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NCAA Tournament: Kentucky seeks redemption in Midwest

All eyes on ’Cats despite No. 1 Wichita State, its 34-0 record.

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Outlook » The Shockers should successfully begin another attempted run to the Final Four, which last year included a stop in Salt Lake. Cal Poly (No. 7) became the lowest seed to win the Big West Conference tournament in its 39-year history.

At a glance

Midwest Region: What to look for

Top player » Duke’s Jabari Parker is a do-it-all freshman who averages 19.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He’s expected to be a top-three pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

Top team » Wichita State earned its No. 1 seed. The Shockers are the first team to enter the tournament without a loss since UNLV in 1990-91. Senior Cleanthony Early, pictured at right, is their top scorer, but Fred VanVleet is the Missouri Valley Player of the Year.

Best player you don’t know » Manhattan’s George Beamon is a senior guard who averages 19.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He plays his best in big games, which should concern Louisville in the first round.

Sleeper team » Massachusetts. BYU fans remember the Minutemen, who scored a 105-96 victory over the Cougars this season. UMass also defeated Providence and New Mexico during a rugged non-conference schedule, which obviously impressed the selection committee.

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No. 2 Michigan (25-8) vs. No. 15 Wofford (20-12)

At Milwaukee | Thursday, 5:10 p.m., Ch. 2

Outlook » With Utah Jazz rookie Trey Burke as its point guard, Michigan reached the championship game last year. This season, the Wolverines start the tournament with their highest seed since a Fab Five team in 1993, when they also lost in the finals.

No. 3 Duke (26-8) vs. No. 14 Mercer (26-8)

At Raleigh, N.C. | Friday, 10:15 a.m., Ch. 2

Outlook » After losing to Virginia in the ACC tournament finals, the Blue Devils will play close to home. Meanwhile, little Mercer earned its first tournament bid since 1985 with a win over Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun championship game.

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No. 4 Louisville (29-5) vs. No. 13 Manhattan (25-7)

At Orlando, Fla. | Thursday, 7:50 p.m., TNT

Outlook » Nearly everyone was shocked the NCAA selection committee’s decision to give coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals such a low seed. ESPN broadcaster Jay Bilas said the decision "boggles the mind." Will dangerous Louisville be motivated by the disrespect?

No. 5 St. Louis (26-6) vs. No. 12 North Carolina State (21-13)/Xavier (21-12)

At Orlando, Fla. | Thursday, 5:20 p.m., TNT

Outlook » The late Rick Majerus, who coached Utah to the championship game in 1998, put together the Billikens’ foundation before passing away. Only a late-season slide prevented St. Louis from getting a more advantageous seed.

No. 6 Massachusetts (24-8) vs. No. 11 Iowa (20-12)/Tennessee (21-12)

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