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NCAA Bracket Predictions: West Region

MURRAY, KY - FEBRUARY 09: Ja Morant #12 of the Murray State Racers reacts after tipping in a shot in the second half of the game against the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars at CFSB Center on February 9, 2019 in Murray, Kentucky. Murray State won 86-55. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is perhaps the most thrilling, excruciating time on the sports calendar. It’s certainly the time college basketball is its most relevant nationally, and it brings out the expert in everyone as brackets everywhere are filled in and submitted with varying levels of confidence.

I watch maybe 12 minutes of college basketball per year, and convince myself come bracket time that I’ve got this thing nailed. I never do.

So what we’re going to do is pick games and then give some (likely wrong) rationale for each one. Sometimes there’s a real reason for the pick. Other times there’s not. We don’t recommend filling out a bracket based on these selections, but feel free to do so if you need someone to blame.

Check out the East predictions here. Up next is the West.

Round 1

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson

It turns out Fairleigh Dickinson is NOT a character from Downton Abbey.

Pick: Gonzaga

No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 9 Baylor

Baylor isn’t very good at shooting threes, and that’s a problem against Syracuse’s zone. They’ll be without Frank Howard for one game because of his suspension for tripping Duke’s Zion Williamson in the ACC tournament, but they should sneak past Baylor with a sound defensive game.

Pick: Syracuse

No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 12 Murray State

Ja Morant Hive is firmly in the building.

Pick: Murray State

No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 Vermont

Carmichael Dave would probably kill me if I don’t pick the right team here.

Pick: Florida State

No. 6 Buffalo vs. No. 11 Arizona State

Buffalo upset No. 4 Arizona as a 13 seed last year, and now they’re back with a ton of experience and a chance to knock off the other Arizona school. There are a lot of signs that Buffalo could make a run.

Pick: Buffalo

No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 14 Northern Kentucky

The good news for Texas Tech is that unlike their football team, their basketball team is really good at defense. They give up fewer than 60 points per game.

Pick: Texas Tech

No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 10 Florida

Nevada spent most of the season as a top-25 team. A first-round exit against a mediocre Florida team would be pretty devastating.

Pick: Nevada

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Montana

Michigan is a really good squad. Montana plays in the Big Sky. Sometimes it isn’t complicated.

Pick: Michigan

Round 2

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 8 Syracuse

The Zags feel flame-out proof, but if any team is going to knock them off early, it’s the Orange.

Pick: Gonzaga

No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 12 Murray State

Ja Morant Hive – still out here.

Pick: Murray State

No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 Buffalo

Let’s get weird!

Pick: Buffalo

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 7 Nevada

Wolverines vs. a Wolfpack would be a good nature documentary.

Pick: Michigan

Sweet 16

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 Murray State

Ja Morant Hive – still here, but this is the end of the run.

Pick: Gonzaga

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 6 Buffalo

Buffalo scores a ton of points, but Michigan’s stifling defense should be enough to stop their tournament run.

Pick: Michigan

Elite 8

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 Michigan

More chalk to get here, but John Beilein’s club is ready to knock off the No. 1 seed.

Pick: Michigan