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In the West Region, Coach K is aiming for his fifth national title.
Top Team — Duke (1)
The defending national champion Blue Devils (30–4, 13–3 ACC) appeared to be in tip-top shape en route to a 75–58 whipping of rival North Carolina in the ACC Tournament title game. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is one of two active coaches who has won back-to-back national championships — doing so in 1991 and ’92 with a core of Laettner, Hurley and Hill. Coach K has four rings, eight title game appearances, 11 trips to the Final Four and 19 Sweet Sixteens in 26 prior NCAA Tournament berths. With seniors Nolan Smith (21.3 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.6 rpg) and Kyle Singler (17.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) setting the tone, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins providing an outside threat, and the Plumlee brothers (Mason and Miles) and Ryan Kelly banging down low, Coach K could pass mentor Bob Knight (902 career wins) on the all-time wins list and win a ring for his thumb in the same postseason.
Dynamic Duo — Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Texas (4)
The Longhorns lean heavily on a pair of freshmen in Thompson (13.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg) and Joseph (10.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.0 apg). Although each has only 34 games of collegiate experience under their belt, the inside-out duo has a Texas-sized winning resume. Thompson and Joseph play together on the Canadian Junior National Team and were teammates on a Findlay Prep (Nev.) team that won back-to-back ESPN RISE national titles and ended the 2010 season ranked No. 1 in the USA Today poll. Thompson and Joseph team with streak scorer Jordan Hamilton (18.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg) to make the Longhorns a longshot Final Four candidate.
Tournament Tested — Connecticut (3)
The Huskies have won every tournament they’ve entered this season — taking the Maui Invitational by winning three games in three days in November before winning five games in five days en route to a Big East Tournament crown on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Now, Kemba Walker’s crew is aiming to win six games in 19 days. But in order to pull that off, two-time champion coach Jim Calhoun will need his star guard to fill up the stat sheet like he did in Maui (30.0 ppg on 53.8 percent shooting) and the Mecca (26.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.8 spg).
Emotional Reunion — Arizona (5) vs. Memphis (12)
Second-year Tigers coach Josh Pastner was a walk-on player on Arizona’s 1997 national title winning team before coaching under Lute Olson in Tucson from 2000-08. Now, the 33-year-old who replaced John Calipari at Memphis must face his alma mater in a difficult 5-12 matchup — a seeding that has historically been ripe for upsets. But taking down Zona will be a tough task, as second-year UA coach Sean Miller has a talent-laden roster led by bruiser Derrick Williams (19.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg).