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This Week in the NCAA Tournament

SCS.com begins this feature with a look at each of the four regionals individually. Most people so far have judged the West regional to be the toughest of the four while saying that the Midwest is the easiest. The four number one seeds are positioned like this: Kentucky in the Midwest, Arizona in the West, Texas in the South, and Oklahoma in the East....

MIDWEST REGIONAL - Along with all of the other so-called experts, SCS.com feels this regional is the easiest of the four in this year’s bracket. Kentucky, the number one team in the country in most people’s minds, is the top seed. The Wildcats haven’t lost a game in nearly three months and swept through both the SEC’s regular season and conference tournament. They take on IUPUI in the first round. The Jaguars are making their first-ever Tournament appearance with a record of 20-13. Pittsburgh is the two seed in the Midwest, and the Panthers take on Wagner in the first round. Marquette will take on Holy Cross in the 3 vs 14 matchup. Many people feel that Holy Cross can sneak up on the Eagles and grab an upset. The fourth-seeded Dayton Flyers will meet 13th-seeded Tulsa in both teams’ first game of the Tournament. This is one of the upsets sure to be picked by many people as they may not realize some of the accomplishments of the 24-5 Flyers. The 5 vs 12 matchup is also sure to be an upset pick by many. Weber State pulled an upset over North Carolina a few years ago and will try to do the same to Wisconsin, the Big Ten regular season champ, in the first round. Missouri, who fell just short of Oklahoma in the Big XII championship game, will take on the Salukis of Southern Illinois. SIU knocked off Georgia last season on their way to the Sweet 16. This is yet another possible upset in the making in the first round. Indiana, the seventh seed, will take on the Crimson Tide of Alabama out of the SEC. Many thought that the Tide, due to their 7-9 SEC mark, didn’t deserve to make the field of 65, but I feel this is a good matchup for Mark Gottfried’s team. Finally, Oregon battles Utah in the 8 vs 9 game. The Ducks captured the PAC 10’s tournament title. This appears to be a bracket the Wildcats should be able to advance from fairly easily. There could be a matchup of Cinderella teams in the second round if Weber State and Tulsa won, over Wisconsin and Dayton respectively. Pittsburgh is clearly the second best team in the bracket and probably the strongest of the number two seeds. However, Marquette is a weak three seed, and Dayton hasn’t been tested much this season. Wisconsin won the Big Ten but doesn’t appear to be a true contender. Missouri, however, is a very strong six seed. The Tigers are on a roll and could make some noise. Though this bracket is weak in the 3-5 seed range, it is fairly strong in the 10-13 range with Alabama, Southern Illinois, Weber State, and Tulsa all having great shots at pulling the upset.

WEST REGIONAL - Just like the Midwest is generally thought of as the weakest of the regionals, the West has widely been considered the best of the four. Arizona is probably the second best team in the country and will take on Vermont in the first round. Kansas won the Big XII regular season title but bowed out early in the conference tournament. The Jayhawks battle Utah State, a team that has given high seeds fits in the past, in the first round. Duke will take on Colorado State in the first round after the Rams won the Mountain West’s conference tourney. Illinois battles Western Kentucky in the first round in a matchup of two teams who won their conference tournaments, Illinois the Big Ten and WKU the Sun Belt. The 5 vs 12 matchup features Notre Dame vs Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This is, in my opinion, the best chance for a 5-12 upset in this year’s Tournament. The Irish were strong most of the season before fading late in the Big East conference slate. Meanwhile, UWM seems to be hitting stride late after defeating Butler to win the Horizon League tournament. Creighton, a Cinderella team from a year ago after defeating Florida, is the six seed and will battle Central Michigan, the champion of the MAC. Memphis battles Arizona State in one of the better 7 vs 10 matchups, not to mention one of the best first round matchups as a whole. The 8-9 game features Cincinnati and Gonzaga. Both of these teams have shown shines of brilliance this year while also losing games they shouldn’t have. It’s also a battle of battle of teams with opposite tourney results lately. The ‘Zags have been a Cinderella while winning several games in the NCAA Tournament over the past several years. Cincinnati, though, has struggled at times while not living up to expectations in some seasons. Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Notre Dame will likely be one of the upsets picked most often this year due to the Irish’s struggles of late and UWM’s success. Creighton, unlike past years, won’t be a surprise to teams since they were successful throughout the season and received a six seed. A possible second round matchup of top shooters Kyle Korver of Creighton and J.J. Reddick of Duke would be a super battle to watch. Memphis vs Arizona State could be a real battle between two teams that will likely be trying to gain a matchup in the second round with Kansas. Speaking of the Jayhawks, KU has an extremely tough road to the Final Four this year. After a likely tough first round matchup against Utah State, the Jayhawks would have to take on either ASU or Memphis. If the Jayhawks survive those two games, it’s likely their next game would be against either Creighton or Duke, both very dangerous teams. Past that, such teams as Arizona and Illinois may be waiting for KU. This is perhaps the toughest road faced by any two seed.

SOUTH REGIONAL - Action in the South regional really begins Tuesday night when Texas Southern and UNC-Asheville meet in the play-in game, which is to be televised by ESPN. The top-seeded Texas Longhorns will meet the winner of that game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Florida Gators are the number two seed in the South and they meet Sam Houston State to begin their Tourney. The 3 vs 14 matchup features the red-hot Xavier Musketeers against Troy State, champions of their conference tournament. The fourth-seeded Stanford Cardinal will take on an in-state rival, San Diego, in the first round in Spokane. The fifth seed in the South is the Connecticut Huskies. UConn, who came up just short of capturing the Big East Tournament title, will battle BYU out of the Mountain West conference. Maryland, last year’s national champion, will open play as a six seed and face UNC-Wilmington in the first round. Many people expect the Terps to make a run at the Final Four, but UNCW pulled an upset in last year’s tournament and looks to do the same in 2003. The seventh seed is Michigan State, and Spartans will take on Colorado out of the Big XII in the first round. The final matchup in the South is the 8 vs 9 game, LSU against Purdue. The Tigers have won seven of their last eight games and made the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Looking at the South bracket, it appears the NCAA committee gave Texas the number one overall seed in the Tournament by allowing the ‘Horns to take on the play-in winner. Though they deny this, this also helped to create the even bigger mistake of having Arizona and Kentucky to be on the same side of the bracket. The LSU Tigers are extremely hot and are playing close to home in Birmingham. Connecticut is another team on a roll, while it will be interesting to see how BYU plays following the fiasco with the scheduling. Arrangements hvae been made so that the Cougars would not have to play on Sunday if they advance to the Sweet 16. Xavier has very quietly had a terrific season behind David West and Romain Sato in the Atlantic 10 and could make a run if a favorite or two falls early. A potential second round matchup between Maryland and the Musketeers would be a great one. Michigan State vs Colorado is one of the best matchups of the entire first round. If MSU and Florida were to win, it would set up a rematch of the national championship game just a couple years ago.

EAST REGIONAL - The top seed in the East is the Oklahoma Sooners. OU was a strong contender throughout the season and won the Big XII tournament title over Missouri in Dallas. The Sooners will take on South Carolina State in the first round. The second seed is Wake Forest out of the ACC. The Demon Deacons were the ACC regular season champions, and they take on East Tennessee State in the first round. The third seed is Syracuse out of the Big East. The Orangemen battle an in-state rival in the first round, Manhattan. Fourth-seeded Louisville will battle Austin Peay in round number one in Birmingham. The winner of that game will take on the winner of the Mississippi State vs Butler game, a 5 vs 12 matchup between two teams of Bulldogs. Oklahoma State out of the Big XII is the sixth seed and will battle Pennsylvania, regular season champions of the Ivy League. Seventh-seeded St. Joseph’s out of the Atlantic 10 will battle one of the bubble teams from the SEC, the Auburn Tigers. Finally, the 8 vs 9 matchup features a PAC 10 vs ACC showdown as the California Bears tangle with NC State. California has been consistent throughout the PAC 10 season while NC State has gotten hot when they needed to as they advanced to the ACC Tournament finals. Mississippi State has been impressive in the SEC Tournament but must now take on a Butler team that has upset opponents such as Florida and Wake Forest in past few years. Oklahoma State has gone out early in the Tournament a couple times recently, and the Cowboys will have to slow down a dangerous Penn team in the first round to advance. The Syracuse Orangemen have a little extra motivation as they’ll be playing for a chance at moving on to the Sweet 16 just a couple hours from campus in Albany, NY. Oklahoma, Wake Forest, and Louisville all appear to have easy first round games before action heats up in the second round.

BEST FIRST ROUND GAMES BY SEED MATCHUP
These matchups are the ones that SCS.com feels should be the best games for each seed matchup and also the best chance for the lower seed to upset the higher seed. If you could only watch one of each game of each seed matchup, these would be the ones you wouldn’t want to miss....
1 vs 16
Arizona vs Vermont
Vermont is a surprise entry to the Tournament while Arizona’s focus is in question...Texas vs Texas Southern would fit here if that matchup was certain
2 vs 15
Kansas vs Utah State
The Aggies have given higher seeds a run for their money in past NCAA Tournaments...Until last season, Kansas had a history of not living up to expectations in the Tournament
3 vs 14
Marquette vs Holy Cross
The Eagles have been up and down throughout the season and finished on a slight down when losing early in the CUSA Tourney...Holy Cross scared Kentucky a few years ago
4 vs 13
Dayton vs Tulsa
Both of these teams could make a run in the Tournament...Dayton played well all season and earned a high seed while Tulsa has a history of making some noise in the Tournament
5 vs 12
Notre Dame vs Wisconsin-Milwaukee
These two teams have been going in opposite directions lately...Notre Dame faltered late in the season while UWM won the Horizon League Tournament
6 vs 11
Missouri at Southern Illinois
These two teams are looking very good and each could have been seeded higher...The Tigers nearly won the Big XII Tourney while SIU is coming off a Sweet 16 run last season
7 vs 10
Indiana vs Alabama
Both of these teams had work to do in the last few weeks of the season...IU got there’s done while Alabama was uncertain...The Tide got in and now could make a little noise
8 vs 9
California vs NC State
The Cal Bears have been consistent throughout the season in the PAC 10...The Wolfpack needed a late surge to get in and did just that by making the ACC Tourney finals

SWEET SIXTEEN FIRST ROUND GAMES
These sixteen first round games, all on either Thursday or Friday, are the games SCS.com thinks should be the most competitive. A few surprises are mixed in, but for the most part these are the games most people feel will provide the most entertainment in the first two rounds....
1
(5) Notre Dame vs (12) Wisconsin-Milwaukee
9
(8) LSU vs (9) Purdue
2
(6) Missouri vs (11) Southern Illinois
10
(6) Oklahoma State vs (11) Pennsylvania
3
(8) California vs (9) NC State
11
(8) Oregon vs (9) Utah
4
(7) Indiana vs (10) Alabama
12
(4) Dayton vs (13) Tulsa
5
(7) Michigan State vs (10) Colorado
13
(5) Mississippi State vs (12) Butler
6
(7) Memphis vs (10) Arizona State
14
(3) Marquette vs (14) Holy Cross
7
(8) Cincinnati vs (9) Gonzaga
15
(6) Maryland vs (11) UNC-Wilmington
8
(5) Wisconsin vs (12) Weber State
16
(2) Kansas vs (15) Utah State

THE BEST AND THE WORST
Here is who SCS.com thinks are the best and worst of each seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament....
Seed
Best
Worst
Seed
Best
Worst
1
Kentucky
Oklahoma
2
Pittsburgh
Florida
3
Syracuse
Marquette
4
Illinois
Stanford
5
Mississippi State
Wisconsin
6
Missouri
Oklahoma State
7
Michigan State
St. Joseph’s
8
LSU
Cincinnati
9
NC State
Utah
10
Alabama
Colorado
11
Southern Illinois
Central Michigan
12
Wisconsin-Milwaukee
BYU
13
Tulsa
Austin Peay
14
Holy Cross
Manhattan
15
Utah State
Sam Houston State
16
Vermont
South Carolina State

SouthernCollegeSports.com