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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Chris Dufresne's NCAA tournament region-by-region picks

The Times' college basketball columnist selects the Final Four and crowns a champion.

March 15, 2010

MIDWEST REGIONAL

First round: Kansas def. Lehigh; Northern Iowa def. Nevada Las Vegas; Michigan State def. New Mexico State; Houston def. Maryland; San Diego State def. Tennessee; Georgetown def Ohio; Oklahoma State def. Georgia Tech; Ohio State def. UC Santa Barbara.

Second round: Kansas def. Northern Iowa; Michigan State def. Houston; Georgetown def. San Diego State; Ohio State def. Georgetown.

Semifinals: Kansas def. Michigan State; Ohio State def. Georgetown.

Final: Kansas def. Ohio State.

How it plays out: Kansas wasn't ready to defend its 2008 title last season when it lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State, which made it all the way to the title game in Detroit. But this Kansas squad, led by veterans Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, is clearly the class of the bracket. Guess what: The Jayhawks (we're saying) are going to get a payback chance when they meet Tom Izzo's Michigan State team in the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis. The other side of the bracket appears headed for an Ohio State-Georgetown matchup, featuring two of the tournament's biggest stars in Evan Turner (Ohio State) and Greg Monroe (Georgetown). Of course, there will be other games played in the bracket. You want a No. 13 over No. 4 shocker? Try Houston over Maryland, just, well, because. We know No. 4 owns a huge advantage, historically, with a 79-21 first-round record. But we loved Houston's energy in its upset victory over Texas El Paso to win the Conference USA's automatic bid. We loved better the breathless announcer's final countdown call of the victory: "Houston, we have liftoff!" We're guessing he had that one written down, on an index card, ready for launch.

WEST REGIONAL

First round: Syracuse def. Vermont; Gonzaga def. Florida State; Butler def. Texas El Paso; Vanderbilt def. Murray State; Xavier def. Minnesota; Pittsburgh def. Oakland; Brigham Young def. Florida; Kansas State def. North Texas.

Second round: Syracuse def. Gonzaga; Butler def. Vanderbilt; Pittsburgh def. Xavier; Brigham Young def. Kansas State.

Semifinals: Syracuse def. Butler; Pittsburgh def. BYU.

Final: Pittsburgh def. Syracuse

How it plays out: You're asking: where are all the first-round upsets? Where is the risk-taking, the hunches and the coin-flip picks? Sorry. We see the West basically going true to form in the early going, with none of these matches raising many goose bumps. The exception might be No. 3 Pittsburgh vs. No. 14 Oakland only because any time you match those names together people think of the Steelers and Raiders and the Immaculate Reception involving that pass Franco Harris did or didn't catch in 1972. Never mind that this Oakland is a Summit League team from Rochester, MI. — you know which team Al Davis is rooting for. Syracuse has been one of the year's great stories and Jim Boeheim is, in many minds, the coach of the year. The school earned its second No.1 seeding even though West Virginia won the Big East tournament title and ended up as a No. 2. The big question Syracuse faces is the NCAA condition of big man, Arinze Onuaku, who injured his quadriceps in his team's first-round loss to Georgetown in the Big East tournament. Also, no team has ever won the national title after losing in the first round of its conference tournament, so that's why Pittsburgh is headed to Indianapolis.

EAST REGIONAL

First round: Kentucky def. East Tennessee State; Wake Forest def. Texas; Cornell def. Temple; Wisconsin def. Wofford; Washington def. Marquette; New Mexico def. Montana; Missouri def. Clemson; West Virginia def. Morgan State.

Second round: Kentucky def. Wake Forest; Wisconsin def. Cornell; Washington def. New Mexico; West Virginia def. Missouri.

Semifinals: Kentucky def. Wisconsin; West Virginia def. Washington.

Final: Kentucky over West Virginia.

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