2015 NCAA Tournament Predictions: East Region

March 17, 2015

Every year, there is one region that gets completely blown up by the Sweet 16. This is where the phrase “my bracket is busted” originated.

For the 2015 tournament, I think that the East Region has the best chance to be the bracket buster. It’s as wide open as any and the top seeds are suspect. Expect a lot of interesting results in portion of the bracket.

Here is my breakdown for the East Region.

Second Round Games to Watch

#8 N.C. State vs. #9 LSU (Friday, approximately 1:40 PM ET)

The 8 vs. 9 matchups are routinely some of the closest games of the entire tournament, and this one should be no different. Not much separates the Wolfpack, who wins games with solid backcourt play and limiting turnovers, and the Tigers, who are physical inside and would prefer to win with athleticism. North Carolina State has been one of the more dangerous tournament teams over the past few seasons despite never receiving higher than an eight seed. Anthony “Cat” Barber leads a trio of guards that can all score from anywhere on the court. Perhaps more importantly, they were all around last year when the Wolfpack blew a late 16-point lead to Saint Louis, ruining a chance to become a Cinderella. Don’t expect that to happen again this season.

LSU is a bit of a wildcard, but there is a lot of talent on the block for the Tigers. Between Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey alone, the Tigers average 19 rebounds a game. This height advantage could end up being huge for LSU, but it may end up being the only advantage the team can count on. Outside of Martin and Mickey, there isn’t a lot to write home about on Johnny Jones’s team. The Tigers have two players that will be extremely difficult to stop, but North Carolina State will utilize all five players on the floor. At any rate, those two LSU players are good enough to keep this one within single digits for the game’s entirety. Call this one what it is: a tossup.

#6 Providence vs. #11 Boise State/Dayton (Friday, approximately 9:57 PM ET)

The Friars are in the unenviable position of facing the winner of a game in which both teams present them with matchup issues. Providence does have Kris Dunn, a capable scorer who is also second in the nation in assists (7.6 per game) and fourth in steals (2.8 per game). But the Friars don’t shoot the ball well from behind the arc, something both Boise State and Dayton excel at doing. Additionally, there isn’t a lot of height, which would have been the obvious advantage over the Flyers.

Providence has more than enough experience with strong competition to suggest that they will not be overwhelmed by teams out of the Atlantic 10 or Mountain West. Playing in the Big East may be the biggest advantage for the Friars. They just seem like the type of team that coasted into the tournament after a surprising first half of the season. Both Boise State and Dayton have been playing well as of late, and with a tournament win already under the belt of whoever plays Providence to boot, there will be no shortage of confidence from either team. I think that this game is an upset waiting to happen, regardless of who ends up being the No. 11 seed.

Team That Could Make a Run

Michigan State

It is no secret to anyone who even casually follows college basketball that Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in the college game. But the fact that the 2014-2015 Spartans are much better than their 23-11 overall record and No. 7 seed does seem to feel like a bit of a secret. Statistically, Michigan State is one of the best rebounding teams in the country. But what makes this team interesting is how they look to the eye. There are very few teams that they don’t match up favorably against, with Travis Trice coming on offensively and Denzel Valentine being able to stretch opposing defenses. Even the best team in the Big Ten was given everything it could handle in a game that the Badgers desperately wanted to win to avoid the potential of earning a No. 2 seed.

The Spartans appear to be getting hot at the right time, but it won’t be an easy road for Coach Izzo. Georgia is a quietly productive bunch and a 2014 Sweet 16 rematch against Virginia likely awaits if the Spartans beat the Bulldogs. Counting out the Spartans on the basis of seeding alone is a huge mistake, though. Back in 2011 Michigan State came into the Big Dance as a 10 seed. Although that team ended up losing its first game, I had faith in them making it all the way to the Final Four. This team is much better than that one, so assuming that the 2015 squad couldn’t actually pull off the feat would be silly.

My Picks

Second Round

#1 Villanova over #16 Lafayette

#8 N.C. State over #9 LSU

#5 Northern Iowa over #12 Wyoming

#4 Louisville over #13 UC Irvine

#11 Boise State/Dayton over #6 Providence (upset alert)

#3 Oklahoma over #14 Albany

#7 Michigan State over #10 Georgia

#2 Virginia over #15 Belmont

Third Round

#1 Villanova over #8 N.C. State

#5 Northern Iowa over #4 Louisville

#3 Oklahoma over #11 Boise State/Dayton

#2 Virginia over #7 Michigan State

Sweet 16

#5 Northern Iowa over #1 Villanova (upset alert)

#2 Virginia over #3 Oklahoma

Elite 8

#5 Northern Iowa over #2 Virginia (upset alert)

– K. Becks

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