Monday, March 14, 2016

Sportz Assassin's East Region Preview

Philadelphia hosts the NCAA East Regional Final
TEAM TO BEAT: North Carolina. The Tar Heels were the preseason No. 1 team and while they've had a bit of a rocky season, they still ended up with a top seed.  The Heels ended the season winning at Duke, then demolishing Notre Dame in the ACC tournament semifinals before beating fellow No. 1 seed Virginia for the ACC crown.  A very experienced team that owns the paint, the Heels could give Roy Williams his third national championship.  

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: North Carolina. North Carolina have been a great rebounding team who dominates the paint.  The roll with seniors Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, while guys like Joel Berry, Isiah Hicks and Justin Jackson are coming up big in their roles.  However, their recent attention to defense may vault them to a national championship.  The way they dominated Notre Dame and slowed down ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon makes this a scary team.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Kentucky. Mock John Calipari all you want, but he tends to have his Wildcats surging heading into the tournament.  Their backcourt may be the best in the nation.  The key is that frontline.  There's talent there, but it doesn't always show.  With teams like Indiana, North Carolina and Xavier possibly standing in their way to yet another Final Four, Kentucky must have these guys show up.  If they do, they are one of the better teams in the country.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks haven't lost a game in 2016.  They went 18-0 in Southland play.  Sure, none of their 27 wins were against anyone of note, but they can score (81 ppg).  If they can find a way to upset West Virginia, then they can topple either Notre Dame (who we last saw getting pummeled by North Carolina) or the Michigan/Tulsa winner.  

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Kentucky. Kentucky should have been a No. 3, and while it doesn't seem like a big deal that they are a just one seed down, it really is.  Instead of being in the lower half of the East bracket, Kentucky will have to likely face Indiana (who is also seeded wrong) and then North Carolina.  As a No. 3, they would have had Notre Dame/Michigan/Tulsa in the second round and the Xavier in the Sweet 16.  Quite a bit of difference.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: North Carolina. Really, no one has the advantage when they get to Philadelphia, outside of maybe Pitt, so UNC's first weekend trip down the street to Raleigh is huge.  No other East Region school is near their pod site, but Carolina is a county over.

MUST WATCH GAME: USC vs Providence. This one is great.  USC has six guys averaging double figures.  Providence has NBA talent in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil.  Should be a great game between two teams that had higher hopes for this season but get a shot at each other.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Indiana vs Kentucky. The last time we saw these two play was a couple of years ago when Indiana hit a buzzer beating three pointer to topple the Wildcats.  Since then, some bad blood between the programs and their series ended.  You know both fanbases will be looking forward to this.

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