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West Region preview: Could this be Gonzaga's year?

The Dagger

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Three who can carry their teams:

* Matt Bouldin, G, Gonzaga
* Gordon Hayward, F, Butler
* Jimmer Fredette (pictured), G, BYU

Most intriguing first-round matchup: No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 Vermont

A 1 vs. a 16 as the most intriguing? You bet. This one will take place in Buffalo, so both teams' fanbases will be able to make the trip. Kudos to the selection committee for throwing us this gem. While Syracuse fans let out that big groan when this pairing was put on CBS' screen around 6:20, Vermont fans most likely shrieked in joy. The Catamounts have only won once in the history of the NCAA tournament (and have only been there three times: 2003, '04 and '05) and that win came against Syracuse (video below). The Orange do not have the most athletic man on the floor; Marqus Blakely of the Catamounts is a high-flyer. And one more cool nugget: Kris Joseph of Syracuse is brothers with Maurice Joseph of Vermont.

Plus, this do anything for ya?

Best possible second-round matchup: No. 3 Pittsburgh vs. No. 6 Xavier

The Panthers and Musketeers play a similar brand of ball, although Xavier can be a bit flashier from time to time. Both squads are bred for tournament play, and if each can win Friday then we'll get treated to one of those games that's fated to be a single-digit affair for the entire 40 minutes. Both teams have been Sweet 16 regulars for the better part of the past decade; one school for certain won't make it back.

Ripe for an upset: No. 4 Vanderbilt

The problem here is the Commodores are overseeded and play an underseeded team. In our minds Vanderbilt is closer to a 6 and Murray State is probably a 12. The Racers went 30-4 this season and winning at a clip like that can be very habitual. Throw in the fact Vandy lost two years ago to Siena in the exact same kind of game - with a very similar type of team; Siena and Murray State really share the ball well - and this one looks like the easiest upset pick of the entire first round.

Bound for the Final Four: No. 8 Gonzaga

Did we catch you napping? This is our shocker. Hey, Gonzaga's going to do it eventually, why not this year? Syracuse may have its hands full against Vermont and since Arinza Onuaku still may not be completely healthy by this weekend, who's to say Robert Sacre and the Zags can't upset the Orange? We think the West will be the region with the most damage, the most upsets. Because of that, we like Mark Few's team to pick up the trash and make the most of its chances against a relatively weak bracket. Laugh at us now, but be sure to stop back in and visit Sunday night after Gonzaga takes out the Orange.

Possible Dark Horse: No. 6 Xavier

Since Gonzaga is our Final Four pick, we'll say Xavier reaches the Elite Eight before getting stopped against the Bulldogs. It matches up well against future opponent Kansas State, and even if BYU were to clip the Wildcats (completely possible), the Musketeers have the interior and extended defense to foil the Cougars. Xavier's gotten better and better as the year has gone on. If it needed one thing it was rest. Chris Mack is the latest in a line of coaches from the Queen City to live up to and beyond expectations in this month.

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