Mar 15, 2017; Dayton, OH, USA; General view during the National Anthem before the game between UC Davis Aggies an North Carolina Central Eagles in the first four of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Dayton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sage Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2017 NCAA Tournament got under way Thursday afternoon and here are five players to watch for that will play in the West Region.
The main bracket of the 2017 NCAA Tournament got started Thursday afternoon in Buffalo. Things officially got going earlier this week with four play-in games.
Mount St. Mary’s and Kansas State qualified for the Round of 64 on Tuesday, while UC Davis and USC punched their tickets on Thursday night. With the field now set, the real fun begins after four great play-in games.
The only region that we will not see any of the winners from the play-in games is the West Region. The West Region is full of storylines, headlined by No.1 seed Gonzaga.
Will Gonzaga be able to continue their dominant play from the regular season and West Coast Conference tournament?
If Gonzaga makes the Final Four, it will not be a cake walk. West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary’s is lurking as the No.10 seed, while powerhouse Arizona is the No.2 seed. Florida State is a dangerous team as well.
There will be a lot of people pulling for the underdog Northwestern, who is making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in program history.
There are intriguing matchups throughout the region to kick things off, with potential for more down the road. If those matchups are to take place, there are a few players that will have to step up for their teams to lead them to victory. Which players are they?
Check out the five players to watch for in the West Region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Feb 18, 2017; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Nigel Williams-Goss (5) attempts a free throw against the Pacific Tigers during the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Nigel Williams-Goss, SF, Gonzaga
If you don’t know Nigel Williams-Goss, the 2017 NCAA Tournament will be a great introduction. He transferred from Washington after two seasons. He has been the driving force behind the Bulldogs outstanding season, stuffing the stat sheet every night.
Williams-Goss took home WCC Player of the Year honors and followed it up with the WCC Tournament MVP award. Both honors were well deserved.
Williams-Goss did a little bit of everything for Gonzaga, averaging 16.9 points on an efficient 52.1 percent from the field, 37.2 percent from deep and 91.2 percent from the foul line.
He also recorded 5.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. The points, assists, and steals led the team, while the rebounds were third. That production has him in the National Player of the Year conversation, and Gonzaga positioned to make a deep run in the tournament.
Playing on the West Coast Williams-Goss’ production could have gone under the radar. Anyone who has missed seeing him play this season will be in for a treat once Gonzaga takes the court.
Mar 15, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Melo Trimble (2) reacts during practice prior to the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Melo Trimble, PG, Maryland
It has been a bit of a disappointing season for the Terrapins. After making it to the Sweet 16 last season, expectations were pretty high. But, a lot of the talent from last year moved on.
Four of Maryland’s top five scorers from last season did not return; the only player that came back was Melo Trimble.
Trimble had another excellent season for the Terrapins, often being their only consistent source of offensive. Trimble averaged 17 points a game, adding 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.1 steals per game.
Those are strong numbers when you are the target of opposing teams game plans and they know you are the one they have to stop.
If Maryland is to avoid an upset in the first round, they will need Trimble to have a strong game. Maryland has lost four of their last six games entering the tournament, but if anyone can help a team end a slide it is Trimble.
Feb 16, 2017; Moraga, CA, USA; St. Mary’s Gaels center Jock Landale (34) looks to pass the ball against the Loyola Marymount Lions during the first half at McKeon Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jock Landale, Center, Saint Mary’s
Saint Mary’s comes into the 2017 NCAA Tournament under the radar. Many people believe they aren’t a strong team, coming from a weaker conference with Gonzaga being their only real competition. That could be true in some instances, but not when Jock Landale is on the court.
Landale, a junior, is a difference maker for the Gaels on the inside. The the last regular season meeting against Gonzaga, the Gaels made a serious run with Landale on the court. But, when he was in foul trouble, the Bulldogs took control of the game.
Landale is the focal point of Saint Mary’s offense, leading the team with 16.8 points per game. He also anchors the defense, averaging 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He leads the team in all three categories, despite playing only 27.7 minutes per game.
If Landale can stay out of foul trouble the Gaels will be a problem for whoever they face. A potential matchup over the weekend against Lauri Markkanen of Arizona would be a great one for fans to see.
Nov 20, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Brandon Goodwin (0) brings the ball up court against the Michigan State Spartans during the first half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Brandon Goodwin, PG, Florida Gulf Coast
Florida Gulf Coast made noise during the NCAA tournament following the 2012-13 season, earning the nickname Dunk City. Last season they won their First Four game against Fairleigh Dickinson before losing to North Carolina in the Round of 64.
Dunk City is in the tournament for a second consecutive season and looking to make noise again.
Florida Gulf Coast has been selected by people as an upset special in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. If they are to pull that off, Brandon Goodwin will have a hand in the outcome.
Florida Gulf Coast won the regular season championship and followed it up with a win in the conference tournament. Goodwin took home MVP honors at the conference tournament, averaging 20 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.
Producing is nothing new for Goodwin. This season he averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. If the Eagles are going to knock off the Seminoles and make another run in the tournament, Goodwin will have a big hand in it.
Feb 23, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Allonzo Trier (35) celebrates after scoring against the Southern California Trojans during the second half at McKale Center. Arizona won 90-77. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona
Arizona is a national powerhouse, but this season looked like it could derail. Early on the Wildcats battled injuries on top of a suspension for Allonzo Trier. Trier was able to beat the suspension but had to sit out until the banned substance was out of his body.
Once Trier returned to the court, Arizona hit their stride and turned back into a National Champion contender. A lot of that has to do with Trier.
Trier has played in only 15 games but has made the most of his playing time. He leads the Wildcats with 17.3 points per game, shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 41.4 percent from deep and 80 percent from the foul line.
He also adds 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists as he impacts the game in a multitude of ways for Arizona.
The Wildcats could have some intriguing games throughout the West Region. A matchup with St. Mary’s or VCU waits in the second round if they can get past North Dakota State.
A potential matchup in the Elite 8 with Gonzaga would be an awesome game, with Trier going head-to-head with Nigel Williams-Goss.
If Arizona is going to make a run to the national vhampionship, they will continue to rely on Trier to lead the way. He has looked capable of carrying the load throughout the season and will be a difference maker in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.