NCAA tournament preview: West Regional

A look at the NCAA tournament’s West Regional:

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THURSDAY :: Salt Lake City

1 Gonzaga (32-1, West Coast Conference champion)

vs. 16 South Dakota State (18-16, Summit League champion)

The Bulldogs, who won their first 29 games, are seeded No. 1 for the second time. They had that spot in 2013 when they lost to Wichita State in the second round.

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8 Northwestern (23-11, at-large)

vs. 9 Vanderbilt (19-15, at-large)

Northwestern, making its first NCAA tournament appearance, set a school record with 23 wins. Vanderbilt has the most losses by an at-large team in tournament history.

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THURSDAY : : Buffalo, N.Y.

5 Notre Dame (25-9, at-large)

vs. 12 Princeton (23-6, Ivy League champion)

Notre Dame is seeking a third straight appearance in a regional semifinal. Princeton generated 41.7% of its offense from three-pointers, the most in this tournament field.

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4 West Virginia (26-8, at-large)

vs. 13 Bucknell (26-8, Patriot League champion)

“Press Virginia” forces more turnovers per possession than any team in college basketball. Bucknell is loaded with accurate shooters and has won 14 of its last 16 games.

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THURSDAY :: Orlando, Fla.

6 Maryland (24-8, at-large)

vs. 11 Xavier (21-13, at-large)

Although it got off to a school-record 20-2 start, Maryland finished by losing six of 10, including a defeat by Northwestern in a quarterfinal of the Big Ten tournament.

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3 Florida State (25-8, at-large)

vs. 14 Florida Gulf Coast (26-7, Atlantic Sun Conference champion)

Florida State, back after a four-year tournament absence, is looking to make its first Final Four appearance since 1972. In 2013, Florida Gulf Coast reached a regional semifinal as a 15 seed.

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THURSDAY:: Salt Lake City

7 St. Mary’s (28-4, at-large)

vs. 10 Virginia Commonwealth (26-8, at-large)

St. Mary’s has won at least 20 games for 10 consecutive seasons, but the Gaels were 0-3 against Gonzaga this season. Will Wade has gotten VCU to the NCAA tournament in both his seasons as coach.

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2 Arizona (30-4, Pac-12 Conference champion)

vs. 15 North Dakota (22-9, Big Sky Conference champion)

Coach Sean Miller has taken Arizona as far as a regional final three times in his seven seasons. It took North Dakota just seven years in Division I to get to the tournament.

NCAA March Madness bracket »

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Top seeds

[1 GONZAGA]

The Bulldogs, who have never reached the Final Four, led the nation in scoring margin (plus-23.4 points) and were second in field-goal percentage (51.8%).

[2 ARIZONA]

The Wildcats, who last got to the Final Four in 2001, beat Kentucky in 1997 to win a national championship, the most recent Pac-12 team to win it all.

[3 FLORIDA STATE]

The Seminoles tied a school record this season by beating seven ranked opponents. They need two more victories to tie the school record for wins in a season.

[4 WEST VIRGINIA]

The relentless Mountaineers, who thrive on scrappy defensive pressure, have made the tournament three years in a row under Coach Bob Huggins.

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Cinderella Search

Although Bucknell hasn’t won a tournament game since 2006, the Bison can get hot offensively behind the play of big men Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland.

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Top players

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida State

Isaac, a 6-10 freshman, is a projected NBA lottery pick who is uncommonly smooth for his size and runs the floor like a guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona

A native of Finland, the 7-foot freshman averages 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and makes 43% of his shots from three-point range — and that includes an 0-for-11 drought in late February.

Nigel Williams-Goss, guard, Gonzaga

The WCC player of the year, Williams-Goss led the Bulldogs in scoring (16.9), assists (4.8) and steals (1.8).

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Rim shots

• South Dakota State lost five of its first six league games and came into the conference tournament seeded No. 4. Sophomore forward Mike Daum is second in Division I scoring, averaging 25.3 points per game.

• Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt features a pair of coaches whose dads were coaches, too. Northwestern’s Chris Collins is the son of former NBA coach Doug Collins, and Vanderbilt’s Bryce Drew succeeded his father, Homer, as Valparaiso’s coach before taking his current job a year ago.

• Although he’s only 6-5, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson can mix it up with the big men. He has 19 double-doubles, and in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament scored 21 against Virginia, 18 against Florida State and 29 against Duke. All those teams are in the NCAA tournament.

• Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon had scored in double digits for 35 games in a row before a scoreless outing against Pittsburgh in late February. He leads the Seminoles with an average of 16.9 points.

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