The East is filled with a lot of beasts as this region has lots of potent teams. That being said, this should be a very exciting region of basketball as potentially some of the best games could happen in this section of the tournament. However, the squad everyone will be chasing will be Duke, who are the heavy favorites to win. Let’s take a look at each team.
- Michigan State
- Virginia Tech
- Mississippi State
- Saint Louis
- North Dakota State
Undoubtedly one of the most talented squads in college, they boast some of the best basketball prospects in Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Tre Jones, and Cam Reddish. While they do not shoot the ball too well, they attack the paint ferociously and are very hard to defend. They were the favorites to win at beginning of the year and they still are the favorites. They are really good and fun to watch.
If you thought Duke was good, Michigan State is another really top notch squad who has made a case that they should be considered a favorite. They shoot the ball extremely well and their defense is one of the best in college as they boast such stout players as Cassius Winston and Nick Ward. Oh, and they also share the ball extremely well and have an excellent time possessing it as well. They should be the biggest threat to counter Duke.
LSU came out of nowhere to surprise a lot of people and even got a three seed in this tournament. Led by head coach Will Wade, LSU turned a lot of heads and the future for program looks promising. However, Wade was recently suspended because of the FBI investigation of the college basketball corruption scandal, so it will be interesting how LSU does. The team does not shoot well, but with the likes of Tremont Waters, Skylar Mays, and Naz Reid, there is a lot of fire power there.
After losing their star player Justin Robinson to injury, the Hokies had to reinvent their offense and it paid dividends. The offense is now led by Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kerry Blackshear Jr, and Ahmed Hill, who’ve all done a remarkable job of leading this team even with the loss of Robinson. Their three-point shooting has been subpar and will need to pick that up in the tournament if they want to go deep. Robinson might also return, but that’s a wait-and-see.
The SEC had a very strong showing this year and a lot of it had to do with what Mississippi State did as they were a very strong team. Led by star player Quinndary Weatherspoon. What makes them very good is their ability to guard the basket down in the paint. Teams would be wise to shoot more when facing them as they are essentially a brick wall on the paint.
They are young and very talented, but also they are exciting as they play some excellent basketball to win games. One of the things they do is rebound the ball really well and they also play stout defense as they only allow 65 points per game. Plus, their offense usually does just enough to win games. Led by Anthony Cowan Jr, Bruno Fernando, and Jalen Smith, this team has a lot of good young talent to make a deep run.
The Cardinals surprised everyone with how well they did this year, but head coach Chris Mack has instilled into Louisville what made him so good at Xavier with the scrappy play. There is a lot of front court depth, which has helped them defend the paint well as they are able to rotate a lot of players in and out. Oh, and they shoot the ball well. They are led by players like Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, and Christen Cunningham, but Nwora is their main source of points as he is averaging 17.3 points per game.
VCU is making their trip back to the NCAA Tournament after being absent for a year. There is a lot of talent here, but it all hinges on whether the health of Marcus Evans, who’s numbers of 14.2 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game helps makes this offense go, is good enough for the tournament. If he is not healthy, leaning on others like De’Riante Jenkins or Marcus Santos-Silva will make things tougher.
This was an excellent year as they won the most games in program history. They are a really good defensive team and that’s what helped win so many games this year. That being said, the problem is that they do not shoot well, at all, and are very bad at the free throw line. However, watch for players like B.J. Taylor, Tacko Fall, and Aubrey Dawkins as those three are key to UCF’s success.
They came stumbling into the tournament, there is a lot of upside with this team. It rebounds the the ball well and plays good defense, however, the team cannot score three pointers to save their lives so Minnesota will really have to buckle down on defense and on the boards if they want to win games. The team is led by Amir Coffey, the main source of offense. If he’s ineffective then they have no chance at winning.
Belmont has a chance to be a George Mason or Loyola Chicago in this tournament as they were a surprise to even get in after losing in their conference tournament. That being said, they are a really good team who relies on sharing the ball to create offense as they average roughly 20 assists per game. Plus, they have size to match up with a lot of teams. They are led by Dylan Windler, Kevin McClain, and Nick Muszynski.
This is another team to keep an eye on as they are actually a pretty good team. Defensively, they are sound as they only allow 60.8 points per game and they shoot well, especially at free throw shooting. They have a chance to upset, especially with a lot of fire power with the likes of Scottie James, Caleb Homesley, and Lovell Cabbil Jr on their team. Don’t be shocked to see them make a run in this tournament.
Saint Louis was looked at one of the best teams in the A-10 coming into the season. They stumbled, but managed to play to their basketball at the right time as Saint Louis won the A-10 tournament. One of the things about them is that they are extremely athletic and matchup well with probably most teams in this tournament, plus they boast talent in the likes of Javon Bess, Tramaine Isabell Jr, and Jordan Goodwin. Saint Louis is not only another candidate to upset, but also another candidate to go deep in the tournament.
Yale started the season off slow, but then rebounded to win their second Ivy League title in four years. Yale has four players that average in double digits in points and are very consistent shooters. They are surprisingly a dangerous team that also has a chance to upset, but if they shoot well, limit turnovers, control the boards, and covert on free throws in crucial situations, then they could make a run in the tournament, however, that’s a lot to ask. They are led by players such as Miye Oni, Alex Copeland, Blake Reynolds, and Jordan Bruner.
The Missouri Valley had two very good teams in its conference in Loyola Chicago and Northern Iowa and they both easily could have made the tournament. Bradley defeated both of them to win the conference title and secure a spot in the tournament. The team plays some stout defense and don’t allow other teams to shoot well against them. Problem is that their offense isn’t strong. Their key players will be Darrell Brown and Nate Kennell.
North Dakota State
This team barely got into the tournament and won their First Four matchup against NC Central, but they will have their work cut out if they want to advance. They rely on their shooting as they can nail lots of three pointers and shoot well at the line, but defensively they will struggle as teams score 46% of their shots on them. North Dakota State is the weakest team in this region. Some of their top players are Vinnie Shahid, Tyson Ward, and Rocky Kreuser.
This region might be one of the most competitive in the whole tournament as they have some legit lower seeds that can pull off upsets and make deep runs as well as some like Virginia Tech or Maryland as dark horse contenders. This has a lot of balance and some of the best games of the tournament look to happen out of this region.