While the West regional carries great teams, it lacks star power, in a sense.
The West regional is stacked with teams such as Syracuse, Kansas State, Butler, and Xavier, but isn't as difficult as other brackets.
In addition, many of the teams in this regional have extremely balanced teams lacking a bona fide show-stealing superstar.
There are many great players in this regional, though, many of whom can make an impact in this regional and beyond, and this gallery pinpoints some of these players.
Superstars are labeled "superstars" for a reason: Because they consistently make things happen in the most clutch moments.
We experienced these types of moments from superstar players in Championship Weekend from the likes of Da'Sean Butler and Evan Turner, and we should expect these types of moments and performances from the teams in this region.
While there are no bona fide national superstars in this regional, there are many amazing players who will make a difference in the tournament.
Questions will certainly rise regarding Syracuse's fall to the fourth overall seed in the tournament—could the Orange's demise have stemmed from Onuaku's injury status? Is he more hurt than Syracuse is willing to indicate?
These questions alone make Onuaku a game-changer. Although Syracuse is an extremely balanced team that spreads the ball and has no obvious superstar (compared to the other players) and should handle Vermont in the first round (although 2005 memories spring into mind), Onuaku is an integral piece of the Orange's puzzle in the following rounds.
Onuaku has great size and strength that often overwhelms defenders. A great finisher around the basket, he is a great companion to Jackson down low and figures out ways to score (he has deceptively good speed).
He is also an intimidating presence in the middle of Syracuse's zone.
Numbers-wise, Onuaku isn't the "focal" point of Syracuse's offense (the offensive efficiency for the team is extremely balanced), but he just offers such a great presence to the team.
Onuaku will be needed against Gonzaga's Robert Sacre or Florida State's Solomon Alabi, two of the nation's top centers.
Rautins is another integral piece to the Syracuse. Although he scores only 11.7 PPG and carries a 113.8 offensive rating (which is good but ranked near 200th nationally), he is a great floor leader and bar-setter for his Syracuse team. Syracuse goes as Rautins goes.
A potential matchup against Florida State's guards could be interesting, since Kitchen/Loucks/Doulkys are pretty good defensively and heckle ball-handlers.
Clemente and Pullen are the heart of the Kansas State team and the Wildcats' best players.
They are the classic guard combo: Clemente possesses great speed (much like Dee Brown of Illinois when they made the Championship Game in 2005), and Pullen can shoot the ball and create off the dribble.
Both have figured out to make plays this season, and both possess good to great court vision, Both handle the ball pretty well, have good floor awareness, and score. Pullen scores 18.9 PPG, while Clemente adds16.2 PPG.
They will both struggle against bigger guards and defenders with good agility and lateral movement (especially against Clemente), which might cause them problems past the second round of the tournament.
I hope you've heard of Hayward, because he is one of the best young players in the nation.
Hayward does it all: score, rebound, pass, defend. Scoring 15.4 PPG and 8.5 RPG this season with Butler, Hayward is Butler's best player and a superstar in the making.
Hayward doesn't have much of a post game (for a 2-3 combo/power forward tweener) and has been knocked for his lack of aggression, but he should be a matchup nightmare for most teams.
His great basketball IQ makes up for whatever qualities he lacks, which aren't much.
Hayward is a great leader and is primed to have a Stephen Curry-like effect for his team. People expect Butler to succeed, and Hayward's the main reason why they might just make a run to the Final Four in their home state.
The guys who make the greatest impact on the tournament aren't always the leading scorers or the most prominent players, but the guys who play the best, carry the most talent, or have the potential to affect game play.
These players are often big men who create great matchups, although these players can be amazing scorers as well. With this in mind, watch out for these next four players.
I need not say much after I state that Jimmer Fredette is actually the most offensively efficient player in the nation with a 120.9 rating.
He carried his team in the Mountain West tournament, and throughout the season. Averaging 20.7 PPG, he just has a nose to score.
He's not the most athletic guy on the court, but he is extremely strong and can will the ball to the basket.
He's also an amazing and clutch shooter, and automatic from the free throw line (92.7 percent). This combination of skills and his work ethic make him a great offensive playmaker.
Kenny Boynton of Florida might give Fredette problems on offense with his good lateral speed and athleticism, although Fredette possesses a great savvy that all mid-major superstar guards have.
This should make Fredette an impact player throughout BYU's progress in the tournament.
Alabi doesn't score much, and he doesn't make the highlight reel too often; however, he does consistently make the lists of the top center draft prospects.
An extremely talented 7'1" center who averages around 10 PPG, Alabi possesses an extremely soft touch inside the paint.
He's strong and intimidating in the post (mainly because of his size), and he has gained a pretty good basketball savvy.
Florida State is an extremely balanced team with no superstar, but Alabi comes close. He provides a pretty consistent and reliable scoring option inside 10 feet and will turn some heads.
Alabi will be the guy to lead a good Florida State run on a tournament run.
If there's one guy who can matchup with Alabi, it's Robert Sacre.
A true center, Sacre provides the inside presence that enhances a young Gonzaga team. Sacre has talent, although his post moves are sometimes limited.
Sacre's greatest impact, however, will be on defense. He is tenacious and will look to stiffen up a young Zags defense.
His sheer size (7'0") and desire to work hard make him a good post presence at the college level as well.
Ogilvy is one of the many great centers in this region. A really good scorer who nets about 14.0 PPG, Ogilvy can shoot either in the post of face-up. He is pretty quick and agile as well and can make things happen.
He can be dominant with his back to the basket, though, and when on his game can be a dominating offensive force.
Vanderbilt will look to funnel the ball to him to control the tempo of the game and frustrate an upstart and freakishly athletic Murray State team.
However, he isn't great on the boards, on defense, or passing, and he can be exposed in the later rounds should the Commodores advance that far.
Mid-majors compete and succeed in the NCAA tournament because of superb guard play. I generally believe in the mantra "guards win games, additional post players win championships," which explains why we esteem some lesser, lower prestige teams pretty highly.
Some teams led by superb guards have gone under-the-radar for most of the years in both the power and mid-major conferences—you'll want to keep an eye on these players.
Jordan Crawford may get all of the Xavier love because of his scoring prowess, but Jason Love is Xavier's key tactical player.
Love scores 11.9 PPG and grabs 8.6 RPG as a center who rebounds, blocks shots, and scores well inside. Additionally, he has an excellent free throw shot (so no Hack-a-Shaq).
To boot, he works hard and is extremely consistent. He will underperform against versatile bigs though, as he did against Richmond.
(Photo courtesy of Musketeerblogosphere)
Pittsburgh's two guards can play: Neither wow, but both are offensively gifted and have the winner's mentality.
Wanamaker is the talented sort of hustle player who makes plays on both ends, especially on defense.
He has good court vision and shares a Kyle Singler-like mentality and skill set (although this comparison is rough and may not be close or accurate, my perception).
Gibbs is a quintessential sharpshooter who drains 3s like Lee Humphrey of those Florida championship teams, with a bit more talent.
The combo looks a lot like the Kansas State guard combo, and often carries Pitt to victories.
Considering guard play wins college basketball games and often makes smaller (i.e. mid-major) teams competitive, Pitt should be a dark horse to advance to the Elite Eight.
One of the best scorers in the nation, Randy Culpepper takes over games with consistent scoring.
He's a good athlete with quick hands who plays pretty good defense as well. He is UTEP's team leader and is prolific as a shooter.
I don't want to throw the Stephen Curry card, but he will make an impact and can stun Butler if the Bulldogs aren't careful.
(Photo courtesy of Daylife.com)