NCAA March Madness is the best time of year. Selection Sunday has come and gone, and every team in the field believes they have a chance (Austin Peay the lone exception.) It's a new season with new expectations. Every possession will mean something; either getting the team closer to advancing or closer to the long off-season.
The East bracket is perhaps weighted more toward the top than the other regions. In the East, I believe the top four seeds (North Carolina, Xavier, West Virginia, Kentucky) are practically a guarantee to win round one. There isn't a true test in round one for this bunch, though for some reason Stony Brook over Kentucky is a popular upset pick. A lot of people also believe in UFOs.
Best first round match-up:
This is an old school versus new school match-up. Chattanooga plays team basketball and works for a good shot on offense. Indiana jacks it up from 3-point range. Chattanooga will slow the pace of the game to offset Indiana's athletic advantage. A slower pace also means fewer offensive possessions, which is kryptonite to a 3-point shooting team.
This game comes down to the last second with Chattanooga hanging on for what will be the only first round upset in the East region.
Player to watch:
Kentucky's Skal Labissiere.
The much maligned freshman didn't live up to early expectations, but figured out how to be effective in the second half of the season. He has the size and athleticism to be a match-up nightmare for any team in the field. Look for Skal to be the name everyone is talking about after the first week of the tourney.
First high seed to lose:
The third-seeded Mountaineers are a full-court pressing nightmare. The type of team that can give them fits is a team that controls the ball, has steady ball handling and excellent court vision. A potential second round match-up against Notre Dame or Tulsa (who I believe will handily beat the Michigan Wolverines Tuesday night) plays right into West Virginia's weakness.
Projected Sweet 16 match-ups:
The Xavier game will be a snoozer as they demolish the Cinderella slipper from Tulsa's foot. The North Carolina/Kentucky game will be the best match-up of the Sweet 16. Set your DVRs for this one. It'll be an instant classic.
Team to emerge from the East:
#2 Xavier Musketeers
This falls into the WTF category, as the team Sean Miller left makes it to the Final Four before Sean Miller does. It makes you wonder if Coach Miller regrets the decision to leave Xavier. If he does regret it, he doesn't regret it for long. His chances of winning a national championship are much better at Arizona.
Xavier is good. They can score inside and outside, they have excellent depth on the bench, and they 'rebound the snot out of the ball' (coaching term.) Overall, they are the best team in the East and will easily handle a solid North Carolina squad who will be exposed as a poor shooting team with great athleticism.