The West Region, headlined by Michigan State, will prove to be either the first or second most competitive bracket in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State (21/10) will have no problems taking down Long Island (200/1 win) in the first round, but a likely second round showdown versus Memphis (14/1) will be a completely different story.
Everyone seems to have a different opinion on whether or not the Tigers are a legitimate team, but here are the facts: this team won 11 of 12 to close out the year, it captured the C-USA Title and it finished with a solid 26-8 final mark. Questions about how solid the wins were and the level of competition that Memphis played against are valid; however, you can rest assured that Tom Izzo and Co. won’t look past this group.
Despite Louisville’s (7/1) undeniably impressive run through the Big East Tournament, concerns remain about whether four wins to close out the year is enough to make Rick Pitino’s bunch real contenders. And even though they’ll likely have no trouble getting past Davidson (100/1) in the first round, Long Beach State (65/1) is poised to be one of this tournament’s sleepers to get to the Sweet 16. For that matter, if New Mexico (60/1) takes down Long Beach State and advances, the battle-tested Lobos could give the Cardinals fits too.
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Marquette (7/1) has an easy path to the Sweet 16 so long as it doesn’t let Murray State (25/1) replicate any of its Ohio Valley Conference magic here, but either Missouri (9/4) or Florida (14/1) could send this squad packing. The Gators have the toughest first round matchup of anyone in this region, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Virginia (50/1) completely throw them off their game with that grueling-to-watch, turtle pace style of play. And then, of course, if and when Florida advances, it immediately runs into brick wall of Missouri team that was very close to being a No. 1 seed in this tournament.
Michigan State and Missouri will likely meet for the privilege of getting out of this bracket, but both Marquette and Florida have the potential to surprise folks.