The East region starts play today with a play-in game for the 12-seed and the right to play West Virginia. In this game, I have ACC representative Clemson defeating the UAB Blazers. This region features number 1 overall seed, Ohio St. and a lot of other teams that are very competitive. I think Ohio St. has a tough road to the Final Four and will need some great play from Freshman beast, Jared Sullinger in order to make it all the way to the Final Four. #2 UNC Tarheels, #3 Syracuse and #4 Kentucky round out the top seeds for the East region and I think that all 4 of these teams will make it to the Sweet 16. Look for 8-seed George Mason, 11-seed Marquette and 7-seed Washington to do their best to make some noise out East, but I think the stronger seeds prevail due to their depth and array of talent. In the first round, I have Clemson defeating West Virginia and Marquette beating 6-seed Xavier as my upsets. This round is full of good games and I expect 8-9 matchup of George Mason and Villanova and the 7-10 matchup between UW and Georgia to go down to the wire. I also think 13-seed Princeton can give Kentucky a scare, but will eventually be defeated.
The New 2nd Round predictions:
1. Ohio St. over 16. Alabama St.
8. George Mason over 9. Villanova
12. Clemson (over UAB) over 5. WVU
4. Kentucky over 13. Princeton
11. Marquette over 6. Xavier
3. Syracuse over 14. Indiana St.
7. Washington over 10. Georgia
2. UNC over 15. Long Island U
In my next round, George Mason will present a test for the Buckeyes, while the Golden Eagles of Marquette will have a Big East showdown with Syracuse. I also expect UW to give the Tarheels a close game, but I have all of the top 4 seeds in this region advancing to the Sweet 16.
1. Ohio St. over 8. George Mason
4. Kentucky over 12. Clemson
3. Syracuse over 11. Marquette
2. UNC over 7. Washington
In the Sweet 16, I have the top seeded Ohio St. Buckeyes falling to SEC conference tourney champs, the Kentucky Wildcats, led by Coach John Calipari. Kentucky has three freshman studs who are all averaging double digit points (Knight 17.5 ppg, Jones 16.5 ppg, Lamb 13 ppg). Any one of thee guys can go off on a given night and with the Fab 5 buzzing in the ears thanks to ESPN, I got these Wildcats slaying the giant and moving forward. In the other regional semifinal, I have Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes being too much for the Syracuse Orangemen and the UNC Tarheels winning in a close game.
4. Kentucky over 1. Ohio St.
2. UNC over 3. Syracuse
Kentucky and North Carolina…two historic college programs squaring off in the Elite 8. I think this matchup would be the most entertaining of all the possibilities in the region. The youth, the coaches and the history would spark the fire…and I have the 4-seed Wildcats prevailing in an instant classic.
4. Kentucky over 2. UNC
FINAL FOUR PICK: Kentucky Wildcats…fast, long and explosive. This team is going to win games and look good while doing so.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-Kentucky, Freshman, G Brandon Knight (17.5 ppg, 4 apg, 4 rpg)…Calipari recruits and turns out PGs, can’t wait to see this guy in the tourney
-Syracuse, Sophomore, G Brandon Triche (11.3 ppg, 3 apg, 3 rpg)…Triche is not afraid to take the big shots at the end of game, I expect a solid tourney from this kid who has all the talent and a great team around him
-Marquette, Junior, G Darius Johnson-Odom (16 ppg, 3 rpg)…DJO is the heart and soul of this team and played really well down the stretch, if Marquette wants to make a run, DJO is going to have to go off
-UNC, Freshman, F Harrison Barnes (15 ppg, 5.5 rpg)…The preseason All-American had a slow start to the season, but silenced all the critics with his late season surge, including a 40 point performance against Clemson in the ACC tournament. This kid has a great all-around game and I hope he brings it this weekend.
-Ohio State, Freshman, F/C Jared Sullinger (17 ppg, 10 rpg)…Sullinger is a 6’9, 280 lb baby-faced beast. The guy has a solid frame and can bang with the best of em down in the paint…and for some reason he can’t get enough of Miley…
Marquette Golden Eagles…This team has a lot of talent and played well in the hardest league in America, the Big East. If DJO and Senior G, Jimmy Butler, can play on top of their offensive games, Marquette could present a difficult task to any team in the region. They have a tough opening matchup with Xavier, but if they can find their stride early, then they will be a team to pay attention team.
Princeton Tigers…the Ivy League champs play against my Final 4 team, Kentucky, in the first round as a 13. seed, but do not count them out. They use balance scoring from their no-name roster to pull out victories…unfortunately, they are taking on the Wildcats, who will be quite upset with their 4-seed rank after winning the SEC and enduring a season with an RPI of 7…
Check back tomorrow for 756sports look at the West and Southwest regions for the field of 68.