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Will the Duke Blue Devils cut down the nets again in April? It all starts in the West Region...
Will the Duke Blue Devils cut down the nets again in April? It all starts in the West Region...

All right, four regions previewed in 48 hours. And here... we... go!

First, click here to enter the 293rd annual BOTC Bracket Challenge.

The group ID is 104278 and the password is FearTheBeard.

Then follow the jump for a discussion of the West Region.

(P.S. I'm doing these out of order because two of the four play-in games feed into the East Region, so I can't publish that preview until midnight Thursday).

Previous Entries:

The Teams

  1. Duke Blue Devils
  2. San Diego St. Aztecs
  3. Connecticut Huskies
  4. Texas Longhorns
  5. Arizona Wildcats
  6. Cincinnati Bearcats
  7. Temple Owls
  8. Michigan Wolverines
  9. Tennessee Volunteers
  10. Penn St. Nittany Lions
  11. Missouri Tigers
  12. Memphis Tigers
  13. Oakland, Mich. Golden Grizzlies
  14. Bucknell Bison
  15. Northern Colorado Bears
  16. Hampton Pirates

The Sites

  • Anaheim, Calif. (Sweet Sixteen | Elite Eight)
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • Tulsa, Okla.
  • Washington, D.C.

The Breakdown

No. 1 Duke (30-4) vs. No. 16 Hampton (24-8)
March 18 | 2:10 p.m. CST | Charlotte | truTV
Jim Nantz | Clark Kellogg

Defending national champion Duke is the nominal favorite to emerge from the West Region, but the possible reintroduction of Kyrie Irving could create an unexpected chemistry disruption at this late.

However, the effects of his return certainly won't be detected until Sunday at the earliest. Duke will crush Hampton.

GAMER: Duke 78, Hampton 63
Pomeroy: Duke 83, Hampton 56
Sagarin: Duke 94, Hampton 69

No. 2 San Diego State (32-2) vs. No. 15 Northern Colorado (21-10)
March 17 | 3:40 p.m. CST | Tucson | TNT
Kevin Harlan | Reggie Miller | Dan Bonner

Northern Colorado is a nice little story. You wonder if, deep down, Tad Boyle wishes he still was with his old team.

But San Diego State is an even nicer story. From the rehabilitation of Steve Fisher's career to the spectacular play of Kawhi Leonard, the Aztecs have been a season-defining squad ever since they loudly announced their entry into college basketball's elite with a definitive win at Gonzaga.

However, we've heard this story before. Last year's New Mexico team accomplished similar things before Washington stunned the Lobos in the round of 32.

The Aztecs have flaws that bear watching, but they won't play a role in this game. Oddly enough, neither team ever has won an NCAA Tournament game, although in the case of the Bears, that's because they've never been.

Pomeroy: SDSU 74, UNC 59
Sagarin: SDSU 67, UNC 57

UPSET ALERT: No. 3 Connecticut (26-9) vs. No. 14 Bucknell (25-8)
March 17 | 6:20 p.m. CST | Washington | TNT
Tim Brando | Mike Gminski

The glare still hasn't diminished from Kemba Walker's legendary performance at Madison Square Garden.

Five exhausting games in five hard-fought days, the latter four over RPI top 20 teams. It's a feat we never thought we'd see and one that we likely won't see again.

But what effect does that have on a team when it enters the NCAA Tournament? Who knows? This is unprecedented territory.

The last team to come close was Syracuse's four wins in four days, led by Gerry McNamara. That propelled the Orange from out of the field to a No. 5 seed. But they promptly were defeated by Vermont.

Does a similar fate await UConn, especially against the upset-prone Bucknell Bison?

GAMER: UConn 70, Bucknell 66
Pomeroy: UConn 71, Bucknell 62
Sagarin: UConn 70, Bucknell 61

UPSET ALERT: No. 4 Texas (27-7) vs. No. 13 Oakland (25-9)
March 18 | 11:15 a.m. CST | Tulsa | CBS
Marv Albert | Steve Kerr

Let's be clear: I think Texas will win this game. But I'm issuing an Upset Alert anyway because I vowed to do that for whatever game involved Oakland this year. Before the bracket was unveiled, I had the Golden Grizzlies winning one or possibly two games.

But this is the worst draw possible for Oakland, one I don't think it can handle.

Its chief advantage, Keith Benson, is nullified almost entirely by the presence of Tristan Thompson. And Dogus Balbay can lock down Summit League Player of the Year Reggie Hamilton, which means a different Hamilton, Jordan, is more likely to star in the game.

The biggest risk for Texas, in my mind, is the early tip-off and the Longhorns' maddening tendency to sometimes overlook opponents they should dispatch easily. Luckily for them, Oakland doesn't wear purple.

GAMER: Texas 71, Oakland 62
Pomeroy: Texas 86, Oakland 72
Sagarin: Texas 69, Oakland 61

UPSET ALERT: No. 5 Arizona (27-7) vs. No. 12 Memphis (25-9)
March 18 | 1:45 p.m. CST | Tulsa | CBS
Marv Albert | Steve Kerr

I wasn't going to tag this as a potential upset, but GAMER changed my mind. While I think Arizona will handle the Tigers with ease, there's always the potential for some craziness.

Memphis showed real signs of growth in its title-game comeback and Josh Pastner has personal motivations that could complicate the mental part of this match-up.

Most important, Memphis has some serious athletes. You can get on a roll in this event if one of them becomes a hot shooter for a few weeks. That's not out of the question, although I don't expect it.

Derrick Williams will be the X-factor, since I don't think Memphis has anyone who can contain him.

GAMER: Memphis 76, Arizona 73
Pomeroy: Arizona 74, Memphis 66
Sagarin: Arizona 87, Memphis 78

No. 6 Cincinnati (25-8) vs. No. 11 Missouri (23-10)
March 17 | 8:45 p.m. CST | Washington | TNT
Tim Brando | Mike Gminski

I refuse to give this an Upset Alert, even though Missouri certainly is capable of winning.

The simple truth is that the Tigers don't defend. That means Cincinnati is going to have an offensive heyday.

But that will tempt the Bearcats to play more at Mizzou's tempo, which could lead to trouble.

If I knew for a fact that any of the Tigers' big men would show up and actually play big, I might sound the alarm.

But that hasn't happened in several games now, so I don't expect it now.

GAMER: Cincinnati 60, Mizzou 59
Pomeroy: Cincinnati 71, Mizzou 69
Sagarin: Cincinnati 86, Mizzou 85

No. 7 Temple (25-7) vs. No. 10 Pennsylvania State (19-14)
March 17 | 1:10 p.m. CST | Tucson | TNT
Kevin Harlan | Reggie Miller | Dan Bonner

Did you enjoy that 36-33 slug-fest between Penn State and Wisconsin last week? If so, get ready for more.

First one to 60 wins. For a team that wasn't even in the field a week ago, Penn State is dramatically over-seeded, in my opinion. I think Temple will take care of this one pretty solidly.

GAMER: Temple 66, Penn State 62
Pomeroy: Temple 62, Penn State 61
Sagarin: Temple 63, Penn State 62

UPSET ALERT: No. 8 Michigan (20-13) vs. No. 9 Tennessee (19-14)
March 18 | 11:40 a.m. CST | Charlotte | truTV
Jim Nantz | Clark Kellogg

What has the world come to when the arbiters of the NCAA likely will find themselves rooting for Michigan, less than 20 years removed from the Fab Five era, because the Bruce Pearl scandal is fresher in their minds?

Look, everybody cheats. Some just do it more effectively than others.

Tennessee, like K-State, is blazing hot when it's hot and freezing cold when it's not. Which Tennessee team shows up to the tournament? The one that beat Pittsburgh and swept Vanderbilt, or the one that lost to Charleston, Mississippi State and USC at home? That answer will determine the winner.

P.S. Michigan is over-seeded, too. As you will see in ensuing BRACKET BLOGs, this is a continuing theme with me.

GAMER: Tennessee 68, Michigan 66
Pomeroy: Michigan 65, Tennessee 63
Sagarin: Michigan 63, Tennessee 62