best player, Luka Garza. The senior center is third in the country in scoring at 23.7 points per contest while also grabbing 8.8 rebounds a game. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, there's almost a 10-point dip from Garza to second-leading scorer Joe Wieskamp. The supporting cast will need to have a strong impact if the Hawkeyes have championship aspirations this season. With only two losses since Feb. 7, and wins over tournament teams Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin in that stretch, Iowa comes in rolling with a chance to make some serious noise.
No. 3 Kansas
Bill Self certainly has the pedigree to take Kansas far in the NCAA Tournament, but there are a number of questions surrounding the Jayhawks after they were forced to withdraw from the Big 12 tourney due to COVID-19. Self has already acknowledged they will travel to Indianapolis without three members of the team, but that David McCormack and Tristan Enaruna could join later in the week. The pair tested positive before the conference tournament. On the court, the Jayhawks enter the tournament on a hot run, winning eight of their last nine before their withdrawal. That includes wins over Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Baylor.
No. 7 Oregon
Scoring won't be a problem for Oregon, as Dana Altman's squad boasts five players who average double figures in a high-powered attack. Eugene Omoruyi and Chris Duarte can both fill it up and present matchup issues for any opponent in the bracket. The Ducks' defense will decide how far they go; the Pac-12 club has the 76th-best defense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings.
No. 6 USC
Garza is the best collegiate player in the West but the top NBA prospect is arguably USC's Evan Mobley. The electric 7-footer is a projected top-three pick in the upcoming draft after a freshman season averaging 16.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game. The Trojans protect the paint as good as any team in the country thanks to Evan and his brother Isaiah. That size and interior defense could cause serious issues for USC's half of the bracket.
Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
He may be the third-leading scorer on his team, but the freshman star has taken over as the closer for the top-seeded Bulldogs. Suggs became the highest-ranked recruit to ever commit to Gonzaga and has somehow exceeded expectations in his first season with the program. The 6-foot-4 standout carried the team from a deep deficit to a double-digit win over BYU in the WCC Tournament title game, and now gets his chance to shine on the biggest stage.
Luka Garza, Iowa
Garza dominating for Iowa has been one of the few constants in college basketball over the past four years. The 6-foot-11 senior once again led the Big Ten in scoring and will have his jersey retired by Iowa after the season. If the Hawkeyes are going to challenge the likes of Gonzaga for the West Region, Garza might have to turn in the best two-week stretch of his illustrious career.
Evan Mobley, USC
USC didn't win the Pac-12 Tournament, but Mobley turned in a performance worthy of the title. He averaged 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks per game before a narrow loss to Colorado in the semis. The Trojans lean on Mobley as much as any team in the tournament turns to one player, and if the California native is up to the challenge, the Trojans could make noise as a No. 6 seed.
Chris Duarte, Oregon
If you like efficient basketball players, Duarte is the guy to root for in this tournament. The Oregon senior scores 16.7 points per contest on a ridiculous shooting split of 52% from the field, 43% from the 3-point line, and 80.3% from the free-throw line. He's also an absolute menace on the defensive end of the court. After a hot stretch in the middle of the season, Duarte cooled off over the past three games, averaging just 10 points per contest. That will have to change for Oregon to make a lengthy tournament run.