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ncaa tournament

NCAA Tournament: South and West Region Previews

Even though we are surely going to trounce you in the New York Magazine NCAA Pool (join now!), we thought we'd give you little guides to the brackets of the NCAA Tournament nevertheless. The tournament begins Thursday at noon, and we expect to see you in the office, sonny boy. Here, the South and West Regions.

EAST REGIONAL

Player You'll See in the NBA Next Season: Ekpe Udoh, Baylor. The six-foot-ten lanky Oklahoman, who transferred to Baylor from Michigan, blocks nearly four shots a game.

Best First-Round Game: No. 7 Richmond versus No. 10 St. Mary's. As Joe Sheehan has pointed out, the NCAA selection committee loves to pit non-BCS teams against each other. These are two of the best.

Big East Ties: Almost half the Big East teams are in this bracket: No. 2 Villanova, No. 6 Notre Dame, and No. 9 Louisville.

Upset Special: No. 12 Utah State over No. 5 Texas A&M. Aggies versus Aggies. The Texas A&M version is probably overseeded, and the Utah version is a tournament veteran by this point.

Winner: Duke. They're due for another Final Four, and the NCAA committee did them a lot of favors. The route to the Elite Eight should be awfully smooth.

WEST REGIONAL

Player You'll See in the NBA Next Season: Wesley Johnson, Syracuse. So, it's been nice having this guy just show up this season, hasn't it, 'Cuse fans? Enjoy him now: Next year, he'll be playing somewhere far away from these parts.

Best First-Round Game: No. 6 Xavier versus No. 11 Minnesota. The Musketeers have become a regular in the tournament, but few teams in the six BCS conferences are hotter right now than the Gophers, who were considered out of the tournament just three weeks ago. Plus, Tubby Smith has been here before.

Big East Ties: 'CUUUUUSE. The Orange are the No. 1 seed, but No. 3 seed Pittsburgh is hanging around as well.

Upset Special: No. 7 BYU over No. 2 Kansas State. The Wildcats, with terrifying head coach Frank Martin, have overachieved this year and are vulnerable against a team with a hot scorer. BYU has the wonderfully named junior guard Jimmer Fredette, who averages more than 21 points a game. If he gets hot, look out.

Winner: Syracuse. Yes, we're picking four No. 1 seeds. We actually thought the Orange were a potential upset victim, considering the way their season ended, but this is not a terribly difficult bracket.

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Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images