This is where the March Madness starts to get real good: The Sweet 16. There are now just three more rounds left until the championship game, with each contest being highly more contested than the one before it.
The West Region was completely set on Saturday, and will start on Thursday in San Jose. Here’s a look at the teams that definitely know the way to San Jose.
Arizona Wildcats vs. Xavier Musketeers
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.
But that was then, and this is now. This Wildcats team, perhaps, is a more talented, deeper squad with scoring options at every position.
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.
They also boast a handful of different scorers. Three Musketeers — Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner, J.P. Macura — average double digits in points scored, with Bluiett putting up over 18 a night.
Arizona is going to have to buckle down on defense if they have any hopes of stopping Xavier’s three headed monster. They have the talent to do it, but if Sean Miller can put together the right game plan, there should be no doubt about who will move on to the Elite Eight.
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
The number 1 seed, Gonzaga Bulldogs, will face their biggest test yet in the West Virginia Mountaineers.
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.
Game times and TV info will be set later on Sunday evening for these contests.