Anybody who followed the Big Ten men's basketball season in 2011-12 already knew it was a special league, with five teams among the top 15 most of the season in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings. Then Michigan State went out and won that conference's tournament, topping Ohio State in Sunday's championship game to earn a No. 1 seed.
The Spartans' presence in the NCAA Tournament West Region, coupled with second-seeded Missouri on the bottom half of the bracket, makes the West one of the stronger regions in the Big Dance this year. Missouri played second fiddle to Kansas most of the season, just as MSU played second fiddle to OSU and Michigan, but the Tigers and Spartans enter the NCAAs as two of the hottest teams.
The state of Utah's only team to make the tournament this year, BYU, is also in the West Region almost. The Cougars (25-8) must beat Iona (25-7) in a "First Four" game in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday to move into a Thursday matchup in Louisville with No. 4 seed Marquette.
Coincidentally, the West Region features the two programs which have had the most NCAA Tournament appearances without making it to the Final Four: BYU (26 times) and Missouri (24 times).
Marquette (25-7) earned the No. 3 seed in the West. The Golden Eagles fell 84-71 to eventual Big East tournament champion Louisville in the quarterfinals and are coached by Buzz Williams, a good friend of BYU's Dave Rose.
Speaking of Louisville, coach Rick Pitino's red-hot club will also spice up the West Region. The Cardinals (26-9) lost three of their last four Big East regular-season games, but won four straight to claim that tough league's tournament title.
University of Utah fans have a team to pull for in this region, and we're obviously not talking about BYU. Former Utes coach Rick Majerus takes his 25-7 Saint Louis club to Columbus, Ohio, to face No. 8 seed Memphis on Friday.
Majerus' tournament acumen will be tested, though, because Memphis is one of the hottest teams in the country. And the winner, most likely, will face Michigan State in a third-round game.
West Region schedule
P Tuesday, at Dayton, Ohio
• BYU vs. Iona, 7:10 p.m., truTV
Thursday, at Portland, Ore.
• Louisville vs. Davidson, 11:40 a.m., TBS
• New Mexico vs. Long Beach State, 2:10 p.m., TBS
Thursday, at Louisville, Ky.
• Murray State vs. Colorado State, 10:15 a.m., Ch. 2
• Marquette vs. BYU/Iona winner, 12:45 p.m., Ch. 2
Friday, at Omaha, Neb.
• Florida vs. Virginia, 12:10 p.m., TNT
• Missouri vs. Norfolk State, 2:40 p.m., TNT
Friday, at Columbus, Ohio
• Memphis vs. Saint Louis, 4:50 p.m., TBS
• Michigan State vs. LIU-Brooklyn, 7:20 p.m., TBS