2016 NCAA Tournament Preview: East Region

March 16, 2016

The next region that we’ll cover features at least a few teams that some experts, and vocal coaches, believe were under-seeded. On one hand, this may result in some people having their foot in their mouth after this Friday. On the other hand, it may mean that the parody we are all expecting from this tournament will stem from this side of the bracket.

Let’s take a look at the East region.

First Round Games to Watch

#5 Indiana vs. #12 Chattanooga (Thursday, 7:10 PM ET on CBS)

Everyone likes to be the person that said “I picked that upset correctly”, and the 5 versus 12 matchup has long been one of the more popular places to pick the underdog. In 2015, the No. 5 seeds swept the No. 12 seeds for the first time since 2007 and only the third time since 1988. Don’t expect that to happen again this year. Although the Hoosiers are being touted as a team that could take down No. 1 seed North Carolina, first Indiana will have to get there. Tom Crean’s squad has a very potent offense thanks in large part to super senior Yogi Ferrell. But the Mocs play opportunistic defense and will give the Hoosiers, who can be turnover prone, issues holding onto the ball.

Indiana would love for this game to extend into the high 80s in scoring, because it will give them a huge advantage. But they can only do that if the shots are going down and Chattanooga isn’t forcing turnovers with the press. The Mocs are long and will not suffer from much of a size disadvantage in this game, either. Many people are overlooking this game as a possible upset special and I think it is a mistake. Chattanooga is, after all, the original Cinderella.

#4 Kentucky vs. #13 Stony Brook (Thursday, 9:40 PM ET on CBS)

Coach Calipari made a scene on ESPN Sunday night when he blasted the tournament Committee for giving the Wildcats a four seed after they had just beaten Texas A&M, a three seed, hours earlier in the SEC title game. But Calipari is better off using his energy coaching his team Thursday night against Stony Brook, because Kentucky may need every ounce he has in him. The Seawolves are making their first ever appearance in the Big Dance but have been knocking on its doorstep for several years. They come into the 2016 edition with a monster at forward in Jameel Warney, who averages a double-double and is legitimately one of the best post players in the country. He will without a doubt be the best big man on the floor in this game and has the ability to give Kentucky’s defense fits.

Different offensive strategies will be at play here and both should work well. Kentucky has arguably the best backcourt in the nation with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray and will hope that both are hitting their shots around the perimeter. Stony Brook will feed their star big man early and often and hope that he can get some of the Wildcats trying to guard him into foul trouble, because the bench isn’t as deep as it has been in recent years for Calipari. For many players on the Seawolves, playing against a group of future pros will be something they tell their grandchildren one day. But because of Warney, a future pro himself, they also have a real shot at pulling off the upset.

Team That Could Make a Run


We just got done with a discussion about how the Wildcats could struggle winning their first game, but this is also a team that has Final Four talent written all over it. At 5’9″ and slightly built, Tyler Ulis is a wonder to watch at the point. He is able to create in ways that guys five inches taller and 25 pounds heavier could only dream about. Along with Jamal Murray, who leads the team in scoring, Kentucky has a pair of guards that will be able to go toe-to-toe with any backcourt pair in this tournament. This is good news considering the fact that the Wildcats could very likely play Indiana and North Carolina en route to Houston, two teams with very strong guard play.

Kentucky appears to be playing its best basketball at the right time, something that has become somewhat of a trademark for Calipari coached squads. But even with a talented guards that will be heading to the pros sooner rather than later, the Wildcats need something to really push them over the edge. That “something” could be junior Derek Willis, the 6’9″ forward who is lethal from behind the arc and who on more than one occasion has provided the spark that sent Kentucky on to a solid end of a half or game. If Willis can remain healthy throughout the tournament, his big shots may have a profound effect on multiple games.

My Picks

First Round

#1 North Carolina over #16 Florida Gulf Coast

#8 Southern California over #9 Providence

#12 Chattanooga over #5 Indiana (upset alert)

#4 Kentucky over #13 Stony Brook

#6 Notre Dame over #11 Michigan

#3 West Virginia over #14 Stephen F. Austin

#7 Wisconsin over #10 Pittsburgh

#2 Xavier over #15 Weber State

Second Round

#1 North Carolina over #8 Southern California

#4 Kentucky over #12 Chattanooga

#3 West Virginia over #6 Notre Dame

#7 Wisconsin over #2 Xavier (upset alert)

Sweet 16

#1 North Carolina over #4 Kentucky

#3 West Virginia over #7 Wisconsin

Elite 8

#3 West Virginia over #1 North Carolina

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