So far today, the South and Midwest Region were covered. Now that James Madison won their First Four matchup, it's time for the East Region preview. The East sees Indiana, who fell out of the Midwest Region which would have had their Sweet 16 games in Indianapolis. Instead they have to play in Washington D.C. where a potential matchup with Syracuse could be filled with Orange fans. Miami also might have been shortchanged as the winner of the ACC regular season and tournament titles to only get a 2-seed, but some head-scratching losses have the Hurricanes where they are. Can the Canes and Hoosiers end up in the Elite Eight. Is there a Cinderella lurking in this region. Let's find out.
THANKS FOR ATTENDING
James Madison (16) has made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994 and tonight they defeated LIU. A date with Indiana is the result of their troubles. Pacific (15) found themselves up against a well-coached Miami team filled with upperclassmen.
DEFINITELY CAN PULL THE UPSET, EVEN THOUGH I'M NOT PICKING IT
Davidson (14) and Montana (13) are both easily capable of beating Syracuse and Marquette, respectively. I think Montana is facing Syracuse one week too late after they played well in New York, while Marquette has improved as the season goes along and Buzz Williams' teams usually avoids the early round letdown. Another won who could pull an upset is Bucknell (11) over Butler. My faith in Brad Stevens will hold true in this one. The Bison don't play fast enough to pull that upset.
WAIT, HAVEN'T WE MET BEFORE?
This is for UNLV (5) and California (12), who met back in December. The Runnin' Rebels beat Cal in Berkeley by 1, so their reward was a rematch in San Jose. No wonder a 12-seed beats a 5 every year. If the Golden Bears can avoid the pitfalls that spelled them in their last two games, they should win. Allen Crabbe is the best player on the floor and the Mountain West isn't to be trusted tournament time (usually).
NOT ONE, BUT TWO NIT GAMES IN THIS BRACKET
What could have been for N.C. State (8). They were thought to be a top-4 seed at the start of the year, but inconsistency puts them in this spot against Temple (9). Since a 9-seed usually wins, I have the Owls winning here. Colorado (10) won't get past Miami if they were to win, while Illinois (7) has a small chance to do so; only because they have some wins over top teams.
MIDWESTERN, SOON-TO-BE BIG EAST BATTLE
A battle in the second round between Butler (6) and Marquette (3) seems inevitable. The Bulldogs beat the Golden Eagles back in November by 1. While Marquette seemed to gel as the season wore on, Butler had to deal with a tough conference schedule for the first time and if they could have beaten Saint Louis, they would be in better shape. Even still, they move on to the Sweet 16.
What to make of the Syracuse Orange? Are they the team that started 18-1 and went to the Big East Final? Or are they the team that were 5-7 down the stretch before the Big East Tourney? What's going to help Syracuse is they will play some teams that aren't used to playing their zone. One thing to remember, Tom Crean used to play Syracuse regularly back in his Marquette days, so he would be familiar with what the Orange do.
Indiana (1) vs. Miami (2). I have these two going to the final in D.C. The Hoosiers have too much talent (and too much Victor Olapido), while the Hurricanes have too much experience with their talent, plus I love Jim Larranaga in March. Big 10 slate is tougher than the ACC slate was last year and Indiana will find a way past this team who plays well defensively.
East Region winner: Indiana