2023 March Madness Preview and Predictions: West Region

2023 March Madness Preview and Predictions: West Region


2023 March Madness Preview and Predictions: West Region


William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Next region up is the West. This is a very unpredictable region, so anything can happen. The top half is incredibly dangerous, but so is the bottom half. There will be some upsets, but might not be the ones that most expect. 


First Round Upsets

12 VCU over 5 St. Mary’s

This game is going to come down to the wire. These teams are carbon copies of each other, and the fact it lands on a five vs. 12-seed makes this even closer. St. Mary’s has the clear better resume, including a very close loss to Houston. However, I’m not sold on these small market schools. It’s hard to judge a decently high seeded team that hasn’t really beaten anyone. I mean, neither has VCU, but that’s why they enter the tournament as a 12-seed. Although this is very abstract, the team that is hitting their shots will be the one to win. What I mean is both of these teams are so gritty defensively and pretty poor offensively. Whoever’s offense ends up being better will take the Round of 64. 

13 Iona vs. 4 UConn

Iona is currently on a 14 game win streak entering the tournament and they are as gritty as a team can get. Led by legendary coach Rick Pitino, Iona has a real shot at beating UConn in their first game. The Huskies biggest weakness is foul trouble, and the tournament is not the time to get into foul trouble. This could be a game where Dan Hurley just gets out-coached by Pitino if the Gaels can pressure UConn enough to get them to make mistakes or put them in foul trouble. They aren’t very good from three, but they are very good at stopping the three defensively. 


The Favorites

1 Kansas

Kansas is coming off a tournament win just last year, and they are looking to make it two in a row. The Jayhawks have beaten some very good teams this season and look to be a lock to make a decent run. They have a pretty tough stretch, including facing the winner of the Arkansas vs. Illinois first round matchup, but they should still be able to get by. However, don’t be surprised if the defending champs make an early exit.



UCLA is having a fantastic season, including a 12 game win streak they were just on until losing in the PAC-12 championship. However, they just lost defensive player of the year finalist Jaylen Clark. Clark is a big reason UCLA has only allowed an average of 60.3 points per game. They still have a very good team in his absence, and the only loss in his absence was the conference championship. They’ll probably win a game or two, but they could also lose round one against UNC Asheville. They are a very solid 15-seed led by two fantastic players, Drew Pember and Tajion Jones. If they can play slow ball and get guys open at the three point line, we could see another St. Peters-like upset. 


3 Gonzaga

Every year that Gonzaga was the top seed, I faded them. Year after year, I was right, despite them still making the championship in 2021. Now, as they slowed down a bit and came into the tournament as a three seed, I might be on the Gonzaga train. They average an astounding 87.5 points per game, and this is with a limited percentage of shots from beyond the arch. Drew Timme is playing fantastic as always and the Bulldogs have a decently easy path to the Elite Eight. 


The Dark Horses

4 Uconn

If UConn doesn’t lose to Iona in round one, watch out. The path to the Sweet 16 is effortless, and they have real potential to reach the Final Four. Led by coach Hurley and Adama Sanogo, they can beat any team in the tournament, even if they have their flaws. They have a stout resume in the Big East, and they can take that into the tournament. After a loss to Marquette in the conference tournament, this team is unpredictable. As I said earlier, they can either lose round one or make the Final Four. 


8/9 Arkansas/Illinois

In another exciting eight/nine-seed matchup, we have Arkansas and Illinois. These teams are equally as dangerous for the same reasons. Defense is the story in this one, as both teams are very efficient on defense. On offense, both teams are very inefficient. Both teams have also had really good wins as well as really bad losses. I think Illinois takes this game and goes on to face Kansas. However, if Arkansas wins, I think they have a better shot against the Jayhawks than the Fighting Illini does. Either way, one of these teams can end up being a scary dark horse to face down the stretch. 



No Cinderellas in this one. We’ll see if Rick Pitino’s team can make a run, and maybe VCU can cook enough to reach the Sweet 16. However, there isn’t a low seeded team I feel comfortable enough to win more than one game. 


Region Winner Prediction: 1 Kansas (+300 on the Betfred Sportsbook)

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