NCAA Basketball Tournament 2011: Thursday TV Schedule, Tip-Off Times And Predictions - West Region

Four games in two locations get things underway in the West Region, with No. 2 seed San Diego St and No. 3-seed UConn getting underway this afternoon.  Top-seeded Duke will face Hampton tomorrow.  In a scheduling twist, a pair of games in the West Region actually take place in Washington D.C., about as far East as you can get.  Here's a breakdown of the action:

2:10PM et: (10)Penn St. Nittany Lions(19-14) Vs. (7)Temple Owls(25-7) - TNT

When you really think about it, the Nittany Lions are one of the teams that likely took a spot away from Colorado, or Virgina Tech, with their run in the Big Ten Tournament.  Bu getting to the title game, Penn State assured itself of a spot in the Tournament that likely wasn't there when the Big Ten Tournament began.  

They face a Temple Owls team that has lost 3-straight tournament games.  In fact, Owls coach Fran Dunphy has lost 11-straight dating back to his days at Penn.  Dunphy comes in with much more firepower this time around, and is looking for a win.

"I certainly hope so," Dunphy said Wednesday. "That would be great. We've had a good year. And we've had a resilient year. Guys have stepped up and did some things that you would hope your bench players would do. ... I hope that we're going to be as good as we can be tomorrow morning."

MY PICK: Temple - I really like what I saw from Penn St. in the Big Ten Tournament, but the Nittany Lions depend way to much on Talor Battle.  Temple will get it done.

4:40PM et: (15)Northern Colorado Bears(21-10) Vs. San Diego St. Aztecs(32-2) - TNT

San Diego St. is coming off their best season ever.  An early NCAA Tournament exit would put a bit of a damper on a year that saw them win 32 games, a share of the Mountain West regular season title and a MWC Tournament championship as well.

The Aztecs have the burden on never winning a NCAA Tournament game - they are 0-6 - including trips in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

Northern Colorado hopes to continue that trend, though on paper the Bears seem to be outmatched. Making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since joining Division I in 2006-07, the Bears earned their way in by winning the Big Sky Conference regular season and post-season tournament.

Both teams come into the game playing well - SDSU has won 5-straight games while Northern Colorado has won 7-straight.

MY PICK - SDSU - The Aztecs are good.  Really good.

7:20PM et: (14)Bucknell Bison(25-8) Vs. (3)Connecticut Huskies(26-9) - TNT

UConn shocked everyone by winning five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament.  Now they need to find the magic once again against Bucknell in the NCAA Tournament.  Coach Jim Calhoun calls the Huskies run last weekend his third-biggest thrill after winning National Championships in 1999 and 2004.

"When I put it back in perspective, after the two national championships there's nothing more special than to win that kind of fight in your neighborhood," Calhoun said Wednesday. "It certainly is one of the highlights of my coaching career."

Bucknell, the champions of the Patriot League, has had success as the No. 14 seed.  In 2005 the Bison beat No. 3 seeded Kansas in the first round.  

"The comparisons have been there pretty much the whole year," Boon said. "I actually got a chance to talk to the star player from that team, Charles Reed, a few weeks ago and he told me that, 'Yeah, you guys are getting compared to our team and everything, but this is your year. Make your own legacy."

MY PICK: UConn - I don't expect a letdown from UConn today, and I don't expect a repeat of what happened in 2005 for Bucknell.

9:50PM et: (11)Missouri Tigers(23-10) Vs. (6)Cincinnati Bearcats(25-8) - TNT

It's been six years since the Cincinnati Bearcats have played in the NCAA Tournament.  After finishing 11-7 in the battle-tested Big East Conference, I expect their stay in the Tournament to be a long one.

Coach Mick Cronin inherited a mess of a program in 2006, a year after longtime Bob Huggins was ousted amid criticism over low graduation rates, a series of player arrests and NCAA rules violations that ultimately led to probation and a reduction in scholarships.

The wins have increased for the Bearcats, from 13 in 06-07 to 25 this season, and the Bearcats are back on the national scene.

The Missouri Tigers are making their third straight appearance in the tournament.  Known for a furious pace dubbed the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" the Tigers love to push the pace while the Bearcats feature the Big East's best defense, allowing just 59.2 points per game.

MY PICK: Cincinnati - This was a tough one, and it could easily go either way. If Missouri starts the game hot, it could be a long day for Cincinnati.  I like defense in March, however, and this the Bearcats will get it done.

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