NCAA Tournament Preview: East Region
In my mind, this region is about to be owned by two teams…but let’s not dwell on how awful I feel the bottom of the region is (where the second best team might just be seeded #11) or how Indiana’s toughest game could also come in the third round. Let’s just see that this is a region which could host 4 upsets (The 3, 4, 5, and 6 could easily fall!)
The Favorite: #1 Indiana
It’s no surprises here. The Big Ten nabs three “favorite” roles on the blog, but the favorites rarely win. Indiana when at its best is the best. There is no denying the Hoosiers have the talent and depth to go the distance in this tournament. When a team’s biggest weakness is its coach then you know this team has loads of talent. Give this squad to Izzo, Krzyzewski, or Pitino and I’d be guaranteeing a title. A point guard with poise, a wingman who does it all, and the nation’s best big man? Yeah, that’ll get it done.
The Dark Horse: #4 Syracuse
Trying to pick a dark horse in this region is tough because I really didn’t like the 5-7 seeds enough to pick them and the 8-9 teams are going to have one hell of a time beating a fresh Indiana squad. The Orange get the nod because they have really fallen off the radar and no one is expecting noise after their abysmal performance in the second half against Louisville. Let’s try to remember the first half of that game.
The Cinderella: #11 Bucknell
This is a basic pick. Bucknell is really good and Mike Muscala might just be the most dominant player in this region. I expect Bucknell to torture overrated and proven terrible Butler in the first round. Anything besides a double-digit win is disappointing for a team which raced to a 28-5 record…Need I mention Bucknell hails from the same conference as Lehigh?
In the top half, #1 Indiana just rolls. #8 North Carolina State puts up a fight for about 30 minutes in the third round, but the Hoosiers are just too much. Syracuse has to really fight to get by #13 Montana and then #5 UNLV (who also gets in a dogfight with #12 California). Syracuse plays like a tired team (despite the rest after the weekend games) against the Hoosiers who run the Orange and its 2-3 zone out of the building. In the bottom-half, #2 Miami slaughters #15 Pacific in legendary coach Bob Thompson’s swan song. #7 Illinois fights off Pac-12 member #10 Colorado before losing the Canes. #11 Bucknell crushes #6 Butler before meeting #14 Davidson in the third round after the hottest team in the country not named Louisville or Ohio State beats overvalued #3 Marquette. Bucknell sneaks by Davidson in the mid-major squabble. Miami beats out Bucknell for the right to lose to Indiana who is playing too hot to lose in the Elite Eight against a Miami team which has struggled to be consistent at times.
In other words: Miami has the talent to win, but in the end Indiana storms out of the East to the beat of four Cody Zeller double-doubles.