The Editor’s Picks: East Region (Round of 64)
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief
Winner in Bold.
Round of 64:
1. Virginia vs 16. Coastal Carolina
Virginia slid into a 1 seed on Selection Sunday with a late win over Duke. Now they are somewhat getting overlooked in their own bracket thanks to the in-vogue pick of Michigan State to reach the Final Four. The Cavaliers will not overlook this 16 seed though and should win easy by double digits.
8. Memphis Tigers vs 9. George Washington
The Tigers have put together quite the resumé in terms of quality wins this season. They beat bracket favorite Louisville twice, and highly ranked teams like SMU and Gonzaga as well. Not only that, but the Tigers lost to Florida by just 2 earlier this season.
George Washington on the other hand only has one quality win this year: over Creighton way back in December; they often struggled against ranked opponents such as VCU and Saint Louis as well. In addition, George Washington doesn’t appear in the top 40 of any offensive or defensive efficiency categories. It will be a short tournament stay for the first President of the United States.
5. Cincinnati vs 12. Harvard
When I first saw this matchup, my heart sank; these were two of my favorite teams to go deep into the tournament. Alas, one will go home after the first game, and it’s my job to pick which one.
Cincinnati plays absolutely stifling defense, allowing just .890 points per possession on the year (10th best in the country) while also causing turnovers 19.3% of the time that their opponents have the ball. However, Harvard matches up well enough as they score 1.039 points per possesion on average. Not great, but with two 40% 3 point shooters (Laurent Rivard and Siyani Chambers) the Crimson should have no trouble scoring.
Despite their fantastic defense, Cincy’s offense is actually quite atrocious. Their effective field goal percentage as a team is 47.9% (243rd in the country). That’s not a typo. This is where the real advantage for Harvard comes into play: the Crimson hold opponents to a 46.1% effective FG percentage and give up just .909 points per possession (13th in the country). I just don’t know how Cincinnati is going to score enough points to win this game.
4. Michigan State vs 13. Delaware
The Spartans are fully healthy (thank you, Keith Appling) for the first time in a while. This team was ranked number 2 in the preseason which shows the amount of talent that they have on their squad. Now that all the said talent is healthy (led by future top 10 pick Gary Harris), MSU is poised to go on a deep tourney run.
Delaware is a fantastic ball handling team (5th least amount of turnovers in the nation) but they don’t do much else well. If they end up beating Sparty it’s because of a crushing injury for MSU, not actual basketball talent for Delaware.
6. North Carolina vs 11. Providence
UNC is a perennial powerhouse and they have one of the best players in the country (Marcus Paige). However, the Tar Heels are a relatively mediocre team across the board. Save for prowess in offensive rebounding, there’s not much else that North Carolina does extremely well.
That leaves them primed for an upset, and Providence is the perfect team for the job. I mentioned in my Historical Seeding Analysis earlier that every year, 2.5/4 11 seeds advance to the round of 32. That tells you that you either should pick 1 or 2 of them to advance. Not more, not less. Providence fits the “Giant-Killer” material because of their astounding free throw abilities, 2nd in the nation. March Madness games are often close down the stretch, and free throws quite frequently decide the outcome. This game should be no different, as Providence will exploit the overrated Tar Heels and kill them with free throws at the end.
3. Iowa State vs 14. North Carolina Central
I’ve heard this game mentioned in a few circles as a potential upset, but I’m not buying it. Sure, NC Central is a terrifying defensive team (4th in the NCAA) but that came in a weak conference against poor competition. In their only 2 games against decent opponents, the Eagles got trounced by Wichita State and Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, in the past week, the Cyclones of Iowa State have beaten four consecutive tournament teams (Oklahoma, Kansas St, Kansas, and Baylor) en route to a Big 12 title. This team, led by guard DeAndre Kane, averages 82.6 ppg which is 6th in the country. If you don’t know Kane’s name now, you will by tournament’s end.
7. Connecticut vs 10. St Joseph’s
If there is any player in this years’ tournament that most closely resembles Kemba Walker circa 2011, it’s UCONN guard Shabazz Napier. He’s a do-it-all player for the huskies; tenacious defense, timely offense, and an all around smart basketball player. Connecticut isn’t the greatest offensive team, but their 10th ranked defense more than makes up for that. And besides, Napier can score at will which can mask deficiencies from other players. Recent UCONN wins include the trouncing of Cincinnati and Memphis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Napier leads the Huskies deep into March.
St Joseph’s is a very solid basketball team, but my fear is that they do not have the quality traits to knock off a team as talented as Connecticut. For example, underdogs need to create more possessions through turnovers to make up for their lack of talent in comparison to the opponent. However, St Joe’s only forces turnovers on 13.4% of opponents’ possessions (322nd in the country). Similarly, they turn the ball over at an alarming rate (16.2% of the time, 214th in the country). Even though Senior Langston Galloway can turn on the magic at any minute, his chances (i.e. possessions) are going to be too few and far between).
2. Villanova vs 15. Milwaukee
In their conference tournament, Nova laid a complete egg and lost to a much inferior Seton Hall team. However, the Wildcats will most definitely bounce back in the first round. This team has shooting and scoring ability galore, and will put it to good use against a team that is just happy to be in the tournament.
The best attribute that Milwaukee has is their free throw shooting, yet even that aspect isn’t very good. They can’t defend, can’t score, and don’t have the pedigree to match up with a team as strong as Villanova. Easy call here.