In my opinion, this region has a good amount of teams that were under seeded. Michigan State deserved a three, Connecticut deserved a five, Cincinnati deserved a four, St. Joe’s deserved a nine, George Washington deserved an eight and Iowa State deserved a two. This means region is loaded with good teams and should make for a fun region for the fans. Here is how I see the first round in the East going:
1 Virginia vs 16 Coastal Carolina
No 16 seed has ever beaten a one seed and I am not about to pick this to be the first time it ever happens. Joe Harris will go for 25 points en route to a Cavalier victory.
Winner – 1 Virginia
8 Memphis vs 9 George Washington
This will showcase some intriguing matchups. I’m excited to see Isiah Armwood and Shaq Goodwin battle down low and Mo Creek and Joe Jackson duel on the perimeter. Armwood is more of a polished player than Goodwin and Creek will make some big shots down the stretch, in the end pulling the Colonials away from the Tigers.
Winner – 9 George Washington
5 Cincinnati vs 12 Harvard
This is an upset pick a lot of people are making, but I simply don’t see it. Harvard was able to put up some points against other Ivy League teams, but when they faced Colorado and Connecticut in the non-conference, they put up 62 and 56 in losses. Not terrible, but Cincinnati is ranked sixth in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing 58.3 point per game. Harvard ranks 89th in scoring. The Crimson are no slouch, but I don’t see them scoring enough to beat the Bearcats.
Winner – 5 Cincinnati
4 Michigan State vs 13 Delaware
Delaware isn’t a bad team and is deserving of your respect. They have shown the ability to score, and Devon Saddler has quietly averaged almost 20 points two years in a row. That being said, I can’t pick against a Tom Izzo coached team in the tournament. I think some of the reactions to Michigan State winning the Big Ten tournament have been a bit rash, but this pick seems pretty clear cut to me.
Winner – 4 Michigan State
6 North Carolina vs 11 Providence
There is something to be said for the run Providence is on. They were a team on a mission in the Big East tournament. They knew what needed to be done to get into this tournament, they did it and they deserve recognition for it. However, this team is simply not good enough defensively. Yes, they held Creighton to 58 points in the Big East final, the second lowest Creighton has scored in a game all year. But that game was anomaly. The Friars do not have the ability to do that again. North Carolina is not a good shooting team, but Providence is an even worse defensively, ranked 201st in defensive field-goal percentage. Marcus Paige will have a field day and Providence won’t have an answer for James Michael McAdoo or Kennedy Meeks inside.
Winner – 6 North Carolina
3 Iowa State vs 14 North Carolina Central
It’s interesting that these two teams would get paired against each other for the first round. Everyone knows Iowa State can flat out score, averaging 82.9 points per game, the sixth most in college basketball. But what most people don’t know is that North Carolina Central allows the seventh fewest points in the NCAA at 58.5 per game. However, I don’t see their defense containing the likes of Melvin Ejim, Deandre Kane and Georges Niang. During the Eagles’ current 20 game win streak, they haven’t had to face a team like Iowa State, which has so many weapons and can run with anyone in the country. It might be closer than many think, but Iowa State isn’t losing this game.
Winner – 3 Iowa State
7 Connecticut vs 10 St. Joseph’s
These are two teams that in my mind are under seeded. St. Joe’s enters into this game having just won the A-10 tournament, defeating two NCAA tournament teams in their three victories. This Hawks team is not one to be taken lightly. With momentum, and one of the most underrated players in college basketball in Langston Galloway, I really like this team. Connecticut has some great guard play, too. Shabazz Napier is one of the best players in the country, and Ryan Boatright provides great help on the perimeter, too. However, I like the momentum which St. Joe’s has to carry them over UConn into the second round, albeit in a very close game.
Winner – 10 St. Joseph’s
2 Villanova vs 15 Milwaukee
The committee doesn’t manufacture drama, right? I’m sure a potential Big 5 showdown in the second round was a coincidence. And that coincidence will happen as Villanova will win this game. However, Milwaukee is not a team to be slept on. For those who watched the Horizon League tournament, you know that when this Milwaukee team gets hot, they can’t miss. Against Wright State in the finals, Milwaukee went 9-18 behind the arc, led by their biggest offensive threat, Jordan Aaron, who had four threes. Aaron is averaging 15.0 points per game, but come Horizon League tournament time, turned it up, scoring 20, 28 and 18 in the Panthers’ three games. He will be able to put up some points, but it won’t be enough. Milwaukee will get killed on the boards by Villanova, meaning those offensive rebounds and opportunities for second chance points the Panthers were able to get in the Horizon tournament won’t be there. JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell will lead the way as the Wildcats will advance to fight another day.
Winner – 2 Villanova