A Preview of the West Region

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 12: Andrew Jones #22 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates after Penn State won 61-48 against the Michigan State Spartans during the semifinals of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)



Big Ten Teams in the Region:  There are two teams in the Big 10 in the West region. The Michigan Wolverines got a surprising 8-seed and were rewarded with a matchup against the 9-seed Tennessee Volunteers. The other Big 10 team, the Penn State Nittany Lions, received a 10 seed and have a in-state battle against the 7th seeded Temple Owls.

Which Big Ten Team Is Likely to Go Farthest in the Region: Michigan has a better chance to win the first round game but Penn State has a better chance to make a run to the Sweet 16 and beyond. If Michigan can win their first round game, they would draw Duke in the 2nd round in Charlotte, NC. If Penn State wins their first game against Temple, they would more than likely draw San Diego State in the second round; while defeating the Aztecs is not an easy feat, it would be easier than defeating the #1 seed and defending national champion.

Most Likely Upset: It seems like every NCAA Tournament, a 5 is upset by a 12 and this year possible 5-12 upset could occur in the West region, where the 5th seeded Arizona WIldcats are against the 12th seeded Memphis Tigers. The Tigers are led by Will Barton, a 6-6 freshmen, who averages 12.3 points and 5 rebounds a game. Even though Arizona had a great year and won the Pac-10 regular season title, they are susceptible to an upset. Arizona is led by Derrick Williams, the Pac-10 player of the year; if Williams, has an off-night, the WIldcats could go down very early in the tournament.

Most Intriguing First Round Game: (8) Michigan vs (9) Tenneseee. This first round game has an interesting contrast in style. The Wolverines run a very perimeter-oriented offense, with 43% of their shots coming from 3, which is ranked 12th in the nation. They are also very deliberate, ranked 323rd in the nation in tempo, according to Kenpom. The polar opposite of the Wolverines is the Tennesee Volunteers. Tennessee is ranked 149th in tempo and only 29% of their shots are from 3, which ranks 249th nationally, a whopping 237 spots behind Michigan. This game will be determined by tempo; if the game is in the 50-60s, Michigan should win, but if Tennesee can get the game into the high 70s or low 80s, the Wolverines will be hard pressed to beat Tennesee and advance in the tournament.

Best Potential Storyline: San Diego State. The Aztecs have never won a Tournament game in school history but as a two seed, have a legit shot to win the region. The draw is reasonable with a first round game against Northern Colorado and a likely second round tussle with Temple or Penn State. If San Diego State could make the regionals, they would be playing 2 hours from home in Anaheim and Steve Fisher has a chance to take his second team to the FInal Four.

Most Likely to Win Region: Duke. The defending champs are champions until they are knocked off and with a number 1 seed, they again have a fantastic shot to get back to the Final Four and Houston and become only the second team in the past decade to repeat as national champions. They do however, face many roadblocks, including Michigan or Tennessee in the 3rd round, probably Texas in the Sweet 16, and probably either San Diego State or Connecticut in the Elite 8.

Team in the Region that Got a Raw Deal: Texas. For most of the year, the Texas Longhorns were thought of as either a one or two seed, so it was extremely surprising to see them get a 4 seed, even though they struggled at the end of the season. Texas has as much talent as any team in the country so it would not be surprising to see the Longhorns cut down the nets in Anaheim and head to the Final Four in their home state.

Best Team Mascot: San Diego Aztecs. In a region with many generic nicknames, including Tigers (Memphis, Missouri), WIldcats (Arizona), or another type of animal (Cincinnati, Oakland, Michigan, Penn State), I decided to reward originality with the San Diego Aztecs as the best mascot in the region. Runner up: Hampton Pirates.

Feel-good Story of the Region: Bucknell. The Bison make their first tournament appearance in 2006 and have been known to pull some major upsets in the tournament.  The last time they were in the Tournament, they upset Arkansas in the first round before failling to top seeded Memphis in the second round, Bucknell is most known for their run in 2005. As a 14 seed, they upset #3 seed and perennial power Kansas in one of the greatest upsets in the history of the NCAA Tournament and nearly beat sixth seeded Wisconsin to make the Sweet 16, losing 71-62. This tournament has the potential to make the Bison a legendary Cinderella if they can defeat Connecticut in the first round.

Intriguing Personality of the Region: Kemba Walker. Walker took Madison Square Garden by storm with his scintillating performance in the Big East Tournament, and it will be interesting to see if he can do the same in this West regional. If he can, Connecticut may not be stopped until they are cutting down the nets in Houston.


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