Better Know a Bracket: West Region

In the interest of helping the public pick a better bracket, we at TSB thought it would be a good idea for you to get to better know a bracket. Therefore, we dug up some dirt on every school in the field, and are dishing it out in reverse order of seeding, one region at a time. Here's the West Region.

School: No. 16 Vermont
Location: Burlington, Vermont
First Round: March 19, 9:10 PM, No. 16 Vermont vs. No. 1 Syracuse
Mascot: In 1926, the school paper tried to get students to select a mascot and – with only male students allowed to vote – catamount beat out tomcat, lynx, wildcat, camel or cow. Oh how we wish cow had won.
Famous Alum: Known more for hockey than basketball, Vermont is the alma mater of the likes of John LeClair, Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas. Also of note, Trey Anastasio from Phish went to Vermont, and Ben Affleck dropped out after one semester.
Campus Note: I honestly have no clue what this means, but both the school and the city websites boast that Burlington, Vermont is "one of America's most liveable cities."
Standout Stat: Senior Marqus Blakely leads the team in points (17.4 ppg), Rebounds (9.4 rpg), assists (3.7 apg), steals (81) and blocks (66).
Vegas Odds: 500/1

School: No. 15 North Texas
Location: Denton, Texas
First Round: March 18, 2:50 PM, No. 15 North Texas vs. No. Kansas State
Mascot: The team is nicknamed the "Mean Green" yet the mascot is technically an eagle. In 1922, per Wiki, the eagle was selected over the dragon, lion and cottontail rabbit.
Famous Alum: Mean Joe Greene played football at North Texas, which may or may not have something to do with their nickname. Also of note: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dr. Phil, Roy Orbison, Meat Loaf, Don Henley, Norah Jones and Pat Boone all went to North Texas.
Campus Note: After a victory by a UNT athletic team, special green floodlights bathe the Administration Building clock tower to signal the victory to the campus and community.
Standout Stat:North Texas has nine players who average 13.8 minutes per game or more and 11 players who get nearly eight minutes per game.
Vegas Odds: 500/1

School: No. 14 Oakland
Location:Rochester, Michigan
First Round:March 19, 2:55 PM, No. 14 Oakland vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh
Mascot: Previously known as the Pioneers, Oakland currently goes by the Golden Grizzlies which is decidedly more ferocious.
Famous Alum:David Hasselhoff. That's the list. And I'm not sure he graduated, but it doesn't matter.
Campus Note:The university offices are located on N. Squirrel Road, which may or may not have something to do with the aforementioned infusion of mascot ferociousness. The campus is located right near Chrysler's corporate headquarters.
Standout Stat:Oakland has a strength of schedule of 156, but has played the following teams this year: Wisconsin, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan State, Oregon and Syracuse. Of course, those teams account for six of their eight losses, but they have played some big names, and tough teams.
Vegas Odds:500/1

School: No. 13 Murray State
Location:Murray, Kentucky
First Round:March 18, 2:30 PM, No. 13 Murray State vs. No. 4 Vanderbilt
Mascot:Racers, but per Wiki, the baseball team goes by the Thoroughbreds
Famous Alum:Joe Fulks, Basketball Hall of Famer and early pioneer of the jump shot (did not graduate; left to join the Marines during World War II).
Campus Note:Murray State also is home to one of the nation's top rifle programs. The Racers claimed national championships in 1978 (NRA), 1985 (NCAA) and 1987 (NCAA) and have produced six individual NCAA national champions, including two-time national titlist and 1984 Summer Olympics gold medalist Pat Spurgin.
Standout Stat: The Racers have a strength of schedule of 263. Yikes. This is their 14th trip to the NCAA tournament.
Vegas Odds:300/1

School: No. 12 UTEP
Location:El Paso, Texas
First Round:March 18, 5:00 PM, No. 12 UTEP vs. No. 5 Butler
Mascot:Miners, which likely came from the school's first name: State School of Mines and Metallurgy
Famous Alum:Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Tim Hardaway, NFL referee Ed Hochuli, Nolan Richardson, Sam Donaldson, Olympic gold medalist Bob Beamon and Academy Award Winner F. Murray Abraham.
Campus Note:The football stadium, host of the Brut Sun Bowl, is one of the great college football landmarks in the game.
Standout Stat:Derrick Caracter, once a potential lottery lock at Louisville, leads the team with 8.0 rpg and is second on the team with 13.8 ppg.
Vegas Odds:200/1

School: No. 11 Minnesota
Location:Minneapolis & Saint Paul, Minnesota
First Round:March 19, 12:25 PM, No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 6 Xavier
Mascot:Goldy Gopher, which has to be dangerous with all that hardwood around him. Yes, I know how lame that joke is.
Famous Alum:Minnesota boasts seven Nobel Laureates and four Pulitzer Prize winners, not to mention Hubert H. Humphrey and Walter Mondale. There are literally hundreds of famous alumni from Minnesota, which is why it's fun to focus on one who went to the school but didn't graduate: Robert Allen Zimmerman.
Campus Note: The school has more than 50,000 students and the campus, spanning parts of two cities, is more than 2,730 acres.
Standout Stat:Tubby Smith is, by my count, 25-13 in the NCAA tournament with Minnesota being the only school in his career he's yet to take to the Sweet Sixteen.
Vegas Odds:150/1

School: No. 10 Florida
Location:Gainesville, Florida
First Round:March 18, 12:20 PM, No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Brigham Young
Mascot:Tim Tebow
Famous Alum: Too many famous folks to properly name. We'll throw a dart and go with Bob Vila.
Campus Note:Tom Petty's "American Girl," contrary to popular belief, isn't about a suicide at UF -- Petty denied it in his book, Conversations With Tom Petty -- and though Petty did grow up in Gainesville, he never attended UF.
Standout Stat:This is Florida's first appearance in the tournament since back-to-back national titles. Florida had only been to the NCAA tournament five times before Billy Donovan took over. The Gators went nine-straight times from 1999-2007 before missing the last two seasons.
Vegas Odds:125/1

School: No. 9 Florida State
Location:Tallahassee, Florida
First Round:March 18th, 7:10 PM, No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 8 Gonzaga
Mascot:The teams are called the Seminoles and their mascot is a Native American character called Chief Osceola.
Famous Alum:Actors Burt Reynolds and Robert Urich as well as Richard Simmons, running the gamut on the "macho" scale. Also, actress Cheryl Hines of Curb Your Enthusiasm (yes that's a picture of me with Cheryl Hines, do you have a problem with that?). Perhaps most notable for bloggers is Orson Swindle...the actual one.
Campus Note:Florida State University is one of the two collegiate schools in the country to have a circus. Best. Note. In. This. Region.
Standout Stat:Sophomore Chris Singleton was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, finishing the regular season averaging 2.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
Vegas Odds:150/1

School:No. 8 Gonzaga
Location:Spokane, Washington
First Round: March 18th, 7:10 PM, No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 8 Gonzaga
Mascot:The team's mascot is a bulldog, and their real nickname is the Bulldogs, but they go by Zags, which has to be a pre-emptive strike against people who still pronounce the name "Gon-zah-ga".
Famous Alum:The player most known for putting Gonzaga officially on the map is Adam Morrison, even though John Stockton had a far more illustrious basketball career. Also, Bing Crosby was a Zag. No word if he cried after NCAA losses.
Campus Note:The school is one of 28 member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and is named after the young Jesuit saint, Aloysius Gonzaga, who is the second-most famous Aloysius behind only Aloysius Snuffleupagus.
Standout Stat:Gonzaga never appeared in the NCAAs until 1995 and has been in every tournament since 1999.
Vegas Odds: 50/1

School: No. 7 BYU
Location: Provo, Utah
First Round: March 18, 12:20 PM, No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Brigham Young
Mascot:The teams are called the Cougars and there have been too many Courteney Cox jokes already. The actual mascot is named "Cosmo the Cougar."
Famous Alum:Steve Young, golfer Johnny Miller and Mike Weir, Danny Ainge, Jack Morris, Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings and Mitt Romney are a few. Oh, and the kid from Napoleon Dynamite.
Campus Note:The schools is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints and until today, I always blamed the Mormons for Chik-fil-A being closed on Sundays. My apologies, Mormons.
Standout Stat:BYU is tied for second in the nation in 3-point percentage this season with 41.9% from beyond the arc.
Vegas Odds:100/1

School: No. 6 Xavier
Location:Cincinnati, Ohio
First Round: March 19, 12:25 PM, No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 6 Xavier
Mascot:Xavier goes by the Musketeers, and one is safe to assume they always travel in packs of three. Hey-now! Actually, their mascot is named d'Artagnan, after the character in Dumas' The Three Musketeers.
Famous Alum:Conservative senators John Boehner and Jim Bunning both went to Xavier.
Campus Note:The school was founded in 1831 and is the fourth oldest Jesuit University (sixth oldest Catholic University) in the country.
Standout Stat:Of Xavier's eight losses this season, just one – at Dayton – is to a team not in the NCAA tournament. That said, the team has just two wins over teams in the tournament this year, so while they're tournament tested, they haven't passed too many of those tests.
Vegas Odds:75/1

School: No. 5 Butler
Location:Indianapolis, Indiana
First Round: March 18, 5:00 PM No. 12 UTEP vs. No. 5 Butler
Mascot: From Butler's official website: Prior to 1919, Butler's athletic teams were known as the "Christians". But numerous losses in the 1919 football season caused Butler's followers to grow weary of the nickname. During the week leading up to Butler's game with the heated rival Franklin "Baptists", Butler Collegian editor Alex Cavins and his staff, which included cartoonist George Dickson, decided something "hot" must be conceived for the school's weekly pep session.

About that time, the mascot of a Butler fraternity..... a bulldog named Shimmy (you couldn't shake him), wandered into the Collegian office. The idea was born.
Famous Alum:Kurt Vonnegut attended the school and received an honorary degree.
Campus Note:Hinkle Fieldhouse, was the largest basketball arena in the US for several decades. It is considered a Hoosier Hysteria icon: from its opening in 1928 until 1971, it was the site of the final rounds of the Indiana state high school basketball tournament and was the site for the championship game in the movie Hoosiers.
Standout Stat:Butler has become the mid-major darling, but actually has two national championships; one in 1924 and another in 1929.
Vegas Odds:65/1

School: No. 4 Vanderbilt
Location:Nashville, Tennessee
First Round: March 18, 2:30 PM, No. 13 Murray State vs. No. 4 Vanderbilt
Mascot:Vanderbilt's intercollegiate athletics teams are nicknamed the Commodores, in honor of the nickname given to Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Famous Alum:Al Gore went to Vanderbilt Divinity School before working at The Tennessean as a journalist. He went back to go Vanderbilt for Law School before leaving again to run for a seat in the House of Representatives.
Campus Note:Memorial Gym was originally built as a combination gymnasium and concert hall. Some people find the sunken seats and benches on the baselines to be charming. To visiting teams and media, it's not.
Standout Stat:Vanderbilt, while a four-seed, has eight losses, six of which came at the hands of teams that didn't make the NCAA tournament.
Vegas Odds:75/1

School: No. 3 Pittsburgh
Location:Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
First Round: March 19, 2:55 PM, No. 14 Oakland vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh
Mascot:Pitt has the nickname Panthers and their mascot's official name is Roc the Panther. No word on if it's the same Roc who once had a hit FOX sit-com back in the 90's.
Famous Alum:Pitt is one of those schools with hundreds of famous alumni, so it's impossible to get everyone. To that end, we'll highlight Jonas Salk, for without him, we'd likely all be dead from polio.
Campus Note:Founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787 on what was then the American frontier, Pitt is one of the oldest continuously chartered institutions of higher education in the United States.
Standout Stat:Head Coach Jamie Dixon makes the most out of his players as sophomore Ashton Gibbs was the sixth player in the last 11 years to earn Big East Most Improved Player Award. Ben Howland can probably take credit for some of those awards as well, but his team isn't in the tournament, so Dixon gets the pat on the back for coaching 'em up.
Vegas Odds: 50/1

School: No. 2 Kansas State
Location:Manhattan, Kansas
First Round: March 18, 2:50 PM, No. 15 North Texas vs. No. Kansas State
Mascot: "Who are we? The Wildcats! Who are we going to beat? The Wildcats!"
Famous Alum:Could Michael Beasley end up being the most famous K-State alumnus in a few years? And did you know that Earl Woods was a Wildcat before he had a Tiger.
Campus Note:They actually call Manhattan, Kansas the Little Apple. It must be a Midwest thing.
Standout Stat: To call K-State's shooting from outside streaky may be an understatement. They shot under 35% from beyond the arc in 14 games this season, including a1-for-12 outing against Texas and a 3-for-23 game against Iowa State. Conversely, they've had eight games shooting 42% or better from downtown.
Vegas Odds:22/1

School: No. 1 Syracuse
Location:Syracuse, New York
First Round: March 19, 9:10 PM, No. 16 Vermont vs. No. 1 Syracuse
Mascot:For years, Syracuse was known as the Orangemen, but that changed in recent years to just "Orange". In 1995, Otto the Orange was made the official mascot. Prior to that, a Native American warrior known as the "Saltine Warrior" was the mascot.
Famous Alum: Let's see...everyone in the history of sports media? Pretty close. Marv Albert, Len Berman, Ian Eagle, Bob Costas, David Levy, Sean McDonough, Dave Pasch, Dave Ryan, Jayson Stark, Dick Stockton, Mike Tirico...I can continue...
Campus Note:Syracuse plays all their home games in the Carrier Dome and is one of the biggest home stadiums in the country. Not exactly what you'd call an intimate setting.
Standout Stat:Syracuse has been to the Sweet Sixteen or better 14 times under Jim Boeheim while losing specifically in the second round seven times. That could speak to the fact that Syracuse plays a zone that is hard for teams to defeat with just one day to prepare. Or it could speak to the fact that Syracuse is usually really, really good.
Vegas Odds: 6/1

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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