West

March 14, 2011|By Shannon Ryan, Tribune reporter

Get to know No. 1: Duke (30-4) knows what it feels like to celebrate an NCAA tournament championship and wants to repeat its performance in Indianapolis last season. The Blue Devils blasted through the ACC tournament and split with North Carolina in the regular season. Coaches love leaders like senior guard Nolan Smith (right) at this time of year. The main question facing Duke is whether freshman guard Kyrie Irving will return from injury.

Cinderella: No. 13 Oakland. The Grizzlies drew a tough opponent in No. 4 Texas, but they are battle-tested, beating Tennessee and losing to West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. Oakland ranks third nationally in shooting at 49.4 percent.

Best first-round matchup: No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Tennessee. Only three Michigan players were around two seasons ago for their NCAA trip. The Volunteers have made the last six NCAA tournaments.

The buzz: Did No. 3 Connecticut wear itself out in the Big East tournament? Winning five games in five days, electric guard Kemba Walker scored 130 points. Drawing a Thursday game takes away a day of rest. … No. 2 San Diego State went 12-1 on the road this season, but the Aztecs won't be going far from home with a slot against Northern Colorado in Tucson, Ariz.

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