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WEST REGIONAL

Chris Dufresne | The Bottom Line

March 12, 2007|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Kansas, Kansas and more Kansas -- far as the eye can see.

Roy Williams spent years trying to bring that elusive crown back to Lawrence.

Williams cried more tears than an onion cutter trying to get it done and had a few teams that seemed destined to cut down the nets. None was more talented than his 1997 squad, ranked No. 1 before losing to Arizona.

Williams had to go back home to get his glory, winning it all two years ago at North Carolina.

We see an uprising on the Kansas plains, led by a coach, Bill Self, hungry for his first title, and a team that is talented, deep and quick. Or maybe you didn't see Sunday's Big 12 championship win against Texas.

Here's how it plays out -- unless it doesn't: Kansas rolls over the play-in winner, we're saying Florida A&M, and then makes a run for it, all the way to Atlanta.

Kansas wins it all.

From the other side of the bracket emerges UCLA, which shrugs off a two-game losing streak against schools that didn't make the tournament and its demotion to a No. 2 seeding.

Wow, wait a minute, that's a lot to shrug off.

Anyway, Round 2 features a reprise of last year's rim-rattler against Gonzaga, which let UCLA climb back from double digits down to win in Oakland -- the game that left Adam Morrison in tears on the court.

Gonzaga isn't anyone's darling anymore. It has had its share of off-court issues, issues with players and drugs -- the kind of stuff that gets you called "The Zig-Zags" in some cruel quarters.

UCLA prevails, as we see it, then Ben Howland takes it to his old school, Pittsburgh, before bowing out against Kansas.

Lost in the tiny print of this region is Duke, once a feared power but suddenly a school with a No. 6 seeding -- almost insulting for a program of this pedigree.

Truth is that gaggles of McDonald's All-Americas don't always congeal at once, and Duke seems to be facing this problem as well as the usual, we-hate-Duke public relations woes.

We see Duke getting by Virginia Commonwealth, although it may not be a cinch, before taking an early exit against Pitt.

Make no mistake, Duke will be back -- in Durham, by next Sunday.

Along the way, though, its head coach will be taking notes, and names.

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