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Southwest Region Preview: Can anyone really challenge Kansas?

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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The Dagger previews the Southwest Region of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Read our previews of the West, Southeast and East regions.

Three who can carry their teams:

• Marcus and Markieff Morris, F, Kansas

JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue

• Ben Hansbrough, G, Notre Dame

Most intriguing first-round matchup: No. 4. Louisville vs. No. 13 Morehead State

There's not much worth remembering about a No. 1 seed blowing out a No. 16 seed by 20 points. But Morehead State surely hasn't forgotten its 74-54 loss to Louisville in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament. Two years later, the Eagles face the Cardinals again, but this time with a bit more fanfare. Louisville has gotten to this point with balance, lacking a true star. Morehead, on the other hand, will rely on its rock — senior forward Kenneth Faried. He had 14 points and 11 boards in the 2009 meeting, a game which Louisville led by only two at the break. Faried is now an NBA-bound senior and college basketball's premier rebounder. He'll gun for the biggest win of his college career against a depleted Louisville front line.

Best potential second-round game: No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Florida State

Of course, this all hinges on the Seminoles pulling off a moderate upset of No. 7 Texas A&M, but this could be a very intriguing clash. The Irish like to get out and push the pace, while Florida State's length and aggressiveness could slow Notre Dame down and force them to win a different kind of game. This potential meeting gets even better if Chris Singleton is able to return for the Noles from a fractured foot that's kept him out since Feb. 12.

Ripe for an upset: No. 6 Georgetown

Will Chris Wright make that much of a difference? The Georgetown senior point guard has been cleared to play when the Hoyas take on the winner between USC and VCU on Friday. He suffered a broken bone in his right hand just before halftime in a Feb. 23 loss to Cincinnati. Since then, they've lost three straight, limping their way into the NCAA tournament. You'd have to figure that Wright will be battling to shake off a bit of rust here, which potentially makes Georgetown pretty vulnerable.

Bound for the Final Four: No. 1 Kansas

Arguably college basketball's deepest and most talented team, Kansas also might have the most generous path to the Final Four. Its first weekend looks somewhat friendly, as they should be able to overwhelm first Boston University, then either Illinois or UNLV. The 2-through-5 seeds in the region — Notre Dame, Purdue, Louisville and Vanderbilt — all either lack the front-court strength or general depth to take KU out … if the Jayhawks show up to play. A lack of fire was what caused them to bow out in the second round last year to No. 9-seed Northern Iowa. However, with several key contributors off of that team back, you'd have to think the sting of that loss hasn't died off just yet.

Possible Dark Horse: No. 3 Purdue

Several teams have hopped on the back of one hot player and taken that ride all the way to the Final Four. Purdue senior forward JaJuan Johnson — the Big Ten Player of the Year — is capable of doing just that. It's easy to sleep on the Boilers right now, as they were shocked in their regular-season finale at Iowa, then got thumped by Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. But with the dynamic senior duo of Johnson and scoring guard E'Twaun Moore, they've made many forget about the wrenching preseason loss of forward Robbie Hummel. With a steady supporting cast, they have the capability of doing the same for a couple more weeks if they catch fire.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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