Wild west shootout
The West seems pretty cut and dry in this year's NCAA tournament, with most experts already picking the Arizona Wildcats to walk into the Final Four.
And who can argue? With arguably the best back court in the nation, Arizona is a good bet to return to the March Madness finale. Led by point guard Mike Bibby and last year's tournament MVP Miles Simon, the 'Cats possess a 1-2 punch like no other squad. And with the emergence of forward Michael Dickerson, who led the Wildcats in scoring, Arizona now has a legitimate triple threat. Despite the offensive talent the 'Cats possess, it is their defence that will be the difference when the competition gets tougher as they move through the regionals.
However, before handing the West to Arizona there are a few teams that believe they can be the ones to provide an upset, specifically the two, three and four seeds, Cincinnati, Utah and Maryland respectively.
The Cincinnati Bearcats have faced adversity all year, overcoming the loss of two key players to suspensions, forward Ruben Patterson (14) and point guard Michael Horton (3), to nail down the second seed in the West. Both will be looked upon for leadership throughout the tournament. The key for Cincinnati, however, will be the play of centre Kenyon Martin who led the Conference USA in blocks (62) and field goal percentage (63.5) and was second in rebounding (8.8 per game). Martin could be the difference as Arizona does not have true centre to defend him.
The third seeded Utah Utes and fourth seeded Maryland Terrapins have outside shots of defeating the Wildcats, but it is highly unlikely as they lack the skill and athleticism of Arizona and Cincinnati.
The system of Utah Utes coach Rick Majerus does not allow for many shots, but the team's percentage is high, shooting 48 per cent in their last three games of the season. They will try to slow the pace down and frustrate opponents. The Terrapins will rely on a balanced attack with no sure-fire superstar to carry them through games. However, with wins over top seeds Kansas and North Carolina, the Terps have the ability to upset anyone.
Andrew Mavis of Richmond, B.C. will lead the 15th seeded Northern Arizona Lumberjacks against Cincinnati and try to become the first 15th seed to win since Steve Nash's Santa Clara upset Arizona in 1993.