2014 NCAA Tournament Predictions: East Region

March 19, 2014
By K. Becks

Are you interested in a nasty region of the bracket by the time the Sweet 16 rolls around?

If so, I’d suggest you keep an eye on the East Region. When the majority of people think that the region champion is going to come from outside the top three seeds, crazy things are bound to happen.

Here is my breakdown of the East Region.

Second Round Games to Watch

#5 Cincinnati vs. #12 Harvard (Thursday, 2:10 PM)

Cincinnati might have received the least attractive draw in the entire tournament when it comes to double-digit seeds. The Harvard Crimson are smart in the classroom and smart on the basketball floor, and it shows in the style of play that the team employs. It’s hard to believe that with the sixth best defense in the country in terms of points allowed per game, the Bearcats are matched against a team that very nearly matches their defensive prowess. Tommy Amaker’s squad is No. 13 in the same category and has an efficient offense to boot. With five players averaging double-digits in scoring, Harvard is one of the most balanced teams in the entire tournament on the offensive end.

The one thing that Cincinnati does have over Harvard is a go-to scorer in guard Sean Kilpatrick. The senior has an arsenal of weapons to get to the basket and has single-handedly kept the Bearcats in games thanks to his scoring efforts. If Kilpatrick can find a way to get his points, Harvard will be forced to devote extra attention to him, possibly opening up Justin Jackson in the paint. Since both teams are so disciplined defensively, the winning team will have to play efficient offense and capitalize on any mistakes. This game will likely be low scoring, and the victor will have earned its victory.

#4 Michigan State vs. #13 Delaware (Thursday, approximately 4:40 PM)

I’ve been hearing that a lot of people are sending the Spartans to the Final Four on what they describe as “a pretty easy path”, which absolutely floors me. Don’t get it twisted, I think that Michigan State is playing its best basketball right now and are a legitimate threat to make it to Dallas. But as a beloved personality for another college sport would say, “not so fast my friend!” The Delaware Fightin Blue Hens are no joke, and Tom Izzo’s team will have to play well on the defensive end to avoid being sent home extremely early.

Delaware has three guards in Devon Saddler, Davon Usher and Jarvis Threatt who each average at least 18 points a game, making the trio the top scoring perimeter combo in the country. So while the Spartans are going to try to outmuscle the Fightin Blue Hens down low, Delaware will have no problem using its quickness and outside shooting abilities to try to knock off Michigan State. I’m not saying that I think Delaware is going to pull off the upset (spoiler alert: I picked the Spartans), but it’s sort of ridiculous that no one is giving the Colonial Athletic Conference champs a fighting chance in this one. At the very least, I expect Saddler, Usher and Threatt to put on a show that will capture people’s attention.

Team That Could Make a Run

Connecticut

Kevin Ollie has done a terrific job with the Huskies this season, and is one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament below a four seed. Connecticut does enough on the offensive end with Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels to get by, but like most AAC squads this team makes its hay on the defensive end. The Huskies have a favorable matchup in the second round as a result, where they will be tasked with containing versatile scorer Langston Galloway from Saint Joseph’s. Assuming Connecticut can avoid defeat against the Hawks, things open up significantly for the squad because of its impressive track record against quality opponents. Unlike potential third round opponent Villanova, which has been knocked for its strength of schedule, the Huskies have played and beaten ranked squads Florida, Memphis and Cincinnati.

The chances of this team may rely heavily on Napier, who leads the team in several offensive categories including points per game, rebounds and assists. But the 6’9″ forward Daniels has been coming on strong as of late and gives the Huskies a presence inside, which will be key especially in the early rounds. As long as the team continues to play strong defense, Connecticut will remain a threat in every game it plays. And if Daniels and Napier get hot offensively, watch out.

My Picks

Second Round

#1 Virginia over #16 Coastal Carolina

#8 Memphis over #9 George Washington

#12 Harvard over #5 Cincinnati (upset alert)

#4 Michigan State over #13 Delaware

#6 North Carolina over #11 Providence

#3 Iowa State over #14 North Carolina Central

#7 Connecticut over #10 Saint Joseph’s

#2 Villanova over #15 UW-Milwaukee

Third Round

#1 Virginia over #8 Memphis

#4 Michigan State over #12 Harvard

#3 Iowa State over #6 North Carolina

#7 Connecticut over #2 Villanova (upset alert)

Sweet 16

#4 Michigan State over #1 Virginia (upset alert)

#3 Iowa State over #7 Connecticut

Elite 8

#4 Michigan State over #3 Iowa State

- K. Becks

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