NCAA Tournament 2015 East Region Preview

by Michael Seng

villanovaThe East region of this year’s tournament should be an exciting and closely contested affair. The Villanova Wildcats (32-2) come in hot off stomping their way to the Big East regular-season title and tournament title which earned them the top seed in this region. They had two losses, one was to an unranked Seton Hall team in OT 66-61 on the road, the other was an absolute blowout on the road at Georgetown 78-58.  Neither are “good” losses given the mediocrity of the teams that beat them, but outside of the steam engine Kentucky team, a couple of losses on the road can easily be overlooked by a perfect home record. Not to mention they won a lot of Big East games my many points with an average of 15.4 points. They’ll have problems if they face a team that can crash the boards because the Wildcats rank 174th in Division I in Rebounds per Game. However, they are a talented enough team to overcome that flaw and their path to the Elite Eight seems fairly simple.

The rest of the top four is a very solid group of quality basketball teams. Virginia, Oklahoma, and Louisville round out the rest of the top teams in the region. Virginia spent most of the season as a favorite to earn a No. 1 seed and run the tables for a region. They won the regular season ACC title and lost to UNC in the conference tournament semifinals. They have No. 1 seed numbers but their weak offense is what got them bumped down to a No. 2 seed. They have the nation’s top-ranked defense in points per game and they have proven stout time and time again. But sometimes their offense cannot drum up enough momentum to keep the attacking on their opponent’s side of the court. They had a strong case for a No. 1 seed so it should be interesting to see how they play out as the No. 2.

Oklahoma earned the three seed after playing to a hard-fought third place finish in a tough Big 12 regular season. The conference had seven teams make it, tying it with the Big 10 for the most. They do not have any “stars” necessarily although they do have Big 12 player of the year Buddy Hield. They are your classic team of play-hards. They crash the boards and pass the ball. But if they don’t get to those rebounds they can easily get beat. They have a problem with holding onto leads as evident in their second-half collapse at Iowa St. on March 2. They had a 19 point lead at halftime only to be outscored 59-33 in the second half. They are a talented team but will have to buckle down once they are in control.

Louisville is the No. 4 seed and the weakest of the top four. Largely in part to injuries and the dismissal of sophomore guard Chris Jones. They were having a terrific season until mid-January when they lost two of three games and never really seemed to regain their form. They dismissed Jones during the middle of their late-season funk which was capped off by an early-round exit to North Carolina in their conference tournament. They have a balanced attack (22nd in rebounds per game) to go with an even defense (11th in blocks per game). The thing to remember is that they are still Louisville and they cannot ever be counted out completely. I could see them getting to the Sweet 16 but probably no further as they would most likely be facing Villanova who has a much stronger team.

Indianapolis, IN Bound
When it is all said and done I believe Virginia will be taking this region. It pains me to say so, I am a Sooner alum and have rooted for Villanova for as long as I can remember, but I think Virginia’s country-leading defense led by senior Darion Atkins will prove stout enough to reach the Final Four. There is something to be said about playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country in the ACC and holding your opponents to 50.3 points per game. That’s just insane! Villanova has problems penetrating into the paint and relies on the three too much and I believe Virginia is physical enough to prove to be a problem for Justin Wright’s team. The Cavaliers are going to the Final Four!

Dark Horse

Credit: Jason Csizmadi

Credit: Jason Csizmadi

To me, a dark horse candidate must be someone with at least a double-digit seed. That said, I really like the 10th seeded Georgia Bulldogs. They can crash the boards (24th in the country on offense, 5th on defense) and are not afraid to throw the kitchen sink at teams. Their March 3rd home loss to Kentucky might seem like a negative, but they only lost by eight to the team everyone has written in ink to win this thing. They had Kentucky down by nine because they were throwing everything they could at Kentucky and they provided Kentucky with, what I consider to be, their toughest challenge yet. Kentucky never knew where the next shot was coming from and couldn’t get a rebound to save their lives. They are just enough under the radar in the 10th seed to really catch people by surprise.

Player(s) to Watch
Darrun Hilliard II (Villanova Wildcats) - The senior for the Wildcats has stepped up when his team needed him to most this season. He broke the 20-point barrier seven times this season, including a 31-point effort against then-#18th Butler on the road on February 14. It’s his final season and he has been playing to make it count all season.

Darion Atkins (Virginia Cavaliers) - Like I mentioned above he is the leader of the nation’s best defense. Their success is directly linked to his leadership and playing ability. If he’s not blocking shots or getting his team fired up Virginia is going to be in trouble. He has made the transition into an everyday leader nicely and now is his time to shine.

Others to watch: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Travis Trice (Michigan St.), Trevor Lacey (NC State).

Credit: MGoBlog

Credit: MGoBlog

Best Game in First Round
No. 7 Michigan State v No. 10 Georgia. I am very excited about this game and you should be too! Georgia and their relentless attack going up against NCAA tournament stalwart Michigan State coached by the legendary Tom Izzo. It never seems to matter what seed Michigan State is because they always make some noise under Izzo. These are two fairly evenly matched teams and it wouldn’t surprise me if it turns into an absolute shootout. This Spartans-Bulldog game should easily be the most exciting game to watch in the first round for this division. And no, not just because I have in record that Georgia is my dark horse team.

Biggest Storyline
At this point it seems like talking about any team that advances from this region as having a legitimate shot win the title against Kentucky as futile. That said, the interesting storyline will be who, out of the top four seeds especially, will make it out of this region. They are pretty close to each other in talent level and it should be an interesting battle to watch.

You may also like

F6P Badges Banner

Follow us on social media

f6p-logo-footer

A Six Pack of Fantasy Sports

Copyright © 2024 Fantasy Six Pack.