2018 NCAA Tournament: West Region preview

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08: Kenny Williams
CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08: Kenny Williams /
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Top ten players in the west region

10. Johnathan Williams

Williams comes in at tenth on the list for the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Williams, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, is averaging 13 points and eight boards for the Bulldogs this season and was also a key part to their title run last year.

Along with Killian Tillie, these two anchor the front court for the Bulldogs. Williams will help with the size advantage the Bulldogs have over UNC-Greensboro in the first round. Gonzaga doesn’t rely on one player too much, but Williams is a huge part of what they do this year.

9. Rob Gray

Gray is not a household name, but what he is doing at Houston shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The senior guard is putting up 18 points per game for Houston and is doing it with a 46% shooting percentage. He most recently put up 33 points in the AAC semi-finals against Wichita State.

As we noted earlier in the preview, Gray is a North Carolina native and when North Carolina natives play the Tar Heels, they typically go off. The Tar Heels could see Gray in the Sweet 16 and if they do, watch out for him to play well.

8. Rodney Bullock

Bullock is the best player on a very good Providence team who is back in the NCAA Tournament yet again.

Bullock is averaging 14 points for the Friars, which leads the team. His point production is down from a year ago, but his shots are down also. Bullock has the ability to put his team on his back and carry them to the finish line.

The Friars could have a chance to play the Tar Heels in the second round if they can knock off Texas A&M. It will be tough for them to win both games, but with Bullock at the lead, they can easily make a deep run.

7. Charles Matthews

Matthews has been a revelation for Michigan this season. He transferred from Kentucky after only one season and he has been a very good player for the Wolverines.

Matthews can stroke it from deep as Tar Heel fans saw in their first matchup against Michigan. But he can also drive to the rim and finish among the trees. Matthews is also a very good defender.

As a true basketball fan, the possibility of seeing he and Kenny Williams match up again is awesome. Both guys play the right way and are very similar players.

6. Luke Maye

Luke Maye comes in at number six as the best player in the region. He is a very important player for the Tar Heels, but for the Tar Heels to really do some damage, he won’t be the most important player.

The former walk-on is having a breakout year this year, starting for the first time and backing that up with his play.

Maye is averaging 17 and 10 for the Tar Heels this season and if they can get that from him, they will be very tough to beat.

There are quite a few tough matchups for Maye in this region, but there is no doubt he can hold his own against the best of them.

5. Mo Wagner

Wagner is the anchor in the paint for Michigan and pretty much everything they do runs through him.

The German is averaging nearly 15 points per game for the Wolverines this year and he is also their leading rebounder with seven per game.

He will be a huge part of what Michigan will do in the first round to avoid an upset. He gives the Wolverines the huge size advantage over Montana, something they need to abuse.

Wagner can go toe-to-toe with any big man in the country. The Wolverines need to realize that to win a National Title.

4. Michael Porter Jr.

The only reason that Michael Porter isn’t number one on the list is the mystery factor.

If Porter were 100 percent healthy and not rusty he would be the best player in the region. He had a legitimate chance to be the top pick in the draft before his back injury, but he will still be a top ten pick right now.

He’s played two games this year and neither one has been pretty. One game he played two minutes and the other he was 5-of-17 from the field.

Porter will have a tough first-round matchup with Florida State, but he is good enough to carry the Tigers past them.

3. Keita Bates-Diop

Keita Bates-Diop has developed into one of the best players in college basketball over this season.

Bates-Diop has picked up a nice three-point shot along the way as well. He is the complete package for Ohio State. He even brings it on defense with two blocks per game this season.

The forward is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds so far this season, both of which are good for the team lead. He missed most of last year with injuries, but this year he has been money.

Ohio State will go as far as Bates-Diop can carry them and there is no doubt he can carry them all the way. Do not sleep on the Buckeyes this March.

2. Joel Berry II

It really hurts to put Joel Berry at number two, but the top player on the list is well deserved.

Berry is making his final dance in the NCAA Tournament and he’s hoping to make it as memorable as the last two. There is no player on the Tar Heels team that is as valuable as Berry. Not even the Swiss army knife Theo Pinson.

Berry knows that he can heighten his legacy at UNC with another trip to the Final Four and this is his last chance.

If I know Joel Berry, I know that he will go out with a bang for the Tar Heels.

1. Trevon Bluiett

Trevon Bluiett is a stone-cold baller.

If you haven’t seen him play, you are missing out on watching one of the best players in college basketball, not just the west region.

Bluiett is finally a senior and is having his best season at Xavier. He’s scoring 19.5 points per game on 44% shooting from the field. He can get a shot whenever he wants at wherever he wants it.

If the Tar Heels get matched up with Xavier in the Elite 8, Bluiett will be a tough matchup for Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams. But man would it be some good basketball.