NCAA Social Media Tournament: West Region

By: Parth Shah, @shah_parth_

March Madness is upon us! Let's take a look at digital matchups of the Midwest Region below. Lead Image Credit: @MarchMadness

March Madness is upon us! Let's take a look at digital matchups of the Midwest Region below. Lead Image Credit: @MarchMadness

The best time of year is finally here! The first round of March Madness is ready to kick-off today, and we've got you covered here at Front Office Sports with some bracketology of our own - the NCAA Tournament, social media edition!

We've covered the East RegionMidwest Region, and South Region in recent days. Last but not least, we cover the West Region's first round matchups on digital. Let's get started!

1) Gonzaga vs. 16) South Dakota State

The Bulldogs have become one of college basketball's most consistent and successful programs, and this season brought another conference championship and #1 seed to Gonzaga. I love the bracket graphic by the digital team, with the strong blue design with hints of red and white. It does look a little abstract with its concept, but there is enough there to pull off a good-looking image. 

South Dakota State draws the Zags in round 1, but the Jackrabbits are more than up for the challenge. The social account went with a simple text post, which leaves us pretty underwhelmed. I would've loved to see some sort of creative aspect for SDSU on Selection Sunday.

Winner: Gonzaga

8) Northwestern vs. 9) Vanderbilt

In what is the best match-up on digital for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats and Commodores both brought their A-games. I couldn't just link one post - check out 3 examples for each program above. 

For Northwestern, it's all about breaking the drought. I love the strong purple branding that the social team uses successfully in its images. In terms of capturing the reaction of both the team and the crowd, the Wildcats did a great job letting the content speak for itself. While this is a tried and true strategy, I have no problem with them using it to detail the historic moment. Finally, I absolutely love the hype video that NU has prepared for their journey in the tourney, even if it was pre-prepared. It sends a powerful message to an already excited fan base.

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On the flip side, Vanderbilt put the Black and Gold to good use in their graphics, finding the sweet balance between bold and refined. The designs look sharp, have that 'wow' factor, and most importantly, are unique. The 'March On' graphic is clever wordplay and works well initially on social while following up with a match-up card provides information and adds another dimension to their content. My favorite is the journey map creative, which contains interesting statistics while providing a very nice visual representation of the trip to Salt Lake City.

In the end, there is not one winner I can select for this anticipated 8/9 showdown, so this is the one pick I will defer to you as a toss-up!

Winner: Too close to call

5) Notre Dame vs. 12) Princeton

The Fighting Irish are back after a strong ACC season, and with that comes the number 5 seed in the West Region. Even though it is on the simpler side, I do like what Notre Dame's digital team has done with this graphic. A simple layout has been enhanced with sharper, bolder font, and the 'spotlight' on the team along with the distinct green jerseys makes for an eye-catching look. Sometimes, less is more. Nice work from the Irish.

Princeton makes it to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Ivy League, deservedly so. For their Selection Sunday post, the Tigers went with a basic bracket image to show the field. Not a bad strategy, but I would've loved to see some creative in the orange color scheme. To their credit, the social team has put out some really beautiful content (and lock screen images!) in the past couple of days.

Winner: Notre Dame

4) West Virginia vs. 13) Bucknell

West Virginia is often recognized by its yellow, but the blue aspect of the brand also plays a huge role. I like how they were able to implement this into their Selection Sunday graphic, as it allows the rest of the image components to pop. Some matchup information would've been nice, but it's provided in the text instead. The faces in the background are a nice touch, and the bold 'DANCE' definitely works for the Mountaineers. 

The Bison are thrilled to be back in the NCAA Tournament and are ready to give WVU a run for its money. They went with the player/crowd reaction video, which is consistent and successful as a proven strategy. Bucknell knew what it wanted to achieve and show with its post, and it did just that.

Winner: West Virginia

6) Maryland vs. 11) Xavier

The Terrapins had to wait a long while before hearing their name called, but the sweet feeling was almost certainly worth the delay. The graphic design is fairly simple; bracket-style matchup card with a player image and bold headline text. The shaded white background is crisp and adds a nice background layer that could make virtually any content pop.

Xavier's Selection Sunday ticket was punched as well, and I like the personalized twist on the ticket concept by the social team. The navy and white look fantastic together, and I think limiting the color palette was the right move for the Musketeers. The creative is crisp and easy on the eyes, a win-win.

Although the graphic doesn't contain any matchup information (the text in the tweet does), I like the simplicity and layout of Xavier's design more, and they narrowly pull the upset of Maryland. 

Winner: Xavier

3) Florida State vs. 14) Florida Gulf Coast

The Seminoles have a strong brand tied to years of NCAA success. Although they went with a rather straightforward social media post, I like the graphic for its distinct color scheme, the font for 'Let's Dance,' and general lack of clutter. Too often, teams try too hard and over-design, but FSU has this down to a T. Personalization with matchup information in either the graphic or tweet would've been nice, but it's hard to hold it against the 'Noles (who did also follow up with matchup info.)

Dunk City is back in the Big Dance! Everyone's favorite Cinderella from 2012-2013 (save, Georgetown and San Diego State) hopes to make similar waves this season against in-state rival Florida State. The Eagles went with the bracket and image concept, and the blue definitely is a nice touch to the design. I would've loved to see a little more design-wise, but I can't fault FGCU for posting content that serves its purpose. 

Winner: Florida State

7) Saint Mary's vs. 10) VCU

Saint Mary's is yet another program that went with the reaction video of its players, and in the end, it gets the job done. There's not much to write about in terms of creative development, but putting fans in the room with the players helps share the excitement in a first-person context.

The Rams are successful on social with their content, with a continually growing brand and fan base. I really like the GIF work from VCU's digital team - the movement is smooth, classy, and distinct with the color scheme. The symbolic players' huddle picture is the perfect backdrop for 'In' and I love that the matchup information is conveyed within the design. Perhaps one of the best creatives from Selection Sunday!

Winner: VCU

2) Arizona vs. 15) North Dakota

Last but not least, we've reached our final first round matchup: Arizona vs. North Dakota. 

I really like the creative work from the Wildcats, even though it was in a follow-up post shortly after the original selection post. The Red and Blue color scheme of the graphic is perfect for Arizona, and the pixelated design actually works well with the layout of the text and images. For recruits looking at strong social media presences, this is A Player's Program indeed.

While there's nothing spectacular at first glance with NoDak's creative, it certainly is a strong concept and gets the job done. I actually do like the basketball textured background, as it gives the graphic an extra dimension. The font and text placement leave a little to be desired, but it definitely is a solid effort.

Winner: Arizona

Thanks for joining us on our journey through the four NCAA Tournament regions this week! Enjoy the Madness!

NCAA Social Media Tournament: South Region