The West region kicks off in Salt Lake City on Thursday, and could be one of the more entertaining regions of the day. There are four games, and three have the potential for high entertainment value. Here is the region inside the numbers. Tomorrow I'll cover Friday's games.
(1) Gonzaga vs (16) Southern, 4:10 (all times eastern), TBS
1: The Zags are one inbounds pass away from 32-1. Without that pass, Gonzaga would be entering on a 22-game winning streak.
“The Gonzaga play against Butler … the worst inbounds pass in the history of sports.” — Bill Walton
— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) January 25, 2013
2: Rank of Southern's defense among 347 Division I teams when it comes to 2-pt% allowed. Opponents have made just 40.4% of their 2s vs Southern. The Zags enter making 55.9% of their 2s, which is 9th nationally.
9: Gonzaga has 9 players who play more than 25% of the team's minutes. All nine have a higher offensive rating than the national average (100.6).
15: Games played by Gonzaga vs opponents ranked in Pomeroy's top-100. In those games Gonzaga is 13-2.
32: There are 32 Division I conferences. Southern got to this point by winning the SWAC tournament. The SWAC ranks 32 of 32 at kenpom.com.
97: Difference in Pomeroy ratings between Gonzaga (4) and Texas A&M (101), which was the best team that Southern beat this season.
(8) Pittsburgh vs (9) Wichita State, 1:40, TBS
1: Brothers of the nations No. 1 recruit who will be playing in this game. Nick Wiggins, a junior, was a JUCO transfer who averages 5.2 points per game for the Shockers.
2: Combined Final Four appearances for these two programs. Wichita State last reached the Final Four in 1965, while for Pitt it was 1941.
2: Number of the Big East's best three offensive rebounders who play for Pitt. Steven Adams is 2nd in the league, rebounding 15.4% of his own team's misses, and Talib Zanna is right behind him at 14.4%.
4: Pitt is the 4th best offensive rebounding team in the nation, and the Shockers are the 6th best defensive rebounding team. The Panthers offense lives off of extra possessions, and if Wichita State can limit those, they should be moving on to face Gonzaga.
7: As I noted earlier, never has a team rated so highly by Ken Pomeroy received a seed as low as Pitt. They're 7th in the Pomeroy's, which is higher than every team in this region besides Gonzaga. Apparently Vegas agrees, as they have Pitt as a 4.5 pt favorite (-5 at kenpom) vs 9-seed Wichita State.
29.8: Percentage of shots taken by Wichita State's Cleanthony Early when he's on the floor. It is the 5th highest figure in the Missouri Valley (and would have been 5th highest in the Big East).
64.2: Percentage of Pitt field goals which are assisted. This is the 14th best rate in the nation.
(6) Arizona vs (11) Belmont, 7:20, TNT
1: Rank, among 347 Division I teams, in 2-pt% for Belmont. Only two players who have played more than 10% of the minutes shoot less than 50% on 2s. One took 10 shots this year, and the other – Kerron Johnson – is at 49.6%.
3: Times in his career that Arizona senior Mark Lyons has played as a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament. He did it twice at Xavier, and now is in the same slot at Arizona.
4: In early January Arizona was the 4th ranked team in the nation.
5: Losses in their last ten games for Arizona.
6.8: Fouls drawn, per 40 minutes, for Belmot's 6-1 senior Kerron Johnson. This is the 15th most of all Division I players.
25: Percentage of opponent possessions in which Belmont forces a turnover – 9th nationally.
283: Division I teams who are taller than Belmont. This measure is called "effective height" and is a measure based on minutes, rather than just an average across the roster. Arizona is one of the biggest teams in the nation and ranked 14th.
(3) New Mexico vs (14) Harvard, 9:50, TNT
1: Seniors in Harvard's 7-man rotation.
2: Harvard's rank nationally in FTs attempted per FGA. They have six players who draw four fouls a game or more. New Mexico is the 7th best team in the nation at keeping teams off the line. They're also the 8th best at getting there.
2: Consecutive times New Mexico played New Mexico State earlier in the season. The teams schedule a home and away for the out of conference season, and often they are back-to-back games.
3: Number of times since conference play began that New Mexico has given up more than a point per possession in a game.
4: Number of Division I teams whose starters play more minutes than Harvard's.
4: Overtime wins, without a loss, for the teams. Each team is 2-0.
7: New Mexico's national rank in 2-pt% defense.
295: Separation, in teams, in terms of effective height. New Mexico is the 20th tallest team in the nation, while Harvard is the 315th.
40.1: Harvard's 3-pt%, which is 8th in the nation.