The West is wide open. 

I don't want to disparage Xavier, but can you really trust the Musketeers as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament? I'm just not buying it.

So this region has the possibility of featuring plenty of upsets and turmoil for those who are filling out their bracket. 

Here's the best sleeper and upset alert in the West region. 

Best Sleeper


As a sixth seed, I'm not sure how much of a sleeper they can be, but I'll go with the Cougars. 

Houston has enough talent to emerge from the first weekend. The Cougars own a top-15 defense in efficiency, and a top-30 offense in efficiency. 

That kind of balance is rarely seen for teams below the four-seed line. They can match up with a varying amount of teams, which is absolutely necessary this time of year. 

Michigan will be a tough out in the second round, but if the Cougars can get to the Sweet 16, the bracket opens up for Houston to make a run at the Final Four. 

First-round upsets?

South Dakota State over Ohio State

This is going to happen. 

South Dakota State is a legitimate offensive team. Mike Daum is an NBA talent, and the Jackrabbits rank in the top-20 in offensive efficiency. South Dakota State owns multiple wins over quality teams, along with tough losses to really good teams. 

This is a tough draw for the Buckeyes, especially with the location. Ohio State has to travel west to Boise, Idaho. Ouch.

Best first-round picks

South Dakota State (+7.5) vs. Ohio State

Do me a favor. Locate a plane ticket to Las Vegas. Get there by Thursday and book South Dakota State. 

You'll thank me later. 

I can't believe you're actually getting this many points. The betting public has taken this down to 7.5, from an opening line of 8.5 points, but it's still way too much. — Go Against The Chalk with South Dakota State

Texas A&M (-3.5) vs. Providence

I'll take this as a hunch. Providence had an exhausting Big East tournament, playing in multiple overtime games before falling in the conference finals. 

That oftentimes affects teams in a negative way, so I'll ignore Texas A&M's inability to score at times, to book the Aggies in this position. 

Texas A&M has the talent edge over a team that was on the bubble just last week. Don't buy into that Big East tournament performance. The Aggies are the better team. — Go Chalk with Texas A&M

San Diego State vs. Houston (-4)

This game makes me nervous, but I'll stick with my sleeper on this occasion. 

Houston is as balanced of a No. 6 seed in the tournament, so that should create some problems for the Aztecs. 

San Diego State has some offensive issues, which should play into Houston's hands with a solid defense. What does make me a bit cautious is that San Diego State is hot, losing two games since the beginning of February. 

Unlike many of the teams the Aztecs face in the Mountain West, though, Houston can play some defense. That will give the Aztecs fits, so I expect the Cougars will pull away late. — Go Chalk with Houston

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him back-to-back Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more at Against The Chalk.

Scott Levine can be reached at or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH

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