The best time of the year is here, It’s March Madness! After another great year of college basketball it’s time for the nation’s best to battle on the biggest stage, the NCAA Tournament, for a chance to play for a national championship in Atlanta. This year there are no clear cut favorites which means there will be a lot of upsets, broken brackets, and fantastic finishes. The East bracket is filled with great teams and should be very exciting to watch. Here’s a preview of the East bracket.
The Top Seeds
Indiana is the number one seed in the bracket. Indiana has been phenomenal this season and has spent time at being number one in the nation for several weeks. The Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular season title which arguably was the best conference this year (seven teams in field). Indiana is 5-0 against a top 10 opposition this year. They are lead by sophomore big man Cody Zeller, and junior G/F Victor Oladipo. Both players are on the Wooden Watch for National Players of the Year candidates, and are first-team all Big Ten performers. Oladipo was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Miami is the number two seed in the bracket while many thought they deserved a one seed. The Hurricanes won the ACC regular season title and the ACC Tournament. The Canes are one of the most experienced teams in the tournament starting four seniors. The young guy, sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, is arguably playing better than anyone at the point guard position right now. Larkin is a Cousy award finalist, Wooden Award finalist, and first team All-ACC. Miami has a huge front line and are very deep. Durand Scott is Larkin’s backcourt mate and is the ACC defensive player of the year. Kenny Kadji is a versatile big man who is a match up nightmare and is a second team All-ACC performer.
3 Marquette vs. 14 Davidson
Davidson is coming into the tournament on a 17-game winning streak. Davidson can really shoot the three and are efficient scoring the ball. Marquette has an advantage down-low with Otule, Wilson, and Gardner but they struggle to hit the three. Marquette must dominate the glass and score in the paint to avoid the upset.
6 Butler vs. 11 Bucknell
Bucknell will bring it defensively. They are 14th in the nation giving up only 57.5 points per game. The Bison Center, Mike Muscala, leads the nation with 22 double-doubles on the year. Butler has Rotnei Clarke who is an offensive machine (this year’s version of Jimmer). They are also battle tested playing in a tough A-10 conference. Butler has a lot of contributions scoring wise and need to make sure they don’t let Bucknell’s defense set the tone and force turnovers.
5 UNLV vs. 12 California
California has two great all-around guards in Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs who can take over any game. Cal needs their backcourt to takeover because Cal doesn’t score the ball that well. UNLV is a great rebounding team (6th in nation) and a great scoring team. They also have a potential top 3 draft pick in Anthony Bennett. UNLV does turn the ball over a lot which will allow Cal to get easy points. UNLV must protect the ball and slow down Cal’s guards.
1 Indiana vs. 16 LIU-Brooklyn/James Madison
Indiana should have no problems advancing. James Madison will try to slow the pace while LIU wants to play fast and score a lot of points. Indiana is too powerful and will not be threatened.
8 NC State vs. 9 Temple
NC State has played like the best team in the country at times and than play the total opposite at times. If they turn it on and play the way they are capable of they are a tough match-up for anyone. They play great in transition and have a lot of talent on the starting lineup as they can shoot and play inside. Templeis a well coached, half-court style team. Much of their scoring comes from the backcourt especially point guard Khalif Wyatt. They will struggle with NC State inside. This will be a close game but NC State is too talented and will advance.
5 UNLV vs. 12 California
If UNLV is able to rebound and not turn the ball over they should advance. Cal has great guards who are dangerous especially in a one game elimination scenario. While we could see an upset, I don’t believe it will happen. UNLV and Anthony Bennett will win a close one.
4 Syracuse vs. 13 Montana
Cuse struggled in the last weeks of the season but showed great life in the Big East Tournament. The Orange has great guard play and if they are shooting the 3-ball well they can beat anyone. They rebound the ball and play a stifling 2-3 zone. Montana will look to hit three’s as they shoot over 40% as a team. They struggle on the glass which is Cuse strength. Syracuse will contain the three-ball, be able to get easy baskets and advance.
6 Butler vs. 11 Bucknell
This game is an Upset Alert and I believe it will happen. Bucknell plays great defense and really gets after it. They also have players who are capable of scoring including Muscala down low. Butleris well coached and good in the half court. Bucknell won’t allow them to get comfortable and will force turnovers and force them to play their tempo. Bucknell advances.
3 Marquette vs. 14 Davidson
Another upset could be in the making in this match-up. Marquette has played in the always tough Big East conference and shared the Big East regular season championship. Marquette is too tough to be upset in the first round and they play tough defense and have contributions from a deep roster. Davidson is hot, and they shoot very well from all over the floor. Unless Davidson can really dominate offensively Marquette is too gritty and will get the win.
7 Illinois vs. 10 Colorado
Illinois started out 12-0 in during the season but than got in trouble playing in the Big Ten. Illinois relies on Brandon Paul to lead them. They shoot a lot of threes and they don’t have a good percentage from distance. They also shoot poorly from the field in general. Colorado has some good talent who can really score with Dinwiddie and Roberson. They struggle from the free-throw line and only average 10 assists per game. The winner of this game will not advance very far. I’m going with Colorado to advance because of Illinois’ inefficient shooting.
2 Miami vs. 15 Pacific
Miami is very good team with experienced, great guard play, can shoot threes, and defend. Pacific are a small team that doesn’t rebound well or defend the paint well. Miami will be too strong and will win this one big.
The Rest of the Way…
Indiana will take on NC State which will be a hard fought game. NC State’s problem is that they’ve coasted during the year and Indiana is hungry. Indiana will advance to the sweet 16 to face Syracuse who will beat UNLV. UNLV won’t be able to utilize their size and rebounding in that 2-3 zone and will struggle to defend the guards of Syracuse. An Indiana vs. Syracuse match-up will be exciting to see. Syracuse does not have enough scoring and they do not shoot well enough to beat Indiana, a team that can beat you with great inside play and great backcourt play. Zeller should have his way in this game and Indiana will advance.
On the bottom part of bracket, Bucknell will face Marquette and once again deliver the upset. Bucknell is ready for a big run and can take advantage of a poor shooting team in Marquette. Bucknell’s Cinderella story will soon come to an end in the sweet 16 when they face Miami after Miami beats Colorado. Miami is playing extremely well and point guard Shane Larkin will continue to amaze.
That leads us to a goliath match-up between Indiana and Miami. These teams are both special and if brackets were different we could possibly have seen them head-to-head for a national title. Indiana brings a high powered offense that’s maybe the best in the country while Miami brings tremendous experience and toughness on the defensive end plus explosive guards. This will be a high scoring game and will come down to the wire. The key to this game is the point guard and I think Miami has one of the best point guards in the country. Shane Larkin will lead this team and continue his great play, get his teammates involved and ultimately reach the Final Four.
Players to Watch:
F Anthony Bennett UNLV, G Khalif Wyatt Temple, F CJ Leslie NC State, G Lorenzo Brown NC State, F Cody Zeller Indiana, G Victor Oladipo Indiana, F Christian Watford Indiana, G Jordan Hulls Indiana, G Michael Carter-Williams Syracuse, F CJ Fair Syracuse, F James Southerland Syracuse, G Rotnei Clarke Butler, G Allen Crabbe Cal, G Justin Cobbs Cal, G Vander Blue Marquette, F Davante Gardner Marquette, G Brandon Paul Illinois, G Shane Larkin Miami, F/C Kenny Kadji Miami, G Durand Scott Miami, G Spencer Dinwiddie Colorado, F Andre Roberson Colorado, F Mike Muscala Bucknell, F De’Mon Brooks Davidson, G A.J. Davis James Madison, F Jamal Olasewere LIU-Brooklyn
John Cavaliere is a Scout and Corespondent for NetScouts Basketball.