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NCAA Basketball Tournament 2011 Field: An Early Look At The West Region

After the Ohio St. Buckeyes, the Duke Blue Devils may have the next hardest road to the Final Four in the West region. The region features the relatively unknown #2 San Diego St. Aztecs and the red-hot #3 Connecticut Huskies, led by superstar, Kemba Walker. Furthermore, the Texas Longhorns and Arizona Wildcats are poised to make some noise in the bracket this year. In my opinion, the West region lacks massive upset potential, but instead offers several inevitable battles of the titans. You may want to look elsewhere for Cinderella stories, but the West region is sure to provide some of the highest quality basketball in the tournament. Care to take a look at the match-ups and my picks? Of course you do. Here we go. 

Round Two Games

(1) Duke Blue Devils (30-4) vs. (16) Hampton Pirates (24-8)

March 18 3:10 PM ET

Prediction: Duke

Maybe someday a number 16 seed will beat a number 1 seed. However, it isn't happening this year. Duke is way too good to fall this early. 

(8) Michigan Wolverines (20-13) vs. (9) Tennessee Volunteers (19-14)

March 18 12:40 PM ET

Prediction: Michigan

Both of these teams appear to be over-seeded. Neither has a very impressive record or resumé, however here they are. In the end, it comes down to which team has been playing better as of late. Michigan had an impressive showing in the Big Ten Tournament while Tennessee did not play very well down the stretch, losing 7 of their last 11 games. The Wolverines are moving on. 

(5) Arizona Wildcats (27-7) vs. (12) Memphis Tigers (25-9)

March 18 2:45 PM ET

Prediction: Arizona

It seems like there is a number 12 seed upsetting a number 5 seed every single year. That's because there basically is. Regardless, the Memphis Tigers barely eked out a one-point win over the UTEP Miners to secure the NCAA berth. Memphis likely would not have earned an at-large bid and quite frankly aren't that good. Arizona's Derrick Williams is a beast and could take over several games this March. Special note to fellow Cavalier fans: Be sure to watch Williams, as he could be sporting Wine and Gold next year. 

(4) Texas Longhorns (27-7) vs. (13) Oakland Golden Grizzlies (25-9)

March 18 12:15 PM ET

Prediction: Texas

If you wanted to, one could make the case that the Longhorns have not played very well lately and are primed for an upset. Texas went just 4-4 in their last 8 games, so that claim may be valid. Also, Oakland is 2nd in the country in points scored at 85.6 per game. Some people have the guts to call this upset, but this guy is banking on Texas showing up in midseason form as opposed to the team we saw down the stretch. A rather uneventful bracket region continues the trend as another favorite moves on.

(6) Cincinnati Bearcats (25-8) vs. (11) Missouri Tigers (23-10)

March 17 9:50 PM ET

Prediction: Missouri **UPSET SPECIAL**

The Big East is the best conference in the country, no question. However, I tend to think that some teams get taken along for the ride with the conference being so good. Admittedly, after looking at what the Bearcats have accomplished, the hate seems a big arbitrary. It's more of a gut feeling on this pick. Missouri was impressive in what I saw this year and I love their style of play. If you disagree, just don't copy my entire bracket.

(3) Connecticut Huskies (26-9) vs. (14) Bucknell Bison (25-8) 

March 17 7:20 PM ET

Prediction: UCONN

If you missed UCONN's unprecedented run through the Big East tournament and Kemba Walker's video game-like performance, I can only assume you have been living under a rock. UCONN faced 5 unbelievable teams in 5 days and took them all down. The tourney may end up hurting the Huskies in the long run, as Kemba Walker might eventually realize he is in fact, still a human being and run out of energy. However, he's got enough in the tank to take down Bucknell. Kardiac Kemba's run lasts at least one more round. 

(7) Temple Owls (25-7) vs. Penn St. Nittany Lions (19-14)

Prediction: Temple

Penn St. used a late season surge to put themselves into the tournament and may be over-seeded as a #10 seed with 14 losses. I may be punishing PSU for putting me through that horrific 36-33 game against the Wisconsin Badgers, but I think the Owls will move on here. 

(2) San Diego St. Aztecs (32-2) vs. (15) Northern Colorado Bears (21-10)

Prediction: San Diego State

The Aztecs are really good. That much we know. How good? I guess we'll find out if they have to face UConn or Duke later in the tournament. But right now, we know that Kawhi Leonard is a beast and that SDSU is better than anyone in the Big Sky conference. 

So that's all we've got for the West region. Be sure to check back for more tournament updates and more picks! Hate my picks? Love my picks? Want to debate my picks? Follow me on Twitter @Lookitsckaz 

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.