Men’s NCAA Tournament East Regional Overview

Men’s NCAA Tournament East Regional Overview

With a number of conference champions in the region, the East is a mishmash of everything from small schools getting in the tournament for the first time this decade to disappointed power schools who had much higher expectations when the season began. The top seeded Indiana Hoosiers cannot be happy to be placed with Miami as the two seed, a team who themselves were expecting a one seed somewhere after rolling through both the ACC regular and post seasons.


#1 Indiana, #2 Miami (FL), #3 Marquette, #4 Syracuse, #5 UNLV, #6 Butler, #7 Illinois, #8 North Carolina State, #9 Temple, #10 Colorado, #11 Bucknell, #12 California, #13 Montana, #14 Davidson, #15 Pacific, #16 LIU Brooklyn / James Madison


Who Can Win?

This region is Indiana’s to lose. They are the best and most talented team in the East region. That being said, there are a number of other schools who could easily win their way to the Final Four. Miami has made it clear they have all the tools necessary to excel in both regular season marathons and postseason tournaments; Syracuse is a formidable opponent no matter the seeding number next to their name; Butler has already taken down Indiana once this season and would not be afraid to do it again.


Who Can Surprise?

The eighth seeded Wolfpack of NC State could turn heads. With huge expectations to start the season, State failed to live up to where people had them slotted. Defensive pitfalls led to numerous losses and an otherwise disappointing season for a squad ranked in the top 10 in the preseason. However, they didn’t lose any players to debilitating injuries or anything of the like. CJ Leslie, Richard Howell, Lorenzo Brown and company are all ready to go. And perhaps they perform better as underdogs anyways.


Who’s Hot?

The Davidson Wildcats are hot. Winning the Southern Conference is just the beginning. This team hasn’t lost a game since January 14. That’s 17 straight W’s. Everyone remembers the Davidson teams of years past with Stephen Curry and nobody can name anyone else who ever sported the Wildcats uni but this year’s team has been just as successful, albeit without the star power. Marquette will be the best team Davidson has faced since playing Duke way back on January 2 though. Wildcat fans will be hoping for a different result as their boys fell by a 17 point margin that night.


Who’s Cold?

This may be the best battle of the region: who is coming in to the tournament colder, Syracuse or Illinois? Both teams have been in a near free-fall these past few weeks. Illinois may get the pass here since their conference schedule beat them up all season long, not just near the end. Syracuse, on the other hand, just kept losing and kept falling down the national rankings as well as the Big East conference standings. Losers of seven of 12 games prior to the Big East Tournament, the Orange made a bit of a run in Madison Square Garden but couldn’t finish things off, eventually losing big to Louisville and receiving the un-Orange-like 4 seed.


Upset Alert!

Two lower seeds may have the best player in their respective matchups: a sure-fire ingredient for an upset. In the 5-12 matchup, California’s Allen Crabbe will stake his claim to that distinction. Having averaged 18.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for the year, Crabbe is used to controlling and even winning games on his own. Just ask Arizona Wildcats fans, who may remember Crabbe putting up 31 points on 12-15 shooting from the floor in the Golden Bears’ eight point road win earlier this season.

The other player will be in the 7-10 game and plays for the Colorado Buffaloes. Although he doesn’t have the name recognition of a player like Illinois’ Brandon Paul, Andre Roberson may be the best player in this game. He doesn’t even lead his own team in scoring but the man grabs everything in sight. Averaging over 10 rebounds per ballgame, Roberson tallied 12 double-doubles this season, and could control games in his own right, like when he put up this stat line during a January win versus Stanford where he was struggling shooting the ball: 12 points, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals and 20 rebounds.


What Possible Matchup is Interesting?

NC State could pose problems for Indiana in the possible 1-8 game that would surely be an exciting shootout. However, the more interesting future matchup would be if Marquette and Miami both make it through to the Sweet Sixteen. Just imagine the explosions down low when Marquette’s Davante Gardner and Miami’s Kenny Kadji run into each other. Kadji has the length advantage and thus blocks more shots and grabs more rebounds. But Gardner is a load and nearly unstoppable when he finds his spots. Putting him on the free throw line is no good either, as the big man shot a whopping 84.2 percent from the line this season. Golden Eagle fans were even known to chant “Auto-Matic!” during Gardner’s free throws. Throw in the experience in the backcourt between Marquette senior Junior Cadougan and junior Vander Blue and Miami senior Durand Scott and you know this game would be played hard but smart.


Which Players Will Dominate?

There are a ton of star talents in the East region. The best is though, without question, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. In the running for both Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Oladipo is a household name after being just a piece of last year’s team. His improvements are rather staggering. The numbers do not even tell the whole story of his jump but they help. Playing just a couple more minutes per game this year over last, and shooting roughly the same amount of shots, Oladipo’s scoring has gone up roughly 30 percent as he now shoots 60 percent from the floor, up from a solid 47 percent as a sophomore. His three point shot has also improved dramatically. Where he was a putrid shooter last season, Oladipo has turned himself into a threat from three, making 44 percent on the season. With increases in his rebounding numbers and grabbing more steals he has also managed to keep his fouls and turnovers nearly identical to last year’s figures. Everything about Victor’s game is grand and he is one of the main reasons Indiana is a number one seed.


Which System is Tough to Prepare For?

Butler likes to play a pounding, slow-down ballgame. They try to force their tempo on their opponents. The JMU Dukes have transitioned into a full-court pressing team, sometimes deploying a five guard lineup that gives opponents fits. However, the answer here is Syracuse. The Orange always plays a 2-3 zone on defense, forcing teams to make lots of contested, outside shots to get a win. Sometimes this backfires. If the rotations are slow or an opponent gets hot, Syracuse can get blown out. However, the reason Jim Boeheim has been so successful is that, for the most part, college players aren’t great shooters. This isn’t the NBA. Not all wings will make 45 percent of their shots. The Syracuse zone is also threatening because of the length of their guards. The point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, is 6-6. The off-guard, Brandon Triche, is 6-4 and is pretty much the smallest player in Boeheim’s rotation. It is hard to function against such a long top of a zone.


Final Four Game Breakdowns


Midwest Regional Overview

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West Regional Overview


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