March Madness 2018: Previewing the East Region

Welcome to part two of my March Madness preview series, where I break down each region on the bracket and pick my winners for the first two rounds and make my pick on who’s going to the final four.  If you’d like to see my full bracket, click on the link below.

Tournament Challenge – ESPN – Boston Sports Mania.pdf

Missed a previous article?  Check them out below.

Image result for march madness logo

NCAA March Madness Previews

Tuesday, March 13: March Madness 2018: Previewing the Midwest Region

Wednesday, March 14: March Madness 2018: Previewing the East Region

Wednesday, March 14: March Madness 2018: Previewing the South Region

Thursday, March 15: March Madness 2018: Previewing the West Region

 

Today, I’ll be taking a look at the East Region.  Villanova is the clear favorite here and assuming West Virginia or Wichita State doesn’t mess up their momentum, they have a clear path to the Final Four.  But don’t be surprised if some underdogs such as Wichita State and Florida challenge them for the crown.

Round of 64 Preview

Pittsburgh: Games Start Thursday, March 15, 2018, at 6:50 PM EST on TNT

#1 Villanova Image result for villanova logo vs. Related image #16 Radford (Beat LIU Brooklyn in First Four)

Radford lucked out when UNC Asheville and Winthrop lost early in the Big South tournament, and they may be better than LIU Brooklyn (who’s only here due to their success vs. Wagner).  But they do not have a chance against Villanova.  The Wildcats are one of the best teams in the tournament this year, and Jalen Brunson will lead them to a deep run, starting with a win here.  Villanova’s high-powered offense will just be too much for Radford.

The Pick: Villanova

 

#8 Virginia Tech Related image vs. Related image #9 Alabama

I was giving Alabama a hard time early on, but when I realized they had the third toughest schedule, I cut them some slack.  It just so happened to turn out that way, and I regret rejecting to place them in my projected Field of 68 until they made a run in the SEC tourney.  Doing what they did on the third toughest schedule after missing the tournament last year is very impressive, and they will keep up the good work against Virginia Tech, led by Collin Sexton.  Virginia Tech had a great season, but they won’t stay on top of Alabama, who is coming into this tournament with plenty of momentum.

The Pick: Alabama

 

San Diego: Games Start Friday, March 16, 2018 at 1:30 PM EST on TNT

#4 Wichita State Related image  vs. Related image #13 Marshall

The Thundering Herd made a great run in the C-USA tournament, defeating Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky to win the conference.  But they did not have a good season.  Wichita State was able to win March Madness games in lower seeds.  Now that they joined the AAC and got the #4 seed, they will be even stronger.  Expect a deep run out of the Shockers, who will continue to shock at the Big Dance.  It all starts with an easier win here.

The Pick: Wichita State

#5 West Virginia Image result for west virginia logo colored background vs. Image result for murray state #12 Murray State

Murray State could pull an upset here.  They are 47th in RPI, which is a pretty high mark for a mid-major.  But West Virginia has been upset a couple times in recent years, and they will learn from their mistakes.  The Mountaineers should be able to get past this ambitious Murray State squad.  The Racers were 26-5 after winning the OVC, but they did not beat anyone from a high major conference.

The Pick: West Virginia

 

Dallas: Games Start Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#3 Texas Tech Image result for texas tech red raiders logo  vs. Image result for stpehen f austin logo colored background #14 Stephen F. Austin

SF Austin is one mid-major team who has made a name for themselves in the NCAA tournament.  The Lumberjacks quietly had a strong season in the Southland conference, and they came up big in the conference tourney.  Their offense will compete with Texas Tech’s, as they have scored 81.1 PPG this season despite an easy schedule.  But SFA beat the tougher teams on their schedule like LSU and North Dakota State, coming very close against Mississippi State and Missouri.  I’m sensing an upset here.  SFA pulled a similar one in 2016 against West Virginia, and they can do it again, this time against Texas Tech, who lost their momentum coming into the Big Dance by losing 4 of their final 5 regular season games and losing to WVU in the Big 12 semifinals.

The Pick: Stephen F. Austin

 

#6 Florida Image result for gators logo vs. Image result for bonnies logo #11 Saint Bonaventure (Beat UCLA in First Four)

The Bonnies had an impressive win against another Pac-12 team who failed to make the Round of 64 (USC was in the first four out, and Arizona State could lose to Syracuse).  But Florida is underrated.  The Gators have an interesting profile, with wins over Cincinnati, Gonzaga and others early to go along with a late run, despite some bad losses.   They started well and ended well, which makes their season pretty memorable.  I could picture them beating the Bonnies.  If they can ride their late season momentum, they have the potential to make a deep run.

The Pick: Florida

 

Detroit: Games Start Friday, March 16 at 12:40 PM EST on truTV

#2 Purdue Related image  vs. Image result for csu fullerton logo #15 CSU Fullerton

CSU Fullerton is another team that made an impressive conference tourney run but will fail to keep up their momentum in the NCAA Tournament.  Carsen Edwards leads a strong group that makes Purdue’s core this season.  Edwards is averaging 18.5 PPG for the Boilermakers, and he will lead a strong offense to the Round of 32 and beyond.  Ranking 9th in RPI and averaging 81.1 PPG as a team, the Boilermakers are well on their way.

The Pick: Purdue

 

#7 Arkansas Related image vs. Image result for butler logo  #10 Butler

The Bulldogs had a good season, but despite making the Big East semifinals, Butler struggled to keep up with the tough but tight Big East.  The Razorbacks also rode a late run into the tourney with a SEC tourney semifinal appearance.  But I think Arkansas had the better season overall with better wins.  They advance to the Round of 32.

The Pick: Arkansas

 

Round of 32 Preview

If my first round picks are correct, the Round of 32 will line up like this:

#1 Villanova Image result for villanova logo vs. Related image #9 Alabama

#4 Wichita State Related image  vs. Image result for west virginia logo colored background #5 West Virginia

#6 Florida Image result for gators logo vs.  Image result for stpehen f austin logo colored background #14 Stephen F. Austin

#2 Purdue Related image  vs. Related image  #7 Arkansas

Collin Sexton will challenge Villanova’s offense, but I trust Jalen Brunson to lead Villanova back to the Sweet 16 after Wisconsin upset them in the Round of 32 last year.  Wichita State will advance to play them, as they shock West Virginia.  West Virginia may have learned from their mistakes in the 1st round, but it’s always difficult to beat Wichita State.  I don’t think SF Austin will make the Sweet 16, even though I’m very confident in picking them in the 1st round.  Florida continues their momentum from late in the regular season, advancing to the Sweet 16.  Lastly, I think the red hot Razorbacks will challenge Purdue, but Carsen Edwards and co. will lead Purdue to the Sweet 16.

And The Projected East Champion Is…

#6 Florida Image result for gators logo

The Gators are underrated and on a good streak right now, and if they can start off this tournament strong, it will take them places.  Purdue and Villanova/Wichita State could give them a real challenge for the crown, but Florida is my underdog to make the Final Four.  However, on my safer brackets, I picked Villanova to make their second Final Four in three years.  Wichita State and Purdue will also contend.

That’s all for this preview.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will take a look at the East Region.  In addition, I’ll be releasing an update on the NFL free agent frenzy this weekend, including how I’ve done on my predictions so far, the top stories you may have missed, and my thoughts on what happens next.

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Post February Frenzy Bracketology: NC Takes 1 Seed, Florida Will Plummet

 

Related imageYesterday on CBS, the March Madness bracket committee released their current Top 16, and divided them into the 4 regions.  Here’s what it looked like:

East

  1. Image result for villanova Villanova
  2. Image result for louisville university Louisville
  3. Image result for kentucky university Kentucky
  4. Image result for ucla UCLA

 

Midwest

  1. Image result for kansas jayhawks Kansas
  2. Image result for fsu logo Florida State
  3. Image result for arizona wildcats basketball logo  Arizona
  4. Image result for duke  Duke

 

South

  1. Related image Baylor
  2. Image result for north carolina logo North Carolina
  3. Related image Florida
  4. Image result for butler logo Butler

 

West

  1. Image result for gonzaga logo Gonzaga
  2. Image result for oregon logo Oregon
  3. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  4. Image result for west virginia logo West Virginia

That’s how things are right now, but things can change.  That’s why I’m doing a bracketology, to show how the committee will change their opinion by March.

Here it is.

East Region

Top 4

  1. Image result for villanova Villanova
  2. Image result for duke  Duke
  3. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  4. Image result for west virginia logo West Virginia

Villanova is having a great season, so they’ll stay on top in the East.  I moved Duke to the East, mainly because they deserve a number 2 seed.  They somehow find a way to do it every year.  Then since I have Kentucky, UCLA and Louisville in other regions, I moved Virginia and West Virginia into the 3 and 4.  These are trustworthy teams that should keep their position seed-wise.

 

The Rest

 

5. Purdue

6. Michigan

7. Michigan State

8. California

9. Maryland

10. VCU

11. Ohio State

12. UNC Wilmington

13. Princeton/Penn State

14. Vermont

15. Bucknell

16. Monmouth

 

Michigan State is an intriguing sleeper, so are many of the teams in the East such as California, Maryland, Michigan and VCU.  However, the top 4 are pretty good, and I don’t know if these teams will be able to beat them to advance to the Final Four.

 

Midwest Region

The Top 4

  1. Image result for kansas jayhawks Kansas
  2. Image result for louisville university Louisville
  3. Image result for wisconsin logo Wisconsin
  4. Image result for notre dame logo Notre Dame

Kansas will stay on top as they are by far one of the best in NCAA Basketball.  Louisville comes in at Number 2 because they could be a huge sleeper to win the championship.  Wisconsin and Notre Dame have also had really good seeds, and I think the selection committee will give each of them a second look when making the final rankings.  Wisconsin has a good schedule ahead of them, and Notre Dame has at least been good enough for a low end 4 or 5 seed.

 

The Rest

 

5. Butler

6. Iowa State

7. Saint Mary’s

8. Indiana

9. Xavier

10. Northwestern

11. Valparaiso

12. Florida Gulf Coast/Utah

13. Syracuse

14. Akron

15. North Dakota State

16. Georgia State

 

There are a lot of good teams in this region.  Butler is a snub for a higher seed, and there are plenty of other talented teams in the region.  Valparaiso is one team that didn’t make March Madness last year, but has had a much better season in 2016-17 and could thrive in this year’s tournament.  Northwestern, Xavier and Indiana have also looked pretty good.  If someone can beat Kansas, it could be anyone moving on to the Final Four.

 

South Region

The Top 4

  1. Image result for north carolina logo North Carolina
  2. Image result for kentucky university Kentucky
  3. Image result for fsu logo Florida State
  4. Image result for arizona wildcats basketball logo  Arizona

I think North Carolina has a really good season ahead of them and will take over the Number 1 seed.  They will be hard to beat, but Kentucky will also be a contender as they move up to the 2 seed.  Florida State and Arizona will stay in the Top 16 overall, but the success they’ve had this season won’t continue, and they were a little overrated in the Bracket Preview.

 

The Rest

 

5. Florida

6. Cincinnati

7. Dayton

8. South Carolina

9. Miami

10. SMU

11. Middle Tennessee

12. Jacksonville State

13. Texas Southern

14. Belmont

15. New Orleans

16. NC Central/Furman

 

After shocking Michigan State in the 2016 first round, Middle Tennessee could be a sleeper to go pretty far.  This region will also boast some of the better high seeds.  Florida, Cincinnati and Dayton could be tough competitors for teams like Florida State and Arizona.  This region is really anybody’s to win, but North Carolina is looking like the favorite.

 

West Region

The Top 4

  1. Image result for gonzaga logo Gonzaga
  2. Related image    Baylor
  3. Image result for ucla UCLA
  4. Image result for oregon logo Oregon

Gonzaga is undefeated and should stay on top unless disaster occurs.  I think Baylor may fall a little bit but they get the Number 2 here easily.  I also think UCLA will move up to the Number 3.  You can’t underestimate a good season from the all time leaders in national championships.  They will bounce back from missing last year’s tourney.  With all these teams rising, Oregon will lose a little steam, but they will still be in the Top 4 of the West.

 

The Rest

 

5. Creighton

6. USC

7. Wichita State

8. Arkansas

9. Minnesota

10. New Mexico State

11. Boise State

12. UNC Asheville

13. TCU

14. Weber State

15. UC Davis

16. Nevada/Mount St. Mary’s

I’m surprised Creighton wasn’t in the Top 16.  Creighton has had a great come back season and will get a Top 5 seed.  Remember when Wichita State was good?  I sure do, and they may show some of that if they can make their way to the Sweet 16. However, they would play New Mexico State, who i value as a big sleeper to go far as well.  The Shockers were in a similar case in last year’s match-up against Arizona, but shocked them like they used to do, and went to the Round of 32.  This could be the place where a lot of upsets happen.

 

So, there you have it.  After Selection Sunday, be on the lookout for my March Madness preview.  It will take a look at some of the best potential and set match-ups.