A quick, first-blush look at the West Region bracket.
MOST OVERSEEDED: Arizona as a No. 5 and Michigan as a No. 8 jump out as teams that might be a spot too high. Arizona won the Pac-10 regular-season title but fell in the league tourney final to Washington, which beat the Wildcats twice this season. While Arizona has 27 wins and is 19th in the RPI, the Wildcats have just two top-50 wins. The only team in the top 30 of the RPI with fewer top-50 wins is Utah State, which has one. Michigan has 13 losses overall and is just one game over .500 against teams in the RPI top 200. But as we have pointed out elsewhere, the Big Ten bubble teams seemed to be unjustly rewarded. (Not that we’re conspiracy theorists, but the selection committee chairman is a Big Ten guy.)
MOST UNDERSEEDED: Missouri has a gripe about being No. 11. The Tigers faded late, but that wasn’t held against some others. Granted, the Tigers were abysmal in true road games, but you’d think four top-50 wins – coincidentally, each against a team seeded at least two spots better in this field – and a No. 47 schedule strength would’ve gotten them a No. 9 or 10 seeding.
1. Duke vs. 16. Hampton
8. Michigan vs. 9. Tennessee
Friday in Charlotte
2. San Diego State vs. 15. Northern Colorado
7. Temple vs. 10. Penn State
Thursday in Tampa
3. Connecticut vs. 14. Bucknell
6. Cincinnati vs. 11. Missouri
Thursday in Tampa
4. Texas vs. 13. Oakland
5. Arizona vs. 12. Memphis
BEST PLAYER: Connecticut G Kemba Walker started off the season like a house afire, then wore down a bit in February. Then, he got re-charged and led UConn on a miracle run in the Big East tourney, with the Huskies winning five times in five days to win the toughest league tourney of them all. He’s a big-time scorer and sometimes is a ball-hog, but can you blame UConn coach Jim Calhoun for wanting the ball in Walker’s hands most of the time?
FIVE OTHERS TO WATCH: Texas F/G Jordan Hamilton, San Diego State F Kawhi Leonard, Duke F Kyle Singler, Duke G Nolan Smith, Arizona F Derrick Williams.
BEST PLAYER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF: Oakland C Keith Benson could go in the first round of the next NBA draft; at the least, he’ll be off the board early in the second round because there are not many 6-foot-11 guys who are athletic as Benson. He regularly produces a double-double and is one of the best shot-blockers in the nation (3.6 per game).
FIVE OTHERS TO WATCH: Memphis G Will Barton, Northern Colorado G Devin Beitzel, Penn State F Jeff Brooks, Bucknell C Mike Muscala, San Diego State G D.J. Gay.
NUMBERS GAME: There are eight conference champs in this region. There are nine Big Six schools, plus one school from Conference USA, one from the Mountain West and one from the Atlantic 10.
BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCHUP: The 5-12 matchup has some intrigue because of Memphis coach Josh Pastner. He is a former Arizona player and assistant, and for a while when he was a Wildcats assistant, it looked as if one day he would be the head coach. Instead, he was let go during the whole Lute Olson saga and landed at Memphis, where he spent one season as an assistant to John Calipari before he was promoted when Calipari left for Kentucky. The game itself won’t be close unless the young Tigers find a way to contain Arizona F Derrick Williams. The 7-10 game matches two Pennsylvania teams that never play; instead, Temple and Penn State travel across the country to Tucson, Ariz., in what promises to be a defensive slugfest. The over/under on total points in that game? Hmmm – what about 86.