Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2019 NCAA Tournament? Up to your eyeballs in expert picks chock-full of astute takes on players to watch and budding upsets?
Fear not, friends: your pals at Anonymous Eagle are here to inject some half-baked, homespun “insight” into the proceedings, with our annual region-by-region tour, as we go Anonymously Through the Brackets.
For each region, we’ll give you our patented Anonymous Eagle Half-Arsed Analysis with: a gutless pick to win the region; a sleeper regional champ; a CRUSH YOUR MAN upset special; a player/team we’d pay to watch; a player most likely to carry his team singlehandedly to the Sweet 16; and the best player in the region that you’ve never heard of before.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the West Region......
GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
If you are the only team in the country to have beaten Duke while Duke was fully staffed and healthy, then you are clearly a very good basketball team. That’s Gonzaga, and they’re the #1 seed in the region here. Sure, sure, the hilariously awful loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game is distressing, given their average margin of victory in league play was 27 points. We’ll just pretend that was the Zags intentionally tanking a game to help the conference pick up an extra NCAA tournament payday share and pick them to go back to the Final Four for the second time in three years.
CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX Bold Pick To Win The Region
Look, I’ll be honest with you: I’m not completely sold on Gonzaga or #2 seed Michigan in this region. So, to me, it’s not entirely bold to pick Texas Tech to win, but they are the #3 seed and thus qualify here. Along with Kansas State, they’re the first team to break Kansas’s reign of terror in the Big 12, and that has to count for something. Chris Beard is clearly doing something right down in Lubbock, and what he’s doing very right is coaching defense. The Red Raiders are the most efficient defense in the country heading into the tournament according to KenPom.com, and while I don’t necessarily believe that defense wins championships, I do believe that defense travels. You can play great defense anywhere at any time, and Texas Tech can shut anyone down long enough for them to win the game.
Oh, and Jarrett Culver is a pretty great player, too. Helps to score a few points here and there, y’know?
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
A lot of weird jerks are going to tell you that you should be taking Murray State to beat Marquette. Yeah, well, this is a Marquette-themed internet web site, and we’re not that dumb. Instead, we’d like to point you to the other end of that pod, and look at Vermont beating Florida State in the 4/13 game. John Becker has the Catamounts back in the NCAA tournament after missing out thanks to UMBC’s win in the America East title game a year ago, and in their last appearance in 2017, they gave Purdue fits for 35 minutes as..... wait for it..... a #13 seed. Anthony Lamb and Ernie Duncan were starters on that 2017 UVM team, and they’re still kicking around on the roster today. Great coach, great program, NCAA tournament experience.... there’s a lot to like here, and we can’t forget the fact that they’re playing in Hartford, Connecticut, just a four hour drive from campus. The last time that someone let Vermont play a first round game in the New England area.... well.....
Player I’d Pay To Watch
Well, this is an easy one, as it’s the guy that all Marquette fans everywhere will need to keep their eyes on, and that’s Murray State‘s Ja Morant. Here’s a highlight reel of Morant from this season, and it starts with him jumping over a guy to dunk. It STARTS with a Vince Carter on Frederic Weis situation. STARTS WITH.
I mean, who else in this region is even possibly appointment television, other than Markus Howard who I have paid lots of money to watch for the past three seasons? Rui Hachimura? Iggy Brazdeikis? One of the Martins with Nevada? C’mon. Who are we kidding here?
THE CHIROPRACTOR SPECIAL aka: Who Can Put The Team On His Back?
Oh, this one is almost as easy as Ja Morant for the last one. It’s very clearly Shamorie Ponds. St. John’s entire existence in this tournament is 100% dependent on Ponds going God Mode and controlling nearly every facet of everything the Red Storm do on offense. If he can get rolling downhill, it’s all downhill for whatever team is on the other side of the court.
That’s the downside for St. John’s: If Ponds isn’t going, then they’re hosed. Look no further than what happened in the Big East tournament. In their win over DePaul? 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting including 3-for-4 from outside, four rebounds, seven assists. The loss against Marquette? 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting with nary a strike on any of his four long range shots, one rebound, two assists. The Golden Eagles took him out of the game — for once, it should be stated — and Marquette cruised easily. If you can stop Ponds, you can win. If you can’t, well, we have some nice parting gifts for you.
Best Guy You’ve Never Heard Of
Quick, show of hands: Who knows who won the Horizon League Player of the Year award this year? Anyone? Ok, neither did I until I started poking around for candidates for this category. Let me introduce you to Drew McDonald, a 6’8”, 250 pound forward for Northern Kentucky. 20.1 points per game was second best in the HL this season and his 9.7 rebounds were tops in the conference. So I know you’re thinking right now, “yeah, he’s some big dude that pounded down the Horizon League. So what?” How’s about a Horizon League best 45.2% from three-point range in league play and 40.6% for the whole season. He wasn’t just voted the HL POY, he’s also the KenPom conference player of the year, which makes sense given the shooting. He’s got crazy touch both from long range and inside, and he’s one of the 20 best defensive rebounders in the country in terms of rate per KenPom, and he’s a pretty snazzy passer, too. Is any of this going to help the Norse get past Texas Tech in the first round? Yeah, probably not. But he’s a whirlwind of a player that deserves the accolade here.