Western Region Overview

The West bracket is loaded with big names and big time programs. Duke, Kansas and Illinois all hope to challenge the Wildcats for a trip to New Orleans. There are many good teams and intriguing match-ups all of which will lead to a showdown in Anaheim for a shot at the Big Easy.<BR><A href="http://arizona.theinsiders.com/2/99618.html">EAST REGION</A> <A href="http://arizona.theinsiders.com/2/99719.html">SOUTH REGION</A> <A href="http://arizona.theinsiders.com/2/99776.html">MIDWEST REGION</A>

Best Players: G Jason Gardner (Arizona); F Luke Walton (Arizona); G Blake Steppe (Gonzaga); G Chris Thomas (Notre Dame); F Matt Carroll (Notre Dame); F Brian Cook (Illinois); F Kyle Korver (Creighton); G Chris Duhon (Duke); F Ike Diogu (ASU); C Nick Collison (Kansas); G Kirk Heinrich (Kansas).

The Coaches: Lute Olson (Arizona); Mike Krzyzewski (Duke); Roy Williams (Kansas); Bill Self (Illinois).

The Sleepers: Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Central Michigan.

Best Match-up: No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Central Michigan

Worst Match-up: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Vermont

This is a region loaded with big names, but many are on a down year. Both Duke and Illinois rely on a lot of freshmen and Kansas will surely miss Wayne Simien. There are a number of good match-ups and potential match-ups. Duke and Kansas in the Sweet 16? Illinois and Arizona in the same round? You don't think Kansas is salivating at the thought of a revenge game against the Wildcats?

The games:
1) Arizona vs. 16) Vermont
Vermont is a very good team for a 16 seed, but they aren't that good. This one should not be much of a game.

8) Cincinnati vs. 9) Gonzaga
This is the worst of the 8 vs. 9 match-ups. Both teams were on the bubble and most expected them to be 11 or 12 seeds. Instead one of these teams will be advancing to the second round and the likely opponent for Arizona. Gonzaga could be dangerous if Corey Violette is healthy.

5) Notre Dame vs. 12) Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Notre Dame has the potential to beat anybody, but has not played as well as of late. The Panthers are a great sleeper pick, but it could be tough for them to win in Indianapolis, a virtual home game for the Irish.

4) Illinois vs. 13) Western Kentucky
The Illini may have won the Big 10, but it wasn't a very good conference. They have Brian Cook finally living up to expectations, but rely on a lot of freshmen in the backcourt. How the Hilltoppers are here is a mystery. Chris Marcus and Todor Pandov, the team's best players, are both lost for the year. This team is not the threat they once were or were supposed to be, but are gritty and tough.

6) Creighton vs. 11) Central Michigan
Two of the best mid-majors square off in the first round. Kyle Korver leads the Blue Jays, as Sweet-16 team a year ago. Central Michigan was the class of the MAC, a traditionally difficult conference. One of these teams will carry the mid-major banner into a likely battle against major conference king Duke.

3) Duke vs. 14) Colorado State
The Rams shocked everyone and won the Mountain West tournament. The Rams are a gritty, scrappy, tough team who will throw everything at the more talented Blue Devils. Duke is a lot like Arizona of a year ago. Like the 2002 Wildcats, Duke relies on a host of young players and a handful of talented upper-classmen.

7) Memphis vs. 10) Arizona State
Memphis has flown under the radar all season and feel they are prepped for a run in the tourney. Before they can do that they have a date with the physical Sun Devils. ASU's front line is talented, but it is the Devils' outside shooting, or lack thereof, will be the deciding factor.

2) Kansas vs. 15) Utah State
Arizona has the toughest #16 seed and the Jayhawks were similarly rewarded. Utah State has tournament experience and have even pulled the upset two years ago. That being said the Jayhawks are very talented, though very thin. Without Wayne Simien there is little margin for error in the frontcourt.

Some feel the West is loaded, but it is more balanced than anything. Arizona and Kansas are heads and shoulders above the rest IF they are on their game.

2003 NCAA Bracket

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