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NCAA Tournament – East Regional Preview

EAST REGIONAL PREVIEW:

The East region is full of interesting teams; both for their tantalizing potential and for their relative newness to the big stage and bright lights of March.  At the top of the bracket lies the season-long presumptive #1 overall seed Indiana.  However, a strange thing happened on the way to Atlanta.  The Hoosiers lost.  And kept losing.  A lot.

Indiana dropped three of their final six games, including double digit losses to Ohio State at home and Wisconsin on a neutral floor in the Big Ten Tournament.  That’s two double-digit losses that were NOT on the road.  I still think Indiana IS the most talented team in the country, but calling them the prohibitive favorite to win this region feels a bit naïve.

At the bottom of the bracket sits newcomer Miami.  The Canes won the ACC regular season and also won the ACC Tournament.  No team to accomplish that exacta has EVER not received a #1 seed in March, prompting many to say that if “Duke” was written across their jerseys the result would have been different.

I agree.  If “Duke” were written across their jerseys, they’d have non-conference wins over Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, VCU, Temple, Kentucky and Davidson.  Miami has a 19-point loss to Arizona and losses to Indiana State and Florida Gulf Coast.  Just for added measure, Duke beat FGCU by 20…

That said, Miami is good.  They are big and physical and Shane Larkin is playing as well as any point guard in the country.  They have a real shot to win the East.  But the #2 seed is fair.

There is plenty of other dangerous teams lurking.  Should Syracuse advance to the Sweet 16, that is a tough matchup for Indiana.  Syracuse plays tremendous defense, and their size in the backcourt could provide difficulties for Indiana’s smallish guards.   I’ll take Michael Carter-Williams over Yogi Ferrell and Jordy Hulls.  Syracuse has won at Louisville and beaten Georgetown on a neutral floor.  Don’t sleep on the Orange.

Not that Syracuse has a clear path.  Should they meet UNLV in Round Two, THAT’S a tough matchup for THEM.  Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser are as good a duo as any team in the country can boast.  Of course, THEY have a tough opener with Mr. Crabbe and Cal…

The bottom half has the most over-seeded team in the tourney, #3 Marquette, who has become everyone’s targeted upset in their opener against Davidson (a #14??), but also has some danger for Miami with the Illinois/Colorado winner.  Illinois has won at Gonzaga and beaten Indiana, so they have big-upset capability.  The winner of Butler/Bucknell is a formidable foe as well.

So… who’s winning this region??  I’ll give you my picks, as well as a few good value wagers for winning the East Regional.

My picks:

In the Sweet 16, I like Indiana advancing comfortably and meeting Syracuse after a tough win over UNLV.  From there, I’ll take Syracuse in an upset of Indiana.  In the bottom of the bracket, I’ll take Miami beating Illinois after putting the defensive clamps on Brandon Paul, and Bucknell advancing after beating fellow upstart Davidson.  Miami ends Bucknell and big-man Mike Muscala’s dream run in the Sweet 16.

In the regional final, I’ll take Miami over Syracuse in a great ballgame.

My Pick:  Miami Hurricanes

Value Picks:  Miami Hurricanes: 7/2  & Syracuse: 11/2

Long Shot:  Bucknell: 50/1