West not the Best in NCAA

West not the Best in NCAA

February 21, 2019 8:00 AM
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The demise of college basketball in the West isn’t some new revelation. This has been ongoing most of the decade.

It’s just that this season’s inept performance by most of the teams in the region’s largest conferences has fans poking fun, analysts talking down and gamblers often avoiding when it comes to teams and games on the west coast.

Still, the west has a few league leaders that most observers can talk highly about — Gonzaga, Nevada, and Washington — and still feel comfortable dismissing as a serious contender for the national championship.

That includes the mid-major superpower Bulldogs. Gonzaga is always good for at least one tournament victory, and lately one or two more, but often the latest version of the Bulldogs is usually said to be better than the last.

GU has frequently earned high seeds, yet fell short of expectations — 2017’s run to the national title game wasn’t necessarily the exception since the team lost just two games.

Stars Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura will give The Kennel hope once again. Gonzaga is a 6.5-1 second-choice in the betting currently behind favored Duke (9-5).

But while a handful of Cinderella teams could make their way out of the host of mid-major conferences from the “better half” of the country, the chances of that happening to a team out West is extremely unlikely since there will be little room for any at-large schools to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

The Mountain West Conference has undoubtedly taken the biggest tumble of the last several years. By most power polls, the MWC is not rated much higher the Western Athletic Conference, which ironically, many of the current league schools emerged from.

There is no reason to think the trend East won’t continue. especially with teams such as Arizona, UCLA and San Diego State falling considerably from expected form over the last few years. Not only do the top major programs attract the best talent, with other schools scooping up the next tier, but the West’s elite players also often make their way back East.

And when it comes to college basketball, television has been playing a major impact on the competitive balance between the two sides of the country, with top teams and top matchups getting headlines every week from the traditional power conferences, while the others scramble for scraps late at night with considerably less viewership.

Not even Bill Walton’s commentary has been able to save his beloved West Coast basketball.

Wednesday

North Carolina at Duke: The Tar Heels are close to a double-digit underdog in the first meeting of the season between the two teams separated by eight miles and two shades of blue. Duke controls the tempo at home, but UNC likes to speed things up when out of Chapel Hill and rivalry motivation allows Coach K to pour it on. DUKE

Friday

Indiana at Iowa: The Hawkeyes won in Bloomington, 77-71, on Feb. 7 behind a combined 46 points from Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook. The Hoosiers opened the Big Ten season 3-0 but were just 4-10 in the conference before Tuesday’s home tilt with rival Purdue. Could the unthinkable happen and have Archie Miller replaced by Steve Alford? IOWA

Saturday

Tennessee at LSU: Two teams that have been very hot, particularly in the public eye, meet for their only regular-season meeting. The Vols’ 18-game winning streak was stopped emphatically by Kentucky last week, although they could be the slightest of favorites here. UT has gone 8-1 to the over on the road, while the Tigers are 15-9-1 to the over entering the week. OVER

Kansas at Texas Tech: We’ve discussed the possibilities of KU losing their Big 12 stranglehold in this space for years never to see it come to fruition. The difference this year could be the result of injuries to the Jayhawks. The Red Raiders lost the first meeting in Lawrence by a 79-63 margin after falling behind by double-digits in the first 10 minutes. KANSAS

Sunday

Michigan State at Michigan: Top 10-ranked clubs meet with first place in the Big Ten likely on the line, although the rematch will be on the last day of the regular season. Both teams entered the week 12-3 in the conference, along with Purdue. Both teams have been solid under plays this season with UM 9-17 to the low, while the Spartans are 10-16 to the under, although the total could come as high as 130. UNDER

Last week: 2-9

Season: 35-46-1

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