NCAA Tournament breakdown: East Region preview
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Onto the East Region:
Favorite: No. 1 Syracuse Orange
Despite being in arguably the hardest region with red-hot No. 3 seed Florida State, who beat Duke and North Carolina on back-to-back days in the ACC Tournament and No. 5 seed Vanderbilt, who just downed overall No. 1 seed Kentucky in the SEC title game, the Orange are the favorites in the East. Heck, just like the Wildcats, Syracuse only lost twice all season, and at times looked unbeatable. It won't be an easy road, but Syracuse is the favorite.
Cinderella: No. 11 Texas Longhorns
I was tempted to go with Vanderbilt or Cincinnati with this pick, but seed Nos. 5 and 6 are barely Cinderellas. Texas, on the other hand, is a No. 11 seed who has the ability to beat anyone at anytime. The Longhorns are lead by a dynamic scorer in J'Covan Brown, who can single-handedly take over a game. Expect the second round (really the first round) clash with Cincinnati to be a nail bitter, and if the Longhorns survive, they could give Florida State fits in third (second) round.
Overrated: No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers
In a fairly loaded bracket, it feels like Wisconsin is in over its head. In fact, I'd venture to say the Badgers may only be the 6th or 7th best team in the East. However, Bo Ryan always has his team ready to play, so maybe I'll look like a dope in a few days.
Underrated: No. 10 West Virginia Mountaineers
Bob Huggins' squad is a dangerous one come tournament time, year-in and year-out. It was just two years ago that the Mountaineers were in the Final Four, in fact. West Virginia is battle-tested from playing in the Big East and I think Gonzaga is in for a tough game in the second (first) round and Ohio State may need to be careful in the third (second) round.
Best second (first) round matchup: No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. No. 11 Texas Longhorns
By a hair over No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard, this game takes the cake. Cincinnati put on an impressive run in the Big East Tournament, going from bubble team to the title game and a No. 6 seed. The Bearcats even downed No. 1 Syracuse along the way. We've already discussed Texas above, but anytime there is overly-talented, major-conference team with a double-digit seed, it makes for a VERY interesting first round game.
Best matchup down the line: No. 1 Syracuse Orange vs. No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes
There are a lot of good possibilities in the East. I think the potential Sweet Sixteen showdown between the Buckeyes and Florida State could be great, however this would be the best. How would one of the nation's best scorers, Jared Sullinger, hold up around a basket being protected by Syracuse's shot-blocking sophomore Fab Melo?
Champion prediction: No. 1 Syracuse Orange
Here is a preview of the West, Midwest and South regions.