March 17, 2009

Breaking down the Philadelphia bracket

The West regional with the bracket's top seed is heading east to Philadelphia and the Wachovia Center where the Connecticut Huskies will be looking to do something it hasn't done since 2006, advance to a Sweet Sixteen. That year the Huskies made it to the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed before getting bounced by the Cinderella story of the decade, George Mason, in overtime.

UCONN, however, struggled throughout the tournament with a close call against Albany in the first round, a four-point close shave against Kentucky and an overtime brawl against Washington before eventually falling to George Mason.

Since that season, the Huskies haven't made it out of the first round of the tournament, not making the field in 2007 and then being the subject of yet another upset - this time to San Diego in another overtime classic. It's a good bet that UCONN will advance to at least the second round this year after playing surprise entry Chattanooga, who won the Southern conference tournament after favorite Davidson fell to the College of Charleston in the semifinals. But waiting in the second round will be an NCAA veteran team with a lot to prove.

Whoever that opponent will be will come from an odd enigma of this NCAA tournament. Eighth-seeded BYU will face ninth-seeded Texas A&M in the first round, which is a rematch of a first round game from last year's 8-9 game in the West regional in which A&M won, 67-62. The Cougars have been to three straight NCAA tournaments but have yet to win a game during the stretch. The Aggies are making their fourth straight appearance and have won a game in each of the last three tournaments, one of only eight teams in the nation to do so. A&M advanced as far as the Sweet 16 in 2007 where it lost to Memphis, 65-64.

A&M gave No. 1 seed UCLA all it could handle in an eventual 51-49 Bruin win in Anaheim, and the Aggies are foaming at the mouth for another chance. Meanwhile, BYU is ready to get back into the postseason win column.

Both teams are hungry and could potentially throw a wrench in UCONN's plans to advance to Glendale, Ariz., and the Sweet 16.

Below is a quick glance at all four teams in the bracket in Philadelphia. A&M and BYU kick off the games Thursday at 11:30 a.m. while Connecticut and Chattanooga will tip-off 30 minutes after the completion of the game between A&M and BYU.

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