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NCAA Bracket Predictions 2012: The West Region

Kentucky has a tough draw, but look for the Wildcats to continue dancing to the Big Easy.

Kentucky locked down the overall number one seed and from the looks of it, actually got the easiest region for once - and by easiest I mean: look at half the teams in there. They are all capable of pulling the upset. Or could this be the year that Coach John Calipari finally gets his tournament title? Crazier people have thought crazier things, but all I know is that make no guarantees come March. There is a reason it is known as March Madness, not March Predictability.

No 1. Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 16 TBD Team That Really Doesn't Matter: There doesn't need to be an explanation for why Kentucky will win this game other than that no 16th seeded team has ever upset a top seeded team in the history of the tournament. Number one seeds usually when these games by an average of almost 30 points. The WIldcats are athletic enough to beat both play in teams combined if they had to - and I mean that in a five on 10 format. Kentucky advances.

No 8. Iowa State Cyclones vs. No 9. Connecticut Huskies: It is kind of amazing to see UConn this far down considering they began the season ranked number four in the nation and have two bonafied first round picks in their starting five. Iowa State had some solid wins this year, including wins against Kansas and Baylor en route to a 5-7 record versus teams in the RPI top 50. Connecticut is the only team in the tournament that had less then a .500 win percentage in conference, but then again, virtually every Big East team is dancing this year. This game will be close, but I'm giving the reigning National Champions the benefit of the doubt in the first round. Connecticut advances.

No. 5 Wichita State Shockers vs. Va. Commonwealth Rams: Will VCU be this year's VCU? Odds are against it since they don't have the play-in game this time around. Wichita State played some downright flawless basketball this year and VCU's toughest test (and only game vs. a Top 50 RPI team) was a loss on the road at Alabama. Wichita State is ranked the 10th in Ken Pomeroy's ratings while VCU is wallowing at 46. Wichita State advances.

No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers vs. No. 13 New Mexico State Aggies: The Aggies are in the tournament by virtue of winning the WAC tournament title. Otherwise, with a RPI of 59 and a 1-6 record against teams in the top 100, the Aggies would've been looking at a solid seed in the NIT. They haven't faced any team this year remotely close to the caliber of the Hoosiers, who don't forget are responsible for one of the Kentucky's three losses. Indiana advances.

No. 6 UNLV Rebels vs. No. 11 Colorado Buffaloes: The Buffs were a forgotten afterthought until some flat out gritty defense dragged their butts through the Pac 12 tournament and an automatic bid into March. Any other year the Pac-12 tournament champ would mean something. But this year, Colorado is the highest seeded of the two Pac-12 teams, with Cal grinding out a play-in 12th seed. Colorado does have a double doube machine in sophomore Andre Roberson, and they are playing hot basketball right now. But it was also hot basketball against some very cold teams. UNLV are ranked 40 spots higher in the Pomeroy rankings and own a solid 10 point win over North Carolina earlier in the year. This game will probably be very close and very messy, but in the end, UNLV will continue on. UNLV advances.

No. 3 Baylor Bears vs. No. 14 South Dakota State Jackrabbits: Baylor played an impressively difficult schedule, and despite a few slip-ups, the Bears ended the season without a bad loss or blemish on their profile. Perry Jones III is an all-american caliber player - the key is just whether or not he wants to be. The Jackrabbits are led by Nate Wolters, who is probably one of the better guards in the nation you have never ever heard of. They say the regular season is won with the big men and the tournament is won with guard play, but unfortunately for the Jackrabbits, the Bears are going to be too big down low not even Wolters will be able to save then. Baylor advances.

No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 10 Xavier Musketeers: By now you know that Xavier's season was the tale of two teams - the unstoppable Tu Holloway led force before the fight with Cincinnati and the team that inexplicably kept dropping games they shouldn't post brawl. Holloway and fellow guard Mark Lyons make up one of the better back courts in the nation, but Notre Dame plays very unselfish basketball. Four different Irish average at least 12 points a game, and when one Xavier guard has a bad game, the team suffers greatly. Notre Dame advances.

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 15 Lehigh Mountain Hawks: The number 15 seed has advanced only four times in the past 27 years. The games are usually a bit closer than the 1/16 game, but its been 11 years since this upset has happened, and I don't expect Coach K to let the Blue Devils falter here. Duke advances.

I'm not about to try and call every possible game based off my predictions quite yet. So we'll skip to the meat of the matter. This is a tough bracket to try and pick who will emerge from the pile of rubble and advance to New Orleans. Duke, Baylor, Indiana, and Wichita State are all perfectly capable of making runs to the Final Four, but Kentucky has constantly risen to the challenge this year. Coach Calipari has his team focused and ready to make up for last year's lack of a title. Kentucky advances to Final Four.

Stay with this NCAA Predictions StoryStream throughout the day as SBN Seattle's crack team of bracketologists give you their picks.

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