Best Overall Team - UCLA
Little surprise here that Ben Howland's Bruins are the best team in the West region. UCLA earned the one seed by virtue of its strong play throughout the year and happened to end up in what may be the weakest region in the entire tournament.
UCLA has the athletes at guard that can match up with No. 2 seed Duke's perimeter players, and the Bruins have way too much strength in the post for the Blue Devils.
Xavier and its incredibly balanced offense could give UCLA a run for its money. The difference, however, will be in the paint. Forwards Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will likely see limited action Thursday in the opener, which would give the pair the rest needed to recover from their injuries and be fully healthy once the Bruins start to face real tests.
- Ben Voelkel
Most Underrated Team - West Virginia
Big expectations weren't placed upon Bob Huggins in his first year at West Virginia, but he was able to win 20-plus games with a Mountaineers team that was predicted to finish in the bottom of the Big East, nonetheless.
Now that Huggins and West Virginia are in the tournament, there aren't any big expectations, either. But look out — the Mountaineers could make as much of a surprise in March as they did in the regular season as they are the West Region's most underrated team.
West Virginia has already been battle tested in the tough Big East and the Mountaineers have the talent to make some noise. Junior forward Joe Alexander leads the team with 16.8 points per game and causes match-up problems with his inside-outside game.
Plus, West Virginia holds two of the most important characteristics of a strong tournament team: outside shooting (7.3 3-pointers per game) and a stingy defense, reminiscent of Huggins' former Cincinnati teams.
The Mountaineers are two years removed from a Sweet 16 appearance and could be destined for another one this year.
- Michael Poppy
Best First Round Matchup - No. 1 UCLA vs. No.2 Duke in Phoenix
The West is weak and there are not a whole lot of great matchups early on. BYU vs. Texas A&M could be close, but it will not have a whole lot of interest. Drake and UConn in the second round would be big, but nothing tops the possible regional final with UCLA and Duke.
The Bruins and Blue Devils both have great guard play, potent offenses and deep teams. The difference maker will be the talented freshman Kevin Love who will be able to take advantage of Duke's lack of size in the post. But then again Duke can always get hot from behind the arc with Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer. Love will be the featured freshman, but this could be the national coming out party for Kyle Singler who is having a spectacular rookie season that has been masked behind the deep freshman class across the country.
- Adam Hoge
Best Bet for an Upset - No.10 Arizona over No.7 West Virginia
Arizona may have been one of the last teams into this year's tournament, but they are one of the most talented teams left. Their problem this season is that they have been underachieving to the max. Arizona matches up well with West Virginia. They are fast, athletic and can guard the perimeter. If Arizona can shut down Joe Alexander, West Virginia will lose this game. The next round Arizona would match up with Duke and do not be surprised to see Arizona knock the Blue Devils off as well. Duke is the weakest #2 seed and plays a similar perimeter based offense as West Virginia. Arizona can guard the perimeter and Chase Budinger will be difficult for Duke to stop inside. Do not be surprised if you see Arizona playing in Phoenix in the second weekend.
- Bryan Camp
Region Winner - UCLA
UCLA has by far the easiest road to the final four in San Antonio. UCLA will not face any of the nation's top tier teams until potentially the regional final and even then, the Blue Devils probably won't be there.
If the Bruins can stay healthy, which they have had trouble doing all season (especially with the PAC-10 tournament injury to Mbah a Moute), the Bruins will have a great shot to cut down multiple nets in the next couple weeks.
- Benjamin Worgull