My totally biased opinion is that this region is by far the toughest. Maybe that's because my beloved Spartans are the #1 seed here, but even if they were to get knocked out, I STILL think every game will be a fight.
1.) I heard several of my favorite experts pick MSU to lose early or not to make the Final Four. Naturally, I was all set to launch into a long-winded diatribe about how silly it is that all the analysts say "don't count out Izzo in March" yet they were ALL counting out Izzo in March! But then I checked out ESPN and realized I missed a crucial Bracketology conversation in which several experts (even DIGGER) picked the Spartans...so I can no longer rant on that one. I'm not saying MSU is a lock for the Final Four--this is, of course, the tournament and as we see every year, literally anything can happen. And who knows how the loss of Branden Dawson will affect MSU down the stretch. But they played really well in the BTT and I don't think it's totally out of the question. It's just nice to see the media have some faith.
2.) I'm totally bummed that my second-favorite team, the Missouri Tigers, are in our region. I have mixed emotions on this one. On the one hand, I don't want to have to play them and be forced to root against them (because of course, I would be rooting for my own team). But on the other hand, if we DO have to play them, it would be great because it means BOTH teams would have done well enough to have a shot at the Final Four. And if MSU gets to the Elite Eight, I'll be extremely happy and proud. Of course, a Final Four and/or a national championship is better, but I'm trying to keep things in perspective. :)
3.) The match-up that baffles me: Louisville vs. Davidson. I just don't know which way to go here. Yes, Davidson beat Kansas...but that was so long ago! And yes, Louisville has had some issues this year...but they're playing really well right now and just won the Big East tournament, so they're coming into this tournament with some momentum. Additionally, I just love Rick Pitino as a coach. I think his teams always play hard and I usually really enjoy watching them. But then back in my sports TV days, I went down to Davidson to do a feature on Steph Curry and absolutely loved the school, the fans and their coach, Bob McKillop....so much so that I now own a Davidson basketball t-shirt. WHAT TO DO!?!?
4.) Sleeper team in the region: New Mexico. I think because they aren't on TV and not in a power conference, people can overlook them. Sweet 16?
5.) Another favorite team: Marquette. Jae Crowder is a total beast. Buzz Williams is totally underrated as a coach...and I find him hilarious. This team is tough, physical and ready to win. I would LOVE to see them vs. Mizzou.
6.) Teams I know pretty much nothing about that scare me: St. Louis and Memphis. I'm already nervous about LIU-Brooklyn. No one wants to be the first 1 seed to lose to a 16. So there's that. And then, if MSU wins their first game, I hear lots about Memphis that turns my stomach. I'm more worried about getting past them than anyone else in the bracket, probably because I know more about the other teams and can think about how MSU matches up with their players and strengths and weaknesses.
So that's the West. President Obama likes Mizzou...who do YOU have?