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Cowboy Up

The No. 8 seed Oregon Ducks open the NCAA Tournament against No. 9 seed Oklahoma State on Friday in Omaha, Neb., in a matchup of teams heading in opposite directions.

Led by league Player of the Year Joseph Young, the Ducks (25-9) burnished their NCAA credentials with a strong finish to the regular season, including wins over Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament.

But they were no challenge to Arizona in the title game, getting blown out 80-52. They also lost to the Wildcats by 18 in Eugene and 24 in Tucson.

Oklahoma State (18-13) doesn't exactly enter the NCAA Tournament on a roll.

The Cowboys have lost six of their last seven but they got in based on five Top 25 wins and own three top-10 wins.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin had the No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament before even playing in the Big Ten championship game.

Arizona (31-3) won the Pac-12 regular-season title and dominated Oregon in the tournament championship game, but the Badgers' resume was good enough for a top seed before beating Michigan State 80-69 in overtime of the Big Ten title game.

"We felt strong enough to keep them in that first line no matter what had happened," NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Scott Barnes said Sunday after the 68-team bracket was announced.

Regardless of their seeding, the Badgers (31-3) have a hard road back to the Final Four in what may be the toughest region in the NCAA Tournament.

Joining Wisconsin in the West is a gauntlet of tough teams: Arizona, Baylor, North Carolina and Arkansas. The middle seeds will likely be tough outs, too, including Xavier, Virginia Commonwealth, Oregon and Oklahoma State.

Even lower seeds like Ohio State and Harvard could turn in an upset, too.

Wisconsin, ranked sixth in The Associated Press poll, opens the NCAA Tournament against Coastal Carolina in Omaha on Friday, with the winner between Oregon and Oklahoma State up next.

No. 2 seed Arizona will open against Texas Southern in Portland.

The fifth-ranked Wildcats have been playing some of their best basketball at the end of the season, closing with an 11-game winning streak that includes the blowout win over the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game Saturday night in Las Vegas.

The bracket sets up what could be an epic rematch: Arizona vs. Wisconsin in the region finale.

The Badgers and Wildcats played in the West Region final a year ago, when Wisconsin withstood a last-second shot by Arizona in overtime for a one-point win to earn a trip to the Final Four.

But there's a lot of work to be done by both teams before the region final March 28 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Baylor (24-9) was a surprise No. 3 seed to some, but came from the rugged Big 12 Conference, which had seven teams make the field of 68.

The 16th-ranked Bears open the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida, against Georgia State.

The Panthers (24-9) are a strong defensive team who earned their first NCAA berth since 2001 by beating Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt title game, setting off a celebration that left coach Ron Hunter with a possible torn Achilles tendon.

North Carolina (24-11) is the West's No. 4 seed after coming up just short of becoming the first team in ACC Tournament history to win four games in four days. The 19th-ranked Tar Heels, who lost 90-82 to No. 11 Notre Dame in the ACC title game, open the NCAA Tournament against Ivy League champion Harvard on Thursday in Jacksonville.

The Crimson (22-7) earned their fourth straight NCAA appearance by beating Yale 53-51 in a one-game Ivy League playoff on Saturday, when Steve Moundou-Missi hit a 15-foot jumper with 7.2 seconds left.

No. 5 seed Arkansas (26-8) was blown out by top overall seed Kentucky in Sunday's SEC title game, but will be headed to its first NCAA Tournament under coach Mike Anderson and first since 2008.

The 21st-ranked Razorbacks also play Thursday in Jacksonville, opening against Wofford. The Terriers (28-6) won the Southern Conference championship for the fourth time in six years by beating Furman 67-64 in the title game.

Xavier (21-13) was considered a bubble team after losing by 17 to fourth-ranked Villanova in the Big East championship game. The Musketeers not only got in, they were rewarded with a No. 6 seed and will face the winner of the game between BYU and Mississippi in Jacksonville.

Virginia Commonwealth (26-9) had some tough times after losing Briante Weber, who suffered a season-ending right knee injury on Jan. 31, but rolled through the Atlantic 10 tournament, beating Dayton in the title game.

The seventh-seeded Rams have a tough opening game, facing No. 10 seed Ohio State (23-10) on Thursday in Portland. The Buckeyes went 4-4 down the stretch and lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten quarterfinals, but have D'Angelo Russell, a dangerous scorer who can carry a team almost singlehandedly.

The Ducks are led by Joseph Young, arguably the Pac-12's top player. The Cowboys counter with the experience of junior sharpshooter Phil Forte III and senior forward Le'Bryan Nash. AP PHOTO