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2023 NCAA Tournament Region Breakdown And Gambling Picks - History Says To Fade Kansas In The West Region

I’ll be looking at each region over the next couple of days as the NCAA Tournament gets ready to tip. We’ll look at matchups to watch, previews, picks, players to watch and what team could be a sleeper to come out of each region.  I’ll be releasing my entire bracket on Wednesday or Thursday so there won’t be a ton of revealing here.

West Region

Storylines

1. The region of death - This has been the standard take regarding the West. You have Kansas with the most Quad 1 wins in the country. You have UCLA who is a popular Final Four team. You have a Gonzaga team who is actually a little underrated across the country because people hate Gonzaga. You have a TCU team as the 6 seed who is Final Four good, even with the Lampkin transfer. You have UConn at the 4 who might be the best in the country when playing their best. There was a reason they were viewed as the best team for a reason. 

2. People missing - I mentioned Eddie Lampkin who stepped away from TCU and is transferring. But you also have Bill Self making his way back after missing the Big 12 Tournament with a procedure and was released in the hospital. UCLA though, that's the team I'm looking at here. Jaylen Clark is out for the NCAA Tournament. He might be the best defender in the country. Adem Bona missed the Pac-12 title game with an injury. Can he get back in time for the NCAA Tournament? I know there are injuries across the country but that Clark one is as big as any. 

3. Kansas falling to the 3 overall seed - I bring this up because of location. If Kansas held as a top-2 seed they would have been playing in Kansas City. Good luck beating Kansas in Kansas City. Instead they have to go out to Vegas because Houston gets the KC region. That's massive. I know Kansas will still travel well but the amount of people who would instantly put Kansas in the Final Four because of KC changes everything. I also know there's the curse of the national champ. We haven't had a reigning national champ make it past the Sweet 16 since Florida went back-to-back. In fact only 4 teams only made it to the Sweet 16 in that same time. 

4. First Four winner - We see it every year. A team who wins a First Four game wins a first round game. We have a look at that here with Nevada/Arizona State playing TCU. I don't know if I would trust either of those teams beating TCU but who knows. History says someone will win. 

5. Northwestern getting its 2nd win ever - Look at Northwestern. It's still weird seeing them in the NCAA Tournament since it's only the 2nd time ever. Remember the last time they were in? 

Dude just flat out forgot the score. Now this Northwestern team is decent. They were 2nd in the Big 10. They have good enough wins. Boo Bouie is fun as shit. 

Players to Watch

There are a couple ways to look at this, but I’m looking at this strictly as an intrigue factor. These are players that could be lottery picks in the NBA Draft, could put a team on their back or are just flat out good players. I'll try to avoid the obvious like Zach Edey or Jalen Wilson. 

1. DaJuan Harris (Kansas) - He's one of the more forgotten players in the country. Harris is a damn good point guard who can win Kansas a game. We know about Wilson and Dick, but Harris is sort of the third guy there. He dictates game tempo and really sets Kansas up on offense. He's one of the better point guards in the country. We've seen teams try to force him to beat them and he has. If Kansas gets back to the Final Four, Harris is going to likely win them one game. 

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2. Aidan Mahaney (Saint Mary's) - The freshman who is a homegrown kid. He's awesome. No other way to put it. Dude looks like he's 12-years old and goes out and gets 15 a game (in a slow tempo) while shooting 40% from three. He's good enough to take over a game against anyone. 

3. Emanuel Miller (TCU) - Yes Mike Miles is the key here. Yes TCU has a guy like Damion Baugh and even Chuck O'Bannon who can get hot. But Mille is sort of the X-factor. He's 6'7", versatile and can shoot the ball. He had 20 and 10 against Texas a couple weeks ago. Without Lampkin there, Miller's rebounding is going to be even more important. 

4. Andre Jackson (UConn) - Perhaps the biggest swing guy in the region. There are times Andre Jackson looks like the best player on UConn and a pro. There are times Andre Jackson just keeps launching shots and teams want that to happen. I just don't know which Andre Jackson shows up. 

5. Amari Bailey (UCLA) - Amari Bailey is a 5-star recruit who is the 3rd guy on UCLA. We know Jacquez as Campbell, but Bailey really changes the UCLA ceiling. He had 19 and 7 against Arizona while looking like the best pro prospect on the floor. More importantly he understands his role on this team better than anyone. He can take over a game if he has to, but he won't force anything. 

Best Bet To Make The Final Four (via Barstool Sportsbook) - UConn +450

It's not separated by region winner yet as I write this blog, so I just looked at odds to make the Final Four. This region is all bunched up and for good reason. But I think UConn at +450 would be the play. They've been the best team in the country before. I like their draw to get to the Sweet 16 then you hope history takes over in Kanas losing there. Then you hope for mayhem at the bottom of the bracket. I wanted to take TCU at 10/1 but that draw is just so brutal. 

Matchup You Most Want To See: No. 6 TCU vs No. 3 Gonzaga 

Best early gut first round play: I'll come out with my final plays day of, so this is just first gut. Don't overthink it.

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VCU +3.5/ML +140. Saint Mary's has had a somewhat weird season. They are 11th on KenPom with wins over Gonzaga, San Diego State, Oral Roberts, North Texas and Vanderbilt. But they also lost a home game to Colorado State at Loyola Marymount and neutral to Washington. You look at the individual matchup and that VCU press can disrupt Saint Mary's offense. You can get Logan Johnson a little out of control which would be the key. Also just looking at VCU they don't have a ton of holes. The two things they do bad? They give up offense rebounds and they don't shoot free throws well. Terrifying for sure. But getting the hook? I'll take my chances. 

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