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These programs will be making their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearances.

In an effort to help you pick your bracket, these nine-step guides for each region in the tournament are created to give you some information that'll hopefully serve as some background for your predictions. If you want to win your bracket, the secret is somewhere in the middle. That championship game will be April 2 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Northwestern earned its first NCAA tournament bid Sunday, setting off a raucous party when the Wildcats were revealed as the No. 8 seed in the West Region.

I can remember watching a game on TV and trying to see the scores from other games across the country to see how well my predictions were holding up. Those are good combos come tournament time. The TV box gave me some looks at the rest - Villanova was wonderful, Gonzaga put together a brilliant year, North Carolina was fascinating.

Duke's 2016-17 campaign was not without its challenges. But the performance of the Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament may have swayed the committee. Coach Mike Krzyzewski missed seven games in January while recovering from back surgery and associate coach Jeff Capel led the team to a 4-3 record. Can we have a ruling on whether this defies common sense?I'll root for the Spartans as long as they're playing, but I don't think it'll be for long. But the Jayhawks nearly seem as though they've been undervalued all season, maybe because winning the Big 12 regular season has become an annual rite in Lawrence. Villanova, which won the title a year ago on a buzzer-beating jump shot by Kris Jenkins, will open its quest for back-to-back titles against the victor of an opening-round game between New Orleans and Mount Saint Mary's.

Our nERD metric measures the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average squad on a neutral court.

MI earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament Midwest Region and will face No. 10 seed Oklahoma State (20-12) on Friday.

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After beginning the season unranked, the Baylor Bears rose to No. 1 in the AP poll on the strength of a 15-0 start.

Jacksonville State (20-14) wasn't supposed to be here either after going 8-23 last season. Neither Oklahoma State nor Kansas State was guaranteed entry into the tourney, so both teams went wild when they found out they were picked. They'll be hungry to get back to the final. "Each player averages 6'7".

No. 12 Nevada over No. 5 Iowa State: The Wolf Pack were the best of a rather mediocre lot in the Mountain West Conference this season, but they have the balance and toughness to hang with and possibly take the Cyclones out. Check out those 11-seeds, too.

Who can get hot: Wichita State is a flawless example of the underrated mid-major.

The West region is considered by many to be a two-team race, as well. Vandy represents three of Florida's eight losses, including the last two of the season. Did Jim Boeheim's team do enough this time around?

We see you out there, checking your watch to see if it's Thursday yet, when the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament begins.


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