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West

Location is where it's at for UConn

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / March 16, 2009
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First, a little history. Connecticut has won two national championships, in 1999 and 2004. Both times the Huskies came out of the West Regional in Phoenix. So if you see a smile on coach Jim Calhoun's face today, it's likely because the Huskies got shipped out West again. Another reason might be because of the bracket. It looks tilted toward UConn.

UConn will start its journey in Philadelphia Thursday against Chattanooga. The other first-round game matches BYU and Texas A&M. The Aggies will prevail in a fairly entertaining contest.

That sets up a second-round game against UConn, which will have its game face on. It should be over early, sending UConn back to Phoenix. Well, Glendale, to be specific.

Waiting for the Huskies should be old foe Washington, which gave UConn all it could handle in a 1998 regional semifinal in Greensboro, N.C. The Huskies won on a last-second shot, but fell to North Carolina in its backyard. This time, Washington will be hungry after opening with a win against Mississippi State. In the second round, the Huskies could see Northern Iowa, which is capable of knocking off Purdue.

In the bottom half of the draw, No. 2 seed Memphis will think it's still playing in Conference USA for a few rounds. The Tigers will have no trouble with Cal State-Northridge, and then will find a way to beat either California or Maryland, which will send the Tigers to Glendale.

Expect Memphis to run into Marquette, which has adjusted to the loss of guard Dominic James. Ask Villanova, which needed a last-second basket to beat the Golden Eagles in the Big East tournament. Marquette should roll past Utah State, and then find a happy Cornell team, which we think will knock off No. 3 seed Missouri.

The regional semifinals will have a Big East feel, with toughness as much of a factor as talent. Marquette will send Memphis home, and UConn should overpower Washington.

That sets up a Big East final between Marquette and UConn. The Huskies will be playing in Glendale rather than Phoenix, but the result will be the same.

UPSET SPECIAL: Cornell over Missouri, Northern Iowa over Purdue

MOVING TO GLENDALE: UConn, Washington, Marquette, and Memphis

REGIONAL CHAMP: UConn

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