Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2022 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 (mostly) 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.
Let’s see what Bracketville has in store for us in the West Region.....
GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
Sorry Theo John, but Duke is overseeded. There’s not much standing in Gonzaga’s way from getting to another final four except maaaybe Texas Tech. The Bulldogs have lost just three games all season, and only one since December 4th. “But John, two of the teams Gonzaga lost to this year are in this region.” That seems bad, but Alabama is very much not playing the same caliber of basketball they were playing before conference play started. And Duke, let’s just say that neither Theo John nor Paolo Banchero (maybe someday) doesn’t hold a candle to the 7 foot tall, 195 pound, 70% true shooting machine that goes by the name of Chet Holmgren.
According to KenPom.com, Gonzaga has THE BEST offense and the seventh best defense in the country. Now, they’re a great team all around but when your two best players are 6’10” and 7 feet even, most of your work is going to be done in the paint. Between Holmgren and Drew Timme, Gonzaga has the best two-point shooting percentage on offense and the second best defensive two point percentage. Meaning that, when they get to the paint they score better than anyone else, and when opponents get to the paint they struggle to score at all. I could go on and on about the wonders the West Coast Conference’s miracle, but I’ll leave it at that for the sake of the preview.
CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX Bold Pick To Win The Region
The phrase ‘Defense Wins Championships’ is so overused by this point that it hardly means anything. But Texas Tech could prove that true. They have the best defense in the country according to KenPom.com, and there are fewer things in this world that I want to see more than the top defense go up against Gonzaga and the top offense. Texas Tech is more than capable of stopping any team in any way they want. They force a lot of turnovers, defend the paint well, and they have former Oral Roberts sensation Kevin Obanor. He doesn’t play the same role he had last year, but surely he’s still got the same tournament magic.
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
Not Rutgers. Well... okay, maybe Rutgers, but it’s a mess to try and predict the results of their games, so I’m just going to avoid them for now. The real upset team in this region is none other than Vermont. They’ve lost just one game since December 4th, but that one was a single point overtime loss (essentially a coin flip). That’s 22 wins in 23 games, by the way. They’re one of the best shooting teams in the country with the third best effective field goal percentage according to KenPom.com. They rarely turn the ball over and even more rarely do they let opponents get offensive rebounds. To beat them, teams have to score through their normal offense because second chance and transition points are few and far between. They have nine different players who have seen more than 25% of the available minutes, so they have a lot of different looks they can throw at teams and many ways to surprise opponents in game. They’ve also got a couple of 40%+ three point shooters in Ben Shungu and Ryan Davis. If both of those guys get hot, very few teams will be able to stop this Vermont team.
Also: Who doesn’t want to hear about T.J. Sorrentine again?
New Mexico State also deserves a shout here for a possible upset team... sorry UConn.
Player I’d Pay To Watch
None other than the man who I did pay to watch for years, Theo John. Am I taking this section too literal? Maybe.
A consensus top five draft pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Chet Holmgren is the player that I’d pay the most to watch from the West region. He’s the most enigmatic player I’ve ever seen. He’s a massive 7 feet tall, but can dribble and move almost like a guard. He blocks a ton of shots and hits 41% of his threes. His highlight reel isn’t the most explosive one you’re ever going to see, but Holmgren offers pretty much every single highlight play in the book:
Also want to note for this section that paying to see Holmgren also means that getting to see Drew Timme. Most possible bang for your buck here.
The Chiropractor Special aka: Who Can Put The Team On His Back?
I’ll give some love to the other possible top five draft pick in this region, Paolo Banchero. Banchero has only scored in single digits twice this entire season. He plays in 80% of Duke’s minutes despite losing seven pounds of sweat per game and dealing with a lot of cramping early in the season.
Projected No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero loses about 7 pounds per game by sweating— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) December 1, 2021
Despite being in Theo John’s (literal) massive shadow, Banchero has the highlight reel and all of the athleticism that comes with being such a potentially high draft pick. His season highs look like this: 28 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, three blocks, and five steals. Obviously, he’s not going to be able to put all of that together in one game (or is he?), but he’s capable of doing everything that Duke could possibly need. He’s a guy who could single handedly carry Duke to the Final Four if he gets hot.
Best Guy You’ve Never Heard Of
This is the biggest toss up of this whole region. Vermont’s Ryan Davis, New Mexico St.’s Teddy Allen, and Montana St.’s Xavier Bishop could all easily be picks for this section, but it’s Vermont’s Ben Shungu that I’ll highlight here. Shungu is a 6’2 guard who came back to Vermont for his COVID bonus year, and skyrocketed his offensive contribution by six extra points a night. He’s scoring 16 points, grabbing just under five rebounds, and just for funsies, handing out two assists per game. What’s really crazy about his growth as a player from last year to this year is he shot just 30% from three last season on 47 attempts. Not a huge sample size but decent enough to get an idea here. This season? 41% from downtown. A whole 11% increase in the span of one year! If he keeps hitting at a 40% or better clip, teams (specifically you, Arkansas) are going to have a hard time stopping Vermont.