West Region breakdown
Eamonn Brennan [ARCHIVE]
March 12, 2012
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Speaking of which, New Mexico warrants mention here, too. The Lobos may not be quite as good as their KenPom mark (and we can probably argue the same of Memphis and Saint Louis, too), but even so, Steve Alford's team ranks No. 13 in the nation in overall adjusted efficiency. By comparison, Louisville ranks No. 20, Marquette ranks No. 18, and Florida ranks No. 19. Virginia is more impressive than you think at No. 26. Simple rankings aren't the be-all end-all for your bracket, of course. More in-depth research is needed. But, you know, just a heads up.

Five Players To Watch

Draymond Green, Michigan State: You know the drill here: Green is one of the nation's best and most versatile players, but he's also Izzo's coach on the court. The Spartans need varied contributions to be successful, but Green is by far their most important cog -- both tangibly and emotionally.

Scott Machado, Iona: The nation's assists leader is a maestro with the rock in his hands, and he has targets in the form of Michael Glover, a potential NBA draft pick, and MoMo Jones, who you last saw in March as part of the Arizona team that destroyed Duke in the Sweet 16. But Machado is most worth the price of admission. If the committee admitted their sole reason for including Iona in the field was "because we want to watch Scott Machado ball out," I'd have zero problem with that.

Flip Pressey, Missouri: The Tigers have too many good guards to do justice to in this space. Kim English is the team's leader and a lights-out catch-and-shooter weapon. Marcus Denmon is no less deadly, and as quick as any guard in the country. Forward Ricardo Ratliffe is one of the nation's most efficient players; he plays his role perfectly. And Michael Dixon and Matt Pressey are exactly what Frank Haith needs in glue spots. But the younger Pressey's game -- his tireless penetration, his ruthless on-ball defense, and above all, his incredible court vision and assist skills -- is what really, really makes the Tigers go.

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: If the Racers are going to do tournament damage proportionate to their incredible 30-1 season, Canaan will lead the way. The 6-2 guard combines a big-time usage rate (26.5 percent) with incredible shooting efficiency (percentage splits: 49.7 from 2, 47.3 from 3, 84.0 percent from the line) and an assist rate of 25.2 percent. He is Murray State's offense, and boy is he fun to watch.

Peyton Siva, Louisville: With all due respect to Marquette stars Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, the last nod here had to go to Siva, who just dropped 55 points, 25 rebounds, 23 assists and 11 steals in four games in Louisville's Big East tournament title run. If Siva keeps this up, Louisville has Final Four potential. If not, the Cardinals' offense will struggle.

Three Second-Round Games To Watch

No. 2 Missouri versus No. 7 Florida/No. 10 Virginia: Florida may well come out of its first-round matchup with Virginia, and if it does, the guard matchups could be fascinating. But even if Florida falters, Virginia's brutally slow style will provide a fascinating contrast with Missouri's attack. Either way, it's going to be interesting.

No. 1 Michigan State versus No. 8 Memphis/No. 9 Saint Louis: As above, both Memphis and Saint Louis are very efficient teams. Memphis especially could provide Michigan State with a challenge. The Tigers are very talented, with forward Will Barton morphing into a bona fide star, and their total team athleticism could be a whole new challenge for Michigan State coming out of the more ground-bound Big Ten.

No. 4 Louisville versus No. 5 New Mexico: New Mexico arrived in the tournament fresh off a Mountain West conference title run, which included a win over UNLV in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Louisville arrived fresh off a Big East championship. These might be the two hottest teams in the country, and both have their sights set on deep March runs.

Possible Future Matchups

No. 1 Michigan State versus No. 2 Missouri: It's the game any unbiased observer can't help but crave. Enough said.

No. 1 Michigan State versus No. 4 Louisville: But if the Spartans want to get to an Elite Eight matchup with Missouri, they have to get past Louisville first. That will require a cool performance from point guard Keith Appling, who will have to captain the Spartans against Siva and the Cardinals' tricky pressure defense. Plus, Tom Izzo versus Rick Pitino in the tournament? Yes please.

No. 2 Missouri versus No. 3 Marquette: Missouri's likely Sweet 16 matchup with Marquette will be the Tigers' biggest roadblock to the Elite Eight, and also one of the most stylistically challenging. Marquette can do something to Missouri most teams can't: It can match up well. Whatever happens, it's going to be one of the best watches in the tournament.

Possible Cinderella

Two candidates: Long Beach State and Iona. Both teams feature NBA talent, both teams are double-digit seeds, and if both teams can get past their early tests -- LBSU has a tough matchup in New Mexico, while Iona will have to beat BYU and find a way to get past No. 3-seed Marquette -- both teams have classic slipper-fit style.

Eamonn Brennan covers college basketball for ESPN.com. You can see his work in the College Basketball Nation blog. To contact Eamonn, e-mail collegebasketballnation@gmail.com or reach him on Twitter (@eamonnbrennan).
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