Busting Brackets

2024 NCAA Tournament: Ranking the top 20 Players from the West Region

Feb 26, 2024; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot (5)
Feb 26, 2024; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot (5) / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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8. Jalen Bridges (Baylor)

A 6’7 forward with plenty of Big 12 experience, Bridges is a West Virginia native who stayed at home and played for the Mountaineers early in his career before transferring to Baylor in 2022. He’s been a great frontcourt piece in recent years and is fresh off his best season as a redshirt senior, really becoming a star for the Bears in another Tournament season.

Bridges’ career-best numbers included 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds while making greater than 40% from outside the arc. No Big 12 player rated better on offense than Bridges, who’s been an efficient scorer all season for the Bears. He put up 23 in an impressive early season win over Florida and topped that with 32 on Texas on Senior Night just two weeks ago. When he’s on his game he’s a remarkable piece for a talented Baylor squad.

7. Tyson Walker (Michigan State)

As a sophomore in 2021, Walker was named CAA Defensive Player of the Year while still at Northeastern, though he opted to transfer to Michigan State a few months later. Walker has been a major figure for the Spartans in the last three seasons and a big piece of the puzzle for Tom Izzo and his brain trust. Now a fifth-year senior, he’s also just had the best year of his career, getting the Spartans to the Big Dance yet again despite a poor start to the season.

Walker averages 18.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game, though his long-range shooting numbers are slightly down to 37%. He’s spent the entire year as the best player on a Spartans roster full of talent that has underachieved, though Walker has shown his talent. He scored a season-high 35 in that opening night loss to James Madison and has been a consistent contributor on offense, with a 30-point outing recently against Indiana as well. If Michigan State has another March run in them then they’re leaning on Walker’s influence and leadership.