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March Madness 2011 Predictions: Bracket Picks, Sleepers For West Region

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We make our March Madness predictions for the West Region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket, which features several mis-seeded teams, including Texas and San Diego State.

March Madness resources: Printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket ... Full 2011 NCAA Tournament schedule.

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The theme of the 2011 NCAA Tournament seems to be "mis-seeding" (or if you're Colorado and Alabama, highway robbery) and the West Region is no exception. The East region is top heavy as perhaps the four best teams on their respective seed lines duke it out, the Southeast is a free-for-all with a dearth of elite squads and upsets waiting to happen, while the West region gives the 3-seed Connecticut Huskies the easiest path to the Final Four. On paper, at least.

Four-seed Texas has had a season worthy of perhaps the two line and at very worst a three-seed, while the second-seeded San Diego State Aztecs have enjoyed the self-fulfilling prophecy that is the Mountain West. The Aztecs only quality win is against a BYU squad missing its second best player after being soundly beaten by the same club at full strength twice before.

The victims here are obviously Texas who has to play the Pac-10 conference champ Arizona in the second round and possibly Duke, who is also crying foul at the prospects of playing one of the top 8 teams in the country in the round of sixteen. Meanwhile, UConn sits smiling while resting its Big East weary legs at the bottom the bracket.

The Headliners

Duke tops the list in this bracket, and why not? Outside of Connecticut, the Blue Devils may be the hottest team in basketball right now after winning the ACC Conference Tourney in dominating fashion. Even better news for the Devils is the fact that Kyle Singler seems to be finding his rhythm down the stretch.

Texas is next in this region considering they have a better resume than three of the two seeds, three of the three seeds, and the remaining four seeds. The committee grossly under-seeded Longhorns and it's the Duke Blue Devils that may have to pay the price.

The hottest team in the country is sitting on the three line at the bottom of the bracket and they'll look to continue their run after winning five games in five days against the best teams in the best conference in America. This young UConn team seemed to grow up last weekend and now it's just a matter of regaining their legs as they head out West.

Sleepers

I don't see the vaunted 12 vs. five-seed upset here because Memphis plays about as an undisciplined a style of basketball as a team can play, and that's exactly the type of team Arizona typically routs. These same style issues hold true for Oakland against Texas. Texas struggles in the half court but they have better athletes than the Golden Grizzlies so an up tempo pace is the perfect remedy for Texas' stagnant offense. And Texas, who ranks #1 in overall defensive efficiency according to KenPom, will guard like no other team has guarded Oakland this season.

If you're looking for the mega-upset, Bucknell plays well enough on the defensive end to make the going tough for the Huskies especially if their dead-legged after the Big East gauntlet and coast to coast travel. Or Calhoun simply decides to start scouting for the second round. But this is a big longshot. Big Ten tourney finalist Penn State could beat Temple but that's not exactly an upset worthy of any real Madness.

All Region Team

At point guard, I'll go with Player of the Year candidate Nolan Smith. He does it on both ends of the floor and has clear been the Devils best player after Irving went down.

Kemba Walker, another POY candidate, rounds out the best All-Star backcourt in the land. No real explanation needed if you own a TV and an elementary understanding of the game.

The front court is where it gets tricky. The only true small forward worthy of consideration in this region is Jordan Hamilton. His size/skillset combination make him a matchup nightmare for most squads. Hamilton can handle, shoot, post, and rebound in mold of the classic small forwards from yesteryear.

At power forward, I'll give the nod to Derrick Williams of Arizona over Tristan Thompson because Williams is a bit more polished offensively. If you're a defense/rebounding fan, Thompson is your man.

My other forward is Kawhi Leonard of the Aztecs and he gets the slot over Oakland's true center, Keith Benson. Leonard is an athletic freak with length that makes Jay Bilas downright giddy. Kawhi is also developing his range, which should have NBA scouts drooling over the 6'7" jumping jack.

Prediction

If UConn goes down early, there are five teams that can make a run to the Elite Eight, but until that happens UConn is clearly the class of the bottom half of that region. I think the winner of the Temple/Penn State game takes out San Diego State by exposing the Aztecs' lack of guard play. UConn should then sleep walk to the regional final.

As ridiculously weak as the bottom half of the bracket is outside of UConn, the top half is ridiculously strong. The second round games in this half of the bracket will probably be Duke vs. Michigan and Arizona vs. Texas. Your Sweet 16 game features a pair of teams that have vied for number one rankings over the course of the year if the Longhorns face the Blue Devils.

The Longhorns match up very well with the Blue Devils because they have the athleticism to float to and defend the arc with their forwards which helps negate Singler and Kelly. Inside, Tristan Thompson should own the paint and the glass on both ends of the floor. The X-factor is Nolan Smith and whether or not Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph can limit Smith. I think they can. I also don't think Kyrie Irving is factor in the tournament at least not a positive one as far as chemistry goes even if he is healthy. I think Texas gets the upset here because they're very talented and they'll enjoy being out from under the microscope of conference scouting reports which will help them regain their midseason stride.

In the Regional Final, Texas gets revenge from a two point regular season loss versus the Huskies in Austin with Tristan Thompson avoiding foul trouble this time and yet another big performance from J'Covan Brown off the bench.

The Longhorns head back home to Houston for the Final Four and a date with Ohio State.

NCAA Tournament previews of the all four regions: East / West / Southeast / Southwest