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East Regional Picks

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My March Madness bracket is more busted than Rhianna’s face after Valentine’s Day, but the East Regional has somehow maintained intact in the wake of massive upsets across the board. This is the only region on the board where the top four seeds have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Can the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers hold on to advance to the Final Four?

I’ll break down how the teams are faring so far and include their East Regional odds which are found in the CarbonSports NCAAB futures market. Below that I have preliminary previews for the Thursday games, which will let you know which teams I like for the Elite Eight in this region.

1. Indiana Hoosiers (+110 to win East)

While the Hoosiers have gotten down to business in the win column, they haven’t been a sound betting team overall. They’re just 0-1-1 ATS in their two victories thus far. James Madison pushed on a +21.0 handicap in an 83-62 win for the Hoosiers, while Temple gave them a stern fight to the finish during a 58-52 triumph where Indiana was favored at -12.0.

Victor Oladipo has steadied his season averages by posting a 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as the team’s most dynamic player. Cody Zeller has continued to be the rock in the middle, generating 13.0 points and 5.0 boards per game as well. As long as these two are playing at a high level, Indiana has a chance to win but that near-loss against Temple has to have many people worried.

2. Miami Hurricanes (+180 to win East)

The Hurricanes and Shane Larkin have continued a startling season and avoided an upset against Illinois in the third round to stay alive. Their 63-59 victory over the scrappy Illini dropped them to 1-1 ATS in the tournament after they manhandled Pacific 78-49 in the Round of 64. As a routine entry in to the NIT, this is becoming a banner year for the Canes and this is the first time they’ve reached the Sweet Sixteen since the 2000 tournament. They are still my pick to upset Indiana and represent the East in the Final Four. Could they follow up their first ACC Championship with the school’s first national title? The answer is a resounding “yes”.

3. Marquette Golden Eagles (+600 to win East)

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The odds drop off significantly here as Marquette brings up the rear in the East Regional as 6-to-1 longshots. They have escaped losses against Davidson and Butler by an average point differential of +1.5 points per game. Vander Blue is becoming a household name after contributing the go ahead bucket against Davidson with just one second remaining to avoid a titanic upset, and followed up with a blistering 29-point performance against Butler. Still, Marquette is a sour play in the sportsbook going just 0-1-1 ATS which is almost comical since their betting lines have been -3.5 against Davidson and -2.0 against Butler.

4. Syracuse Orange (+350 to win East)

This is by far the most intriguing team in the East because if Syracuse plays at the level we expect, they’re one of the best teams in the country. They’ve gone 1-1 ATS in the tournament by embarrassing Montana in the opening round and surviving against California in a 66-60 win as –7.5 favorites. They have won with a startling defence presence that has caught the attention of many, and with one of the best coaches out there they’re still in play to survive the East and advance.

PRELIMINARY EAST REGIONAL FREE PICKS

Both games are slated for Thursday night, March 28th and lines are subject to movement during the week.

#4 Syracuse Orange +5.5 over #1 Indiana Hoosiers (9:45pm EST)

My ultimate problem with Indiana is that they’re a two man show. Granted, Oladipo and Zeller are two Wooden Award candidates. Syracuse’s defence should be able to quarantine Oladipo who hasn’t been playing at a lights out level in the tournament, though his contributions on the defensive end haven’t gone unnoticed.

This game will becoming a defining moment in Zeller’s college career because where Syracuse will struggle is in containing him down low. Zeller is a full toolbox player who can stretch the floor and still hit from outside the paint. It’s time for him to seriously take over a game and prove that he can carry this team in to the Final Four.

The Orange get the nod here because their defence deserves to be respected, but Indiana will hold on for the straight up victory keeping their +110 chances to enter the Final Four alive. They are also +450 second favorites to win the whole tournament (behind Louisville), a number which remains tempting.

#2 Miami Hurricanes -5.5 over #3 Marquette Eagles (7:15pm EST)

Miami is simply a much better team than Marquette, who have been seeing a thriving Vander Blue carry them against two average teams in Davidson and Butler. Keep in mind that Marquette is still an atrocious 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 games. That includes two failed road covers to end the regular season along with their games in the Big East and March Madness tournaments.

The ACC Champion Hurricanes continue to be one of the most sterling plays in the sportsbook, going 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games. Marquette has a chance to keep this game close, but Miami should blow the doors off of this one in the second half and set up a major matchup against Indiana in the Elite Eight.

  
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