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NCAA Tournament: West Region at a glance

Can Florida and Florida State fans find common ground in cheering both teams on to a possible Elite Eight matchup?
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton directs his team against Virginia during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Published Mar. 18
Updated Mar. 18

An NBA prospect ... from Murray State? It’s must-see TV.

Team to beat

Notwithstanding its stunning loss to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament final, Gonzaga (30-3) might have the nation’s most complete team. Just ask Duke, which fell to the Zags (when it had Zion Williamson), 89-87, in Maui in November. Deep and experienced, Gonzaga can beat you in a half-court or transition game. It’s ranked first nationally in field-goal percentage (53.6) and eighth in field-goal percentage defense (38.9).

Ja-ching

Murray State sophomore Ja Morant’s life soon will segue from tournament brackets to tax brackets. A lanky, lightly recruited guard from South Carolina, Morant (24.6 ppg, 10.0 assists) has evolved into an NBA lottery prospect in two seasons with the 12th-seeded Racers (27-4). In late November, he had a triple double (29 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) in a win against Missouri State. The next game, he scored 38 in a loss to Alabama. Soon thereafter, NBA scouts were flocking to his games.

RELATED: Full NCAA bracket

Eagles watch

Oldsmar Christian has a pair of former stars playing in this region. St. John’s sophomore LJ Figueroa has played well in his first season as a starter, averaging 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds. He’ll lead the Red Storm (21-12) in a play-in game against Arizona State (22-10). Dontay Bassett is averaging 2.7 points for No. 10 seed Florida, which faces No. 7 Nevada.

Encore performance of Hamilton

FSU achieved a milestone of sorts with Sunday’s announcement, earning a third consecutive NCAA berth for only the third time in program history. Two of those streaks (2017-19 and 2009-12) have come under current coach Leonard Hamilton, who has led FSU to the Big Dance seven times in his 17 seasons. How’s this for some resume polish? FSU owns victories against regular-season champs from three major conferences: Virginia (ACC), LSU (SEC) and Purdue (Big Ten).

Upset alert

We wouldn’t be shocked to see 10th-seeded Florida upset Nevada. The Gators (19-15), who came within a no-called foul of forcing overtime against Auburn in the SEC Tournament semifinals, allow fewer than 64 points per game. Meantime, the Wolf Pack has dropped three of its past eight — all in Mountain West Conference play — after a 24-1 start. Don’t presume this West Region opener presents any kind of geographic advantage for Nevada; the game’s in Des Moines, Iowa.

Read more:

South Region at a glance

Midwest Region at a glance

East Region at a glance

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Clemson's Isaiah Simmons tackles Florida State quarterback Alex Hornibrook, causing a fumble during the first half of Saturday's game in Clemson, S.C. RICHARD SHIRO  |  AP
    The Tigers beat the Seminoles for the fifth straight year, this time in a 45-14 romp.
  2. Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher walks the sideline against Arkansas on Sept. 28 in Arlington, Texas. Texas A&M won 31-27. RON JENKINS  |  AP
    Plus more national nuggets, including a bright spot for Lovie Smith’s Illini.
  3. Florida Gators defensive back CJ Henderson (1) wags his finger after breaking up a pass intended for Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Jeff Thomas during the season opener. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Matt Baker: A running back duel at Clemson and why Jordan Cronkrite could be in for another big day for USF. Plus, Tampa Bay Times staff picks for week 7.
  4. There's nothing quite like playing at LSU's Tiger Stadium at night. JONATHAN BACHMAN  |  AP
    How does Clemson’s Death Valley compare to the one at LSU?
  5. Virginia running back Deshawn McClease (33) scores the winning touchdown during the second half against Miami on Saturday in Miami Gardens. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    The Hurricanes, who trailed by 28 at one point, score three touchdowns in less then four minutes to tie.
  6. Florida State Seminoles coach Willie Taggart hugs wide receiver Keyshawn Helton as they celebrate after a beating N.C. State on Saturday. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    “If they can profit from their likeness, I think that’s fair," FSU football coach Willie Taggart said last week.
  7. Florida State head coach Willie Taggart and his players celebrate their 31-13 defeat of North Carolina State in an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser) MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    “We made another step in the right direction,” Willie Taggart said. There’s a long way to go still, but they’re getting somewhere.
  8. N.C. State quarterback Bailey Hockman (16) throws against Florida State in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    The Seminoles’ offensive line recorded another new low Saturday.
  9. Florida State quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) throws in the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    The Wisconsin grad transfer threw for a career-high 312 yards in FSU’s 31-13 win over North Carolina State.
  10. Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) heads toward the goal line in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Louisville on Sept. 21, 2019. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    Also to watch during this weekend’s state college football matchups: a key player if USF hopes to slow down SMU’s offense. Plus: Tampa Bay Times week 5 picks.
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