Monday, March 15, 2010

March Madness Preview: East Region

The #1 seed in the East Region is the Kentucky Wildcats who went 32-2 this season winning both the SEC regular season and also the SEC tournament. Much hyped freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe all lived up to the billing and had impact years helping the Wildcats return to their former glory.

The East region is by far the most interesting as it boasts not only Kentucky but also former #1 seed Texas, Temple, everyones Cinderella Cornell, a tough Marquette team, New Mexico and Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin. The path to the Final Four definitely won't be easy for coach Calipari and company.

Here is my sleeper, player to watch, potential upset, and bracket winner:

Sleeper - Cornell

They were the Ivy League champions this year and are the best 3-point shooting team in the NCAA which means they can pull ahead quickly or get back into games. The Big Red are lead in scoring by Senior Ryan Wittman and the team has 4 guys who shoot 45% or better from beyond the arc. Cornell also shoots free throws well which is always a key aspect of tournament play as games often get close and hitting free throws becomes clutch. 7 guys on the team average 75% or better from the charity stripe.

Cornell did have an unfortunate draw in the 1st round having the face Temple but if they can get by them then they get to play a Wisconsin team that has looked beatable at times this season. I also think that teams will underestimate Cornell because they are an Ivy League school known more for graduating class acts like Andy Bernard than for winning in basketball.

Potential Upset - 11 Washington over 6 Marquette

March Madness is all about momentum. If you go into the tournament on a high it usually bodes well for your team but if you go in struggling then its more often than not an early exit. If my suspect logic holds up then look out for Washington who has won 7 straight including 6 on the road. They are a balanced team that is led by two premiere players in Quincy Pondexter who averages 19.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg and Isiah Thomas who has some of the best vision of any guard in the tournament.

As for Marquette well they are the opposite of Washington. 5 of their last 6 wins were by four points or less and 3 of those games went into overtime. The Golden Eagles have done well this year considering that they lost 3 guards from last years team but it will all be for not when they get bounced out in the 1st round.

Player to Watch - John Wall of Kentucky

This will be Wall's chance to showcase his talents for the whole nation and prove once and for all he deserves to be Player of the Year instead of Evan Turner. Wall is an athletic freak who can seemingly do anything you can imagine on as basketball court. At least 2 or 3 times a game he makes a play that makes you say, "wow." He may not always be dominant for a whole game but he is dominant when it matters.

His numbers are decent 16.9 ppg and 6.4 apg but its his intangibles that make him such a superstar. He spreads the defense with his speed and creates looks for his teammates due to his creative passes and ability to drive the lane at will. He has shown at times that he can be immature and careless but when the game is on the line you want the ball in his hands.

I personally think Wall isn't the best player on his team, DeMarcus Cousins is more valuable, but he will get his chance to prove me wrong. If you haven't seen Wall play before you are in for a treat and you need to make sure you watch every minute of every Kentucky game.

Bracket Winner - West Virginia

The Big East is far and away the best conference in college basketball. Therefore the team that wins the Big East tournament has to be pretty damn good. That team is West Virginia. They had a few bumps in the road this season (losses to UConn and Notre Dame) but they also had some monster wins (Georgetown x2, Ohio State, and Texas A&M).

In order to make it to the Final Four they will have to beat Morgan State (easy), Clemson or Missouri (easy), New Mexico or Montana (fairly easy), and Marquette or Washington (already beat Marquette this year and Washington will be dead tired from tough games).

In order for Kentucky to make it to the Final Four they will have to beat Texas or Wake Forest (tough), Temple or Cornell (both solid teams), Wisconsin or Wofford (the Badgers are no joke) and E Tenn State (joke).

I like West Virginia's path a lot more and I think Kentucky will blow a game early on due to their lack of experience and desire to allow teams to stay in games when they should put them away. I can just see DeMarcus Cousins losing his cool and getting ejected or Wall going cold at some point and bricking shot after shot.

Therefore West Virginia is the pick to advance to the Final Four.

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