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March Madness: Staples Center West Regional Preview

Evan Budrovich |
March 28, 2013 | 12:40 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Four teams enter Staples tonight, only one will leave with a Final Four berth. (Christopher Chan/Creative Commons)
Four teams enter Staples tonight, only one will leave with a Final Four berth. (Christopher Chan/Creative Commons)
March Madness is in full swing as the epic finishes, stunning upsets and traditional powerhouses take their talents to Staples Center to decide the West Regional. The festivities beginning with the unexpected 13th-seed La Salle who take on the 9th-seed Wichita State followed by the traditional powerhouses 6th-seed Arizona vs. 2nd-seed Ohio State taking the court.

This regional has been anything but predictable as the No. 1 seed Gonzaga faltered in the third round to Wichita State, while third-seeded New Mexico was upset by Harvard in the second round. The fourth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats also faltered in the tournament, alongside upstart Wisconsin; leaving mass chaos in the top-half of the bracket. 

The West Regional may have been ranked the easiest bracket coming into the tournament, but nothing has been easy in this maddening opening week of action. Here is an inside look at all things West Regional for the Sweet 16 affair.

Game One: La Salle (24-9, 11-5) vs. Wichita State (28-8, 12-6)

How We Got Here:

La Salle

1st Round: 80-71 over #13 Boise State                       

2nd Round: 63-61 over #4 Kansas State

3rd Round: 76-74 over #12 Ole Miss

Wichita State

2nd Round: 73-55 over #8 Pittsburgh

3rd Round: 76-70 over #1 Gonzaga

Players to Watch:

Ramon Galloway (Sr. G, La Salle) -- Galloway is Explorers' leading scorer, posting over 17 points per game while shooting 42 percent on the season. Those numbers were impressive, but the senior is taking his talents to new heights in the tournament posting games of 21, 19, and 24. Three-point shooting has made Galloway difficult to defend, after hitting over 50-percent of his shots from downtown during NCAA play.

Tyrone Garland (Jr. G, La Salle) -- Garland is the bench specialist for the Explorers who brings an immediate spark to the offense when he hits the court. The junior averages 13 PPG in only 24 minutes this season, but has scored over that mark in four of his last five. After torching Boise State in the first four game with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting, Garland has cooled significantly, but will be heavily relied upon to attack this physical Shockers defense.

Malcolm Armstead (Sr. G, WSU) -- Armstead is a physical point guard who is in his first season directing the offense for the Shockers. The Oregon transfer dishes out a team-leading four assists per game, sparking the Shockers slow-paced attack. Armstead will have to be dominant on the defensive end, with his nearly two steals per game, against the potent guards for La Salle.

Cleanthony Early (Jr. F, WSU) -- He comes off the bench early and often for the Shockers. The junior is scoring in double figures this season but took a huge step forward in the tournament, scoring 37 points in the first two games. The Shockers' size advantage will give Early a prime opportunity to put his 6-foot-8 frame right in the thick of the action against the smaller Explorer frontcourt.

Key Matchup: Rebounding

This game pits team who bring completely different strengths to Staples Center. The Shockers love to slow down the pace of play and use their length to dominate the glass, ranking in the top 30 in rebounds per game (38.4). La Salle is ranked near the bottom of the nation in rebounding (292nd overall) since they are a smaller team that lives and dies by the three-point line. If La Salle can nail their shots early, the Shockers biggest advantage will be taken away, but a poor shooting night would make matters extremely difficult.

Prediction: Wichita State 65, La Salle 61 -- This hard-nosed Sweet 16 battle will come down to the wire, but expect the Shockers to continue their physical run because of Armstead’s play late in the game.

Game Two: Arizona (27-7, 12-6) vs. Ohio State (28-7, 13-5)

How We Got Here:

Arizona head coach Sean Miller has plenty of experience coaching at Staples. (Shotgun Spratling/NT)
Arizona head coach Sean Miller has plenty of experience coaching at Staples. (Shotgun Spratling/NT)

2nd Round: 81-64 over #11 Belmont

3rd Round: 74-51 over #14 Harvard

Ohio State

2nd Round: 95-70 over #15 Iona

3rd Round: 78-75 over #10 Iowa State

Players to Watch:

Mark Lyons (Sr. G, Arizona) -- The transfer starting point guard followed his previous head coach Sean Miller to pursue a championship, something he has a real chance of acquiring this season. Lyons is the first player to ever make the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons with different teams, brining his scoring and leadership abilities to the desert. Better known for his inconsistencies during the season, Lyons has been anything but this postseason, scoring 50 points in two games.

Kaleb Tarczewski (Fr. F, Arizona) -- Tarczewski has been a monster in the paint for Arizona this season and will need to continue disrupting shots on the defensive end of the court. The talented freshman is averaging over six boards per game as part of Arizona’s extremely deep frontcourt led by three talented freshmen. In this matchup, Kaleb will be heavily relied upon to protect the basket and grab defensive boards against the Buckeyes' resurgent attack.

Aaron Craft (Sr. G, Ohio State) -- He nailed the game-winning shot against Iowa State, earning the role of Captain Clutch of the third round. The senior is averaging nearly five assists per game facilitating the Buckeye attack. Craft has been a Twitter sensation this past week, as the man is known for his acts off the field nearly as much as his leadership for the Big Ten Champions. The Buckeyes will need his experience on both ends of the court to battle against the red-hot Lyons.

Deshaun Thomas (Jr. F, Ohio State) -- Thomas has been a dependable superstar throughout the season averaging a team-leading 19.7 PPG. Thomas is averaging 23 PPG in the NCAA Tournament with a great combination of inside and outside shooting. The biggest key to his game however may be his 84 percent free throw shooting on the year. Expect the Buckeyes to feed the ball in the post early and challenge the deep rotation of Arizona forwards that will be fired his way.

Key Matchup: Length and Athleticism

The Wildcats and Buckeyes both rely on their perimeter shooting to control the tempo of the game. Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson take a majority of the shots for Arizona, who are one of the most athletic teams remaining in the tournament. The Buckeyes present matchup nightmares of their own in LaQuinton Ross, the three-point arsonist off the bench, and Sam Thompson, who can stretch the court at the power forward position. The Wildcats and Buckeyes both do a tremendous job of spacing the court, making help defense an utmost priority.

Prediction: Ohio State 75 Arizona 63 -- While Arizona has played their best basketball during the tournament, they have not seen a team as strong and athletic as the Buckeyes. In the end, Ohio State will ride the three-point line past the run-and-gun Wildcats.

Reach Staff Writer Evan Budrovich here or follow him on Twitter.



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