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Let the madness begin: Breaking down the bracket

East Region

1. Ohio State, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, is the favorite, not only to win its region, but to be the last team standing come April 4. The Buckeyes should cruise until a potential matchup with No. 4 seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

2. No. 6 seed Xavier’s Tu Holloway is the best player you’ve never heard of. The Atlantic-10 Player of the Year was second in the A-10 in points, assists, steals and free-throw percentage. Holloway also has recorded two triple-doubles on the season, and scored 26 points in last season’s Elite 8 loss against Kansas State.

3. The best first-round tilt will take place between No. 8 seed George Mason and No. 9 seed Villanova. George Mason comes in winner of 16 of its last 17 games, while Villanova has lost five in a row and seven of its last nine. This game will feature two teams that look to push the tempo, evidenced by both squads’ 73-points-a-game averages.

4. No. 2 seed North Carolina is the only team in the region with enough size potentially to get OSU’s big men in foul trouble, and the talent to go shot for shot with the Buckeyes. However, the Tar Heels’ tournament inexperience is a major concern.

5. That said, OSU will win the East Region. The Buckeyes boast an impeccable combination of youth and experience, as well as perimeter shooting and inside play. That should be enough for them to reach their second Final Four in four years.

West Region

1. No. 1 seed Duke likely needed its championship run in the ACC Tournament to secure a No. 1 seed after beating North Carolina, 75-58, in the conference title game. The Blue Devils benefited from Notre Dame falling to Louisville in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. There’s speculation about whether star freshman guard Kyrie Irving’s toe injury will allow him to participate in the tournament.

 

2. No. 8 seed Michigan will take on the team that took out OSU last year in the Sweet 16, No. 9 seed Tennessee, in the first round. The Wolverines ranked 249th in the country in scoring and will face the Volunteers, led by 6-foot-7 Scotty Hopson’s 17.4 points per game.

 

3. After being in contention for a No. 1 seed for most of the season, No. 4 seed Texas fell after losing three of four games to unranked teams late in February. The Longhorns will take on No. 13 seed Oakland, who some have pegged to be a Cinderella team after winning the Summit League Championship.

 

4. No. 2 seed San Diego State was the second-to-last team in the country to remain undefeated, behind OSU. The Aztecs suffered their only two losses to BYU, but beat BYU, 72-54, in the Mountain West championship game Saturday. They take on No. 15 seed Northern Colorado, led by guard Devon Beitzel’s 21.4 points per game.

 

5. Kemba Walker took No. 3 seed Connecticut to a five-games-in-five-days championship run to the Big East Tournament — a conference that sent 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 26 points per game in the conference tournament. UConn takes on No. 14 Bucknell, which won the Patriot League title.  

Southwest Region

1. No. 1 seed Kansas is the deepest team in the nation, but at times loses focus defensively. Nevertheless, the Jayhawks are a legitimate title contender and are the overwhelming favorite to win the region.

 

2. Purdue gets a favorable draw as a No. 3 seed. Look for its veteran leadership and scoring to carry it on a deep tournament run.

 

3. No. 10 seed Florida State has star player Chris Singleton returning from injury and the Seminoles’ defensive mindset allows them to match up with anyone. Notre Dame will have its hands full in round two.

 

4. Few expected Louisville to be a No. 4 seed come March. Don’t be surprised if Rick Pitino’s squad continues to exceed expectations.

 

5. Upsets in matches between 12th- and fifth-seeded teams are always trendy, but Atlantic 10 Tournament champion Richmond poses a legitimate threat to the region. Remember the name Justin Harper. The 6-foot-10 forward with 3-point range could make a name for himself.

Southeast Region

1. UNC-Asheville will take on Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday in the Southeast Region’s play-in game. The winner will assume the region’s No. 16 seed and play No. 1-seeded Pittsburgh (27-5) in its next game.

 

2. 2010 NCAA Tournament runner-up Butler (23-9) is the No. 8 seed in the Southeast Region. The Bulldogs will play No. 9-seeded Old Dominion (27-6) in the first round.

 

3. Coach Bo Ryan leads No. 4-seeded Wisconsin (23-8) into the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive year. The Badgers will play the Atlantic Sun Conference champion, No. 13-seeded Belmont Bruins (30-4), in the first round.

 

4. Michigan State was named the Southeast region’s No. 10 seed after posting a 19-14 record and advancing the Big Ten Tournament’s semifinal round. The Spartans will play No. 7-seeded UCLA (22-10) in the first round. This is the Spartans’ 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

 

5. The Florida Gators (26-7) were named the Southeast Region’s No. 2 seed. On Nov. 16, Ohio State defeated the Gators, 93-75, in Gainesville, Fla. 

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