Breaking Down the Brackets: East
The NCAA tournament tips off Thursday with 16 games and another 16 on Friday. Today we will take a look at the East regional, as well as breaking down the winner, followed by the West, South, and Midwest regionals the rest of the week.
1. Kentucky vs. 16. Eastern Tennessee St.
John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins begin their quest for Indianapolis with an easy round one matchup, going up against the Atlantic Sun Conference winners. Eastern Tennessee St. is in the dance for the second consecutive year, but went just 20-14 this year and have earned a 16 seed against arguably the most talented team in the Tournament. Expect John Wall and co. to roll in the one. Kentucky 94, E. Tenn. St. 63
8. Texas vs. 9. Wake Forest
Talk about a letdown matchup, as two of the coldest teams heading into the tournament meet up in the first round. Texas, once ranked #1 in the country, limps into the Tournament having lost three of their last five. Wake Forest has lost five of their last six and has looked just as bad, if not worse, as Texas. Because the Longhorns have the potential to play better than the potential of Wake Forest, I’ll take them in a close yawner. Texas 74, Wake Forest 71
5. Temple vs. 12. Cornell
Ever since Jay Bilas mentioned that Cornell has the chance to take down Kentucky, this has been the favorite 5 vs. 12 upset in everyone’s brackets. It’s true Cornell is better than usual this season and probably deserved a better seed, but Temple has been outstanding in a competitive A-10 this season, and should not be overlooked. Three of their five losses came from Tournament teams, and their balanced attack will take down Cornell. Temple 69, Cornell 63
4. Wisconsin vs. 13. Wofford
Wofford is like a smaller, less athletic version of the Wisconsin Badgers. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is when you are playing the Badgers. Bo Ryan will have his squad ready for the first round of the Tournament, and they are officially my sleeper pick to make the Final Four as their road is easier than most and they were generously handed a four seed. Wisconsin, 74, Wofford 59
6. Marquette vs. 11. Washington
In what should be the best matchup of the first round in the East, Marquette will go up against a very talented Washington team. Once ranked in the top ten, Washington has righted the ship and won their last seven games. Led by Quincy Pondexter, the Huskies will be a tough out if they are able to keep the momentum up. On the other end, Marquette knows how to play in close games and is tournament tested. Washington 81, Marquette 78
3. New Mexico vs. 14. Montana
New Mexico is probably the three seed that people know the least about. They have a ton of talent in the frontcourt and despite no one knowing a lot about them, they have quite an impressive resume coming into March. For Montana, Anthony Johnson’s legendary 34-point second half to get his team to the tournament was the highlight of championship week. However, it won’t be enough this time around. New Mexico 75, Montana 66
7. Clemson vs. 10. Missouri
If you are looking for that 7 vs. 10 upset, keep looking. Missouri comes into this contest with a handful of injuries and suffered an embarrassing loss to Nebraska in the Big 12 Tournament. Clemson has the potential to play with the best teams in the nation and, led by Trevor Booker, should advance to round two. Clemson 82, Missouri 66
2. West Virginia vs. 15. Morgan St.
After winning the Big East Tournament, the Mountaineers are poised for a big run in the NCAA’s. Da’Sean Butler has proved to be this year’s go-to guy in the clutch, and while he won’t have to worry about any big shots in his first round matchup, that attribute is sure to come in handy later on in the tournament. West Virginia 90, Morgan St. 55
Who Wins the East Regional and Why? The story in the SEC this season has been the phenomenal play of freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Not forgetting Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson, this Kentucky team has all the makings of a team destined for the Final Four. The real question is whether or not they have enough experience to go far and overcome obstacles.
They have been battle-tested in the SEC, but what they will face in the Tournament will be like nothing they have seen before. It will be important for Patterson to keep his team calm under pressure and to have their heads in the game at all times. If they are able to do that, Mr. Wall should be cutting down the nets in the East regional.
Who Is the Biggest Sleeper? A sleeper in this region has to be the Wisconsin Badgers. The Selection Committee showed them a ton of respect by handing them a No. 4 seed, and now it is their turn to make good on it. With a fairly easy road to the Sweet 16, a Bo Ryan team is the last thing Kentucky wants to see on their road to the Final Four. Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer could take this Badgers team very far as long as they play under Coach Ryan’s gameplan.
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