East Region Outlook
March 20, 2013
By Joe Nelson
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Midwest Region Outlook | West Region Outlook | South Region Outlook
With the brackets set, here is a quick look at the East region and some of the games and teams to pay attention to. Indiana leads this bracket and is one of the favorites to win the whole tournament, but there are other contenders lurking and several popular first round upset calls waiting in this region. Take a look at the East region in this snapshot.
Favorite: Indiana - The Hoosiers are the favorites to win the East region and only sit behind Louisville as the favorite to win the national championship. Indiana only lost six games all season, but three of those losses have come in the last six games. This team has the experience and talent to go all the way, but there have been signs of trouble down the stretch. Tom Crean has also had some notable blunders that could cost his team at some point. The bracket sets up relatively well for Indiana, although the second round game with either N.C. State or Temple will be a challenge. Miami and Marquette appear to be among the less feared #2 and #3 seeds in the tournament, but two teams that beat Indiana, Butler and Illinois, are also in this region. Indiana will play the first two games in Dayton, a still favorable venue for the Hoosiers despite falling off the #1 overall seeding that many expected the Hoosiers to claim. Being in Washington D.C. for the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 won't provide a great advantage to any of the teams in this region. This is certainly Indiana's bracket to lose and it this might be one of the weaker regions in the tournament.
Final Four Sleeper: Marquette - While the Golden Eagles are a #3 seed, the co-champions in the Big East are not getting great respect and are even a popular go-against team in Round 1. Should Marquette get by Davidson, they could get a revenge opportunity against Butler after losing on a last-second shot earlier this season against the Bulldogs. Marquette has had several big name players in recent years that have moved on to the NBA, but this might be the most complete team in the Buzz Williams era, though perhaps lacking a star. Marquette only had one bad loss this season, as every other team to beat the Golden Eagles is in the tournament field and the two-point loss to UW-Green Bay came in a tough situation with travel through a heavy snowstorm. Florida and Louisville are the only teams that soundly beat Marquette this season and most losses were in tight games and Marquette proved itself with 14 wins through a very tough Big East schedule. Miami could potentially be a very tough Sweet 16 opponent for the Golden Eagles, but the Hurricanes are unproven on this stage and it may simply have been a down year for the ACC as many metrics suggest.
Sweet 16 Sleeper: California - The Golden Bears played a tough non-conference schedule and had a bit of a disappointing start to the season, but this team rallied to win seven of the last eight games of the conference season. Cal picked up wins over the other four NCAA Tournament teams in the Pac-12 in that stretch and this team should be hungry after losing in upset fashion in the Pac-12 tournament. Cal lost in the First Four last season, so this team should be focused for a better showing this year and they draw a rematch of a one-point loss at home against UNLV earlier this season. That was certainly a much bigger game on the UNLV schedule as Cal has just come off a trip to Madison and an ugly loss to Wisconsin and then had a more prominent game with Creighton up next. That was the first big test of the season for UNLV and the Rebels barely won despite strong shooting and a big rebounding edge. This game will be in San Jose which is a big location advantage for the Bears and could be a big help in a potential Round of 32 matchup with Syracuse. Cal has the talent to make a run led by NBA prospect Allen Crabbe, who has been dominant at times this season and could carry the team.
Best Opening Game: Butler vs. Bucknell - Butler has earned respect in the NCAA Tournament after two recent Final Four runs, but this year's team stumbled down the stretch and could not compete with St. Louis, the top team in the Atlantic 10 that beat Butler three times. Several wins over marginal teams came down to the wire for the Bulldogs and while this team has a history of big wins in the NCAA Tournament, many of those games also came by slim margins. Bucknell is not a deep team, but the Bison have the ability to deliver a minor upset in this matchup. Bucknell has notable wins over Purdue, George Mason, Niagara, New Mexico State, Kent State, and LaSalle this season as they played a tough non-conference schedule. Bucknell also nearly beat Missouri with a two-point road loss in January. Last year's Patriot League champion Lehigh beat Duke in the first round, so this conference deserves respect. In the NIT last season, Bucknell beat Arizona in Tucson and while this will be a favorable venue for Butler, this could be a great first round match-up that could go either way.
Trendy Upset that won't be: Davidson over Marquette - Davidson was a great story a few years ago with an Elite 8 run, but that team had now NBA star Steph Curry leading the way. The Wildcats don't have a player of that caliber this year and the 17-1 record in the Southern Conference can not be viewed as being overly meaningful as it was not a strong year for the conference, featuring only three of twelve teams closing with a winning record. Davidson has won 17 straight games, but only an overtime home win over Montana brings any semblance of credibility. Early season wins over Vanderbilt and West Virginia looked impressive at the time, but neither of those teams had a strong season. Credit Davidson for playing a strong non-conference schedule, but they lost soundly in games with Gonzaga and Duke and also lost to UW-Milwaukee and Drexel. Davidson's best two players mainly score inside the post and the opportunities will not be the same going against Marquette compared with many of the Southern Conference opponents. Marquette is not a flashy team, but this has been a disciplined group that plays team basketball in a bit of a departure from past Golden Eagles squads. Marquette battled through an extremely tough schedule and won a share of the Big East title along with Louisville and Georgetown in a conference that put eight teams into the NCAA Tournament. Both of these teams have strong offensive numbers, but Marquette has been the superior team through a far more rigorous schedule. Marquette has been in the Sweet 16 the last two years and this is a team that has the ability to make another solid postseason run.
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