clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 March Madness: East Regional preview

With the most debated number one seed, an ACC champ who limped down the stretch, Tom Izzo looming as a seven seed and a handful of Jekyll and Hyde teams, the East region just might be the most up in the air of the 2015 tournament.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The East region represents to me the most wide open region in the field this postseason as the top seeds possess things about them that give me pause that I simply don't have with the top seeds in the other three regions. In the middle, you have a handful of teams who have shown flashes of being very good, but then turn around and do things to show you why they ended up on the five-eight lines.

Add in some top coaches, contrasts in playing styles and a venue like the Carrier Dome for the second weekend and the East Regional has plenty to offer. Here we try to make the most sense of what to expect out of this region:

The Favorite: Villanova

While the Cavaliers of Virginia won the tougher league and will be a trendy pick to reach Indianapolis, Villanova appears to be the slight favorite after a quick browse across the internet for picks. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight who deals almost entirely in statistical analysis gives Villanova a 45% chance to win the East with UVA at 29% and Oklahoma at 8%. The Wildcats come in hot having won 15 in a row and finishing the season 32-2 as double winners of the Big East. A team who lives on the three ball, Nova has been a balanced team all season on both ends of the floor and most feel this is Jay Wright's best team. Still, given their second round dismissal as a two seed last season, many still can't shake the thought maybe this team is a fraud.

The Challengers: Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisville, Michigan State

Villanova will have no shortage of challengers in the East. Virginia won the ACC regular season title, and when healthy, had a pretty strong case for the second best team in America. A sound defensive team, UVA rarely beats itself.

Oklahoma pushed Kansas for the regular season crown until very late in the year despite a lack of hype most of the time. Buddy Hield is a talented scorer who won conference player of the year honors and the Sooners can get up and down the floor. They'll present an interesting counter to UVA if the teams meet in the Sweet 16.

Louisville was as unpredictable as anyone in this region most of the season. While the Cardinals struggle to score moreso than years past, their relentless press and Montrezl Harrell make them an uncomfortable opponent in a win-and-advance setting.

Michigan State enters as a seven seed but many feel is playing its best basketball of the season. The Spartans for all intents and purposes blew the Big Ten Championship game when it had Wisconsin beat. Add in the Tom Izzo factor and while they're a seven seed, who can say with certainty they won't be playing the second weekend.

Team Who Will Most Likely Ruin Your Bracket:

Virginia. The Cavaliers due to their lack of offense have a knack for letting teams hang around and with Justin Anderson still likely less than 100%, Virginia seemed vulnerable down the stretch and could wind up trashing brackets for those expecting them to make a deep run.

Double Digit Cinderella to Watch:

Why not the Cinderella of last year again, Dayton. The Flyers open with a home game vs Boise State then would move on to play Providence, a Friars team who has two very talented players in Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton. Still, Dayton carries one of the biggest chips on its shoulders entering the dance after being sent to a play-in game when many felt the Flyers were closer to an eight or nine. Add in the experience from last year's run and Dayton could pull a similar run.

Best Player in the region you might not have seen play:

Kris Dunn, Providence: Many likely have heard of the Friars star but between missing the season last year and playing in the Big East in 2014-2015, not a major TV league, many may not have actually seen him play. A stat sheet stuffer, Dunn 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 7.6 APG. If the Friars can draw the up and down Sooners in round two, Dunn could put on a show.

Most Appealing First Weekend Potential Matchup:

Virginia vs Michigan State- A year after UVA drew one of the toughest four seeds in recent memory with Michigan State, they get the same Spartans again perhaps under seeded relative to their talent. In what could just as easily be a Sweet 16 game, Virginia's tenacious halfcourt defense potentially goes up against Tom Izzo, a wizard in March who has the Spartans playing their best ball. This will be challenged by only Wichita St-Kansas for most evenly picked game in brackets.

Sweet 16 Teams:

Villanova- While either NC State or LSU could present some problems in round two, the Wildcats offense likely is too much for either.

Louisville- The Cardinals will relentlessly break down UC-Irvine and while Seth Tuttle and Northern Iowa very well could await, the speed and strength of Louisville get them through.

Providence- Dunn and Henton have been dynamic all season and squeak by the play-in winner before a tough battle with Oklahoma. Ultimately an up and down offensive game is won late when Ed Cooley gets his Friars to make a few extra stops.

Virginia- Could go either way on this one but the geographic edge of playing in Charlotte gives the nod to a great defensive team in the Cavaliers who look to punch a ticket to Indy after a disappointing end to last year.

Regional Final Prediction:

Virginia over Louisville. We saw this game a couple weeks ago in Louisville and while another game comes down to the last five minutes, the Cavaliers are able to bottle up the Cardinals offense in key possessions and validate a terrific regular season with a trip to the Final Four.

east region

Let us know how you see this region playing out below.