Top seeds: 1) Wisconsin, 2) Arizona, 3) Baylor, 4) North Carolina
How the West is won: If the seeds hold, it will be a West regional final rematch from last season, when Wisconsin beat Arizona 64-63 in an overtime classic, as it was a one-possession game for the final 17 minutes, 9 seconds.
This is the first top seed in Wisconsin history. Arizona hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2001, losing in a regional final four times since then.
The West’s four seeds collectively look to be the most dangerous in the field. Baylor was tested by Big 12 fire this season, and the Bears have length, athleticism, a tricky zone defense and superb offensive rebounding. North Carolina is sometimes enigmatic, but the Tar Heels have size and do-it-all point guard Marcus Paige, who can sprinkle magic all over the bracket.
Upset Watch: The NCAA Tournament often turns into a guard’s game, and No. 10 Ohio State has one of the best around in freshman sensation D’Angelo Russell, who averages 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists while dazzling with a high basketball IQ. The Buckeyes open against No. 7 VCU.
No. 13 Harvard, which draws North Carolina in its first game, is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the Big Dance. The experienced Crimson, led by Ivy League Player of the Year Justin Sears, knows all about upsets, having won one game in each of the last two tournaments.
Get to Know: Perhaps the leading candidate for national player of the year, Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky is matchup nightmare. He’s a 7-footer with deft feet and touch around the rim while hitting 39 percent of his 3-point shots.
Arizona has a balanced offensive attack, but point guard T.J. McConnell fuels the engine with a savvy pass-first approach. He’s a pit-bull of a point guard who developed a deadly mid-range game during the Pac-12 season.
BYU guards Kyle Collinsworth and G Tyler Haws are two of the best players in program history, and their scoring power (a combined 35.9 points per game) will be a threat to watch … if the Cougars can get past Ole Miss in a first-round game that feeds to the No. 11 seed.
Oklahoma State G Le’Bryan Nash and Oregon guard Joseph Young provide a terrific matchup of elite senior scorers in an 8-9 game, with Nash having 20 career 20-point efforts.
One to see: Fifth-seeded Arkansas went 10-3 down the stretch, with two of the losses coming to unbeaten Kentucky. The Razorbacks, led by SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis (17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds per game), are in line for another blue-blood matchup in the second round against North Carolina. If you thought college basketball was an unwatchable slog this season, tune in for this one to see two teams that want to run.
Rock, Chalk: Wisconsin slipped by Arizona last season, when the Wildcats bemoaned the fact they did not have anyone to match up with the versatile Kaminsky. The answer this season could be athletic 6-foot-9 Brandon Ashley, who missed the meeting last March because of a midseason foot injury. Ashley, a junior, is playing the best basketball of his career, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Pac-12 tournament.
3 — Losses in a regional final, in three tries, for Arizona coach Sean Miller, considered by some to be the best active coach to not get to the Final Four. One of those regional final losses came at Xavier.
6 — Triple-double this season for BYU G Kyle Collinsworth, tying an NCAA career record.
19.8 — Points per game for Georgia State G R.J. Hunter, a potential first-round pick for the 14th-seeded Panthers.
25 — Points for Wisconsin F Nigel Hayes in the Big Ten title game. He’s the athletic X-factor for the Badgers.
41.8 — Offensive rebounding percentage for Baylor, which grabs its own misses better than all but one team in the country.
77.8, 77.0 — Free-throw percentages for Ole Miss and BYU, which rank third and fifth nationally, respectively. They meet in a first-round game.
See you in Indy: Arizona. The Wildcats will grind through the bracket with defense, rebounding and the leadership of T.J. McConnell.
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