NCAA Tournament East Region Preview

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It is here! After months of fun and excitement, the NCAA Tournament has arrived. Here I preview the East Region. This region is full of good teams and there are a bunch of different teams that could come out of this region and put Philadelphia on top. Put on your dancing shoes because it is time for the Big Dance!

Champions Are The Headliners

There are a total of 34 national championships among the teams that reside in this region, including defending champion Baylor. The top three schools on the list of schools with the most championships, UCLA, Kentucky, and UNC are in this region. The region also features Indiana, San Francisco, and Marquette, all schools that have won titles. This is a region filled with champions and teams that could add another.

East Region Breakdown

Top Seeds

No. 1 Baylor Bears

Baylor is the last of the one seeds, and as such ended up with an unfavorable placement in the East Region. The Bears finished second in the Big 12 in the regular season only to get bounced in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament against Oklahoma. They have dealt with a lot of injuries. Leading scorer LJ Cryer has missed thirteen games and will be out for the first weekend of the tournament. He has only played in one game since January. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is out for the season. True freshman Jeremy Sochan has been excellent this season, especially in Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s absence. Arizona transfer James Akinjo has been great too and is one of four Bears to average double figures in scoring.

Despite being the top seed in this region, it is going to be very difficult for Baylor to come out of this region. With UNC or Marquette looming in the Round Of 32, not to mention UCLA, Kentucky, and Purdue down the line, the injury-riddled Bears could be in for a rough time.

No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky is led by Oscar Tshiebwe, aka the best player in the country. The West Virginia transfer has had an incredible season. Tshiebwe averages 17 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. The Wildcats are one of the best and most efficient offenses in the country. They are second in the country in two-pointers made and attempted, fifth in field goals made, and 14th in field goal percentage. They are also fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency. The ‘Cats can score with and on anyone.

This team has a great combination of young and old talent. They are loaded. It is both with transfers and guys they have retained. From freshman point guard TyTy Washington Jr. to fifth-year graduate senior Kellan Grady, a transfer from Davidson. This team is more than capable of not just winning this region and reaching the Final Four, but winning the national championship. The biggest challenge is getting past a potential matchup with 3 seed Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen.

No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers

Now let’s talk about Purdue. I love this Purdue team. The Boilermakers did underachieve a little this season. But they have all the tools to make a deep run. Matt Painter has his two bigs in seven-foot-four monster in Zach Edey and one of the better big men in the country coming off the bench in Trevion Williams. He also has a potential top-five pick in Jaden Ivey. That’s before you even get to senior Sasha Stefanovic, as well as all the other solid pieces that they have.

Purdue is an elite offensive team. They are 13th in points scored per game and 3rd in adjusted offensive efficiency. Just like I said about Baylor, this Purdue team has more than enough of what it takes to win the east region and then eventually the national championship. It all depends on that potential second round matchup with Kentucky. If that game happens then it could and should be one of the best games of the entire tournament.

No. 4 UCLA Bruins

UCLA barely made the tournament last year as one of the last four teams in and had to play in the First Four. After a comeback win against Michigan State, the Bruins were able to make it all the way to the Final Four and looked great doing it. Pretty much everyone from that team came back for this season and that is why they have been so good this year. They are led by Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. and can score a lot. But the best part about this team is that they do not turn the ball over much. In fact, UCLA is sixth in turnovers this season. They do not hurt themselves.

UCLA has some tough early matchups with 13 seed Akron and the winner of 5 seed Saint Mary’s vs. 12 seed Wyoming/Indiana. If they can survive those matchups then they could make a run at a second straight Final Four en route to potentially their 12th national championship.

Potential Upset

No. 6 Texas Longhorns Vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech Hokies – Friday, March 18th, 4:30 P.M. ET

11 seeds have gotten the upper hand on 6 seeds a lot lately. Texas has a done of talent on paper. But they just never gelled as a whole this season and because of that, they have not been able to reach their full potential. Nobody on this team has been able to get things going consistently this season. They cannot seem to find ways to score. In fact, the Longhorns are 253rd in points scored per game. That is, of course, really bad. Their saving grace is how good of a team they are defensively. They give up less than 60 points per game.

On the other hand, Virginia Tech has been on fire recently. The Hokies just won four games in four games to win the ACC Tournament championship last week, upsetting Duke, Notre Dame, and UNC The conference’s top three finishers.) in the process. Hunter Cattoor was excellent against Duke in the ACC title game, and Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts have been great all season long. This Virginia Tech squad is finally playing to their potential and how I thought they could before the season started. Look out for the Hokies to not just pull off the upset n this game, but to make a run in the tournament.

Best Game

No. 7 Murray State Racers Vs. No. 10 San Francisco Dons – Thursday, March 17th, 9:40 P.M. ET

Two of the best and most exiting-to-watch mid-major teams face off in the first round at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It is really a shame that these two teams have to face each other, because I would have loved to have seen them both make a run.

Murray State as a team is great on both ends of the court. They score 79.3 points per game and only give up 62.3 points per game. The Racers are led by K.J. Williams. The junior forward averages 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Tevin Brown and Justice Hill are terrific players as well, and both of them average over 13 points per game. Matt McMahon is a great coach and will have his team, which currently sits with a 30-2 record, ready to go for this one.

San Fran is another great team. Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz form one of the best backcourts in the country. Both score over 14 a game. Yauhen Massalski is a dominant big and it should be really fun to see him and K.J. Williams go toe-to-toe with each other in this game. Todd Golden is also a great coach. Not only should the action on the court with the players be great and fun to watch but so should the coaching matchup. Both of these teams have the potential to make Cinderella runs.

East Region Sleeper

Purdue Or Virginia Tech

I have already talked about these two teams so I will keep this short and sweet. For Purdue, you’re probably wondering how they could be a sleeper considering they are the 3 seed. Well, I have been seeing everyone pick Kentucky to beat them so you could consider the Boilermakers a sleeper in that regard. On the other hand, we have Virginia Tech. The Hokies are much more of a true sleeper as they are the 11 seed. But they have a bunch of tough matchups ahead of them if they are to make a deep run in the tournament.

South Region Prediction

South Region Winner: ????

I really have no idea who is going to win this region. I seriously think that at the very least five or more teams could win this region, and maybe even more than that. That may sound a little crazy, I know. But chaos could ensue in this region. This east region could be the most fun one to watch of all of them this year in March Madness.

 

You can find the other parts of Last Word On Sports’ March Madness coverage here.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images