If you thought breaking down the South Region was hard, the East Region looks like it will be tougher to decipher. This is a region loaded with talented teams (Syracuse and Ohio State), hot teams (Florida State, Vanderbilt, and Cincinnati), and teams looking to shock power conference teams (Southern Miss, Montana, and Harvard). There promises to be plenty of fireworks in the East. Let’s take a look!
*Round of 64*
Wisconsin v. Montana – From what I have heard, a lot of people like Montana to pull the upset. Montana comes into this match-up on a roll, winning their last 14 games along with beating Weber State in the conference championship by 19 points. The Grizzlies are led by junior guard Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar. But Wisconsin won’t go quietly. While their offense is rather pathetic at times, they always seem to be in the game. They love shooting three-pointers and that will likely be their downfall if they start shooting too many against Montana. While a lot of experts are picking Montana, I am going to go with Wisconsin. But not by much.
Cincinnati v. Texas – This might be the most interesting match-up in the Round of 64. Two teams from two power conferences, one having a down year and one coming on strong. Texas has had some unfortunate departures, losing Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, and Cory Joseph to the NBA draft. That being said, J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo lead the Longhorns into the fight (I hope I literally don’t mean “fight”) against Yancy Gates’ ‘Cats. Cincinnati made it to the Big East championship game, coming up short against Louisville. Cashmere Wright is Cincy’s best scorer, Gates is the key for the ‘Cats if they want to advance. When he wants to play, Cincinnati is extremely tough to beat.
*Round of 32*
I like the match-up of Vanderbilt v. Wisconsin. It will be a game featuring a team that can score (Vanderbilt) and a team that defends (Wisconsin). Ultimately, I think Vandy has too much firepower and Wisconsin, lack of firepower. Vandy moves onto the Sweet 16. The second most intriguing match-up is West Virginia v. Ohio State. While I think the Buckeyes will move on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them slip-up against the Mountaineers. Kevin Jones is an under-rated, versatile forward that averaged 20 and 11 this season. I think he will be the best player on the floor and I don’t think anyone on Ohio State can guard him. Ohio State wins in a close one.
Cincinnati v. Florida State – This is the game I want to see! It will be a defensive battle for 40 minutes. I know FSU is hot, having won the ACC tournament (beating Duke and North Carolina in the process) and I know Cincinnati struggled against Louisville’s pressure defense, but I like Cincinnati in the end. Like I said earlier, Yancy Gates is a load in the middle and FSU doesn’t have anyone that will be able to keep him off the glass. [Cashmere] Wright will hit a big shot in crunch-time and Kilpatrick will seal the deal with a big defensive play. Cincinnati in the upset!
All that being said, I have Syracuse v. Vanderbilt and Ohio State v. Cincinnati in the East Region.
Syracuse v. Vanderbilt – This will be a tough game for Syracuse because Vanderbilt is a great three-point shooting team. Unlike most teams in the Big East, Vanderbilt has two player (John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor) that can flat-out score the ball, whether it’s three-pointers, jump-shots, pull-ups, or basket drives. The one thing that Vandy doesn’t have is Syracuse’s depth. Syracuse wins due to their extreme depth. They can go 10 or 11-deep and not have a drop-off in productivity. C.J. Fair is the player to watch for Syracuse. He has had some big games this season for the ‘Orange’ and he will need to have a big one if Syracuse wants to make it to the Elite 8. In the end, I have Syracuse advancing. I like Vanderbilt and appreciate them for beating Kentucky in the SEC tournament, but they always seem to disappoint. But if you are looking for me to give you a reason as to why Vandy can’t beat ‘Cuse, here it is: they ain’t good enough.
Ohio State v. Cincinnati – This is for the battle of Ohio. The Gates/Sullinger match-up will be a great one. But this game will be won on the perimeter. Wright and Kilpatrick have to match Lenzelle Smith Jr., William Buford, and DeShaun Thomas if the Bearcats are hoping to make it to the Elite 8. For some reason I really love Cincy’s defense (because it’s really good and I like that they get after it) and if they had Aaron Craft I would give the edge to them. But they don’t. So I am giving the edge to Ohio State. Yes, I said Craft will be the difference-maker.
Ohio State v. Syracuse – Talk about Ali v. Frazier. This should could be a championship game if it was any other year. Traditionally, I have never liked Syracuse in the tournament. They haven’t won a championship since Carmelo Anthony left and haven’t had anyone like him since he left. How have they fared since then? Not well. I am taking Ohio State in this one (I am not sure I should have these teams playing for a Final Four trip because, realistically, they both could get knocked in the second or third rounds).Syracuse can’t match up with Ohio State like Ohio State can match up with them (maybe that’s because Syracuse plays zone?). Did I say that I liked Ohio State?