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March Madness breakdown: West Region

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim ponders a question during

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim ponders a question during a news conference about the NCAA college basketball tournament in Syracuse. (March 14, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

Best guard/playmaker: Jimmer Fredette, BYU

Fredette had a career-high 49 points against Arizona and a Mountain West tournament-record 45 points in a quarterfinal win over TCU. The Glens Falls high graduate is shooting 45 percent from three-point range and is averaging 4.7 assists per game.

Best big man: Derrick Caracter, UTEP

Caracter improved in every category after transferring from Louisville. The 6-9, 275-pound junior (13.8 ppg, 8 rpb) is shooting 55.6 percent from the field. He'll be a handful for Butler's thin frontline.

Best go-to guy: Wes Johnson, Syracuse

Johnson hit a bit of a wall in late February, but played well down the stretch with 24 points against Georgetown in the Big East tournament. He shoots 49 percent from the field, including 39 percent from behind the arc.

Best player you've never heard of: Gordon Hayward, Butler

The 6-9 sophomore is one of those do-it-all types who can handle the ball, shoot from mid-range and get to the basket. He also can hit free throws (83 percent) He could be a big problem for UTEP.

Best first-round matchup: No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State

The Seminoles are the top field-goal percentage defensive team (37.2 pct) in the country, while the Zags are fifth in field goal shooting percentage (49.4 pct). Something has to give.

Best coaching matchup: Dave Rose (BYU) vs. Billy Donovan (Florida)

This may be the most exciting matchup in the first round. Both teams like to run and shoot. Jimmer Fredette (21.4 ppg) will square off against Florida's Kenny Boynton (13.6 ppg) and Erving Walker (12.6 ppg). Someone will have to play defense.

Best team: Syracuse

Syracuse is a head above every team in the west. Wes Johnson (16 ppg, 8.4 reb) can play with anyone. But he has help with four other double-digit scorers (Andy Rautins, Kris Joseph, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson). If Onuaku is healthy, Syracuse will roll to the Elite 8.

Best bet to spring an upset: No. 12 UTEP over No. 5 Butler

UTEP has won 16 of its last 17 games. More importantly, the Miners have an excellent inside-out combo featuring Caracter and junior guard Randy Culpepper.

Regional Prediction: Syracuse vs. Xavier

The Musketeers backcourt of Jordan Crawford and Hempstead's Terrell Holloway could give Andy Rautins, Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine fits.

Final Four

Syracuse, Ohio State, Kentucky, Villanova


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