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2019 NCAA Tournament: East Region Breakdown

The East seems like a foregone conclusion

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Florida State vs Duke Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Tournament’s East Region features the #1 overall seed in the Duke Blue Devils, and everyone else in the region will be looking to stop them from making their first Final Four in four years, an eternity in Duke time.

While the other teams in this region have talent, it will likely take a herculean effort to oust the Blue Devils.

Regardless, let’s take a look at the region.

Round of 64

(1) Duke vs. (16) North Dakota State

You may not remember this, but a 16-seed beat a 1-seed last year. And that 1-seed was the top overall seed AND from the ACC. Spoooooooooky.

Duke will win. Likely by a lot of points. But North Dakota State will always have the fun play-in game from Wednesday night in Dayton.

Pick: Duke

(8) VCU vs. (9) UCF

This game is a toss-up because I think the winner is losing to Duke anyway. I think if Marcus Evans is out for VCU, UCF will win, but it seems like he’s going to play.

Pick: VCU

(5) Mississippi State vs. (12) Liberty

Liberty is a very trendy upset pick after their performance in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, but as long as Liberty doesn’t got hot from deep, the Bulldogs’ offense is just too good for the Flames to keep up with.

Pick: Mississppi State

(4) Virginia Tech vs. (13) Saint Louis

Had they not won four games in four days to win the A-10 Tournament, SLU wouldn’t even be here. Unfortunately for Travis Ford’s bunch, they’ll be a one and done this yea.

Pick: Virginia Tech

(6) Maryland vs. (11) Belmont

Belmont is one of the nation’s most fun and exciting mid-major programs, and their offense is good enough to crack the Maryland defense. The Terps haven’t been consistent this year and are struggling particularly of late, losing three of their last four games to end the season.

(3) LSU vs. (14) Yale

The Tigers are still without Will Wade, but the beat goes on, as they say. They’ll draw a tough opponent in the Yale Bulldogs. The Bulldogs went 22-7 on the year and won the Ivy League. Led by NBA prospect and Ivy League Player of the Year Miye Oni, Yale isn’t to be taken lightly. Oni averaged 17.6 points per game and hauls in 6.3 rebounds per game, as well. Oni also hits threes at a respectable 38% clip, which could spell trouble for an LSU team that is average at three-point defense.

However, despite Oni’s abilities, LSU will still be able to score fairly easily against a Yale defense that isn’t all that good.

Pick: LSU

(7) Louisville vs. (10) Minnesota

Remember Chris Mack? He used to coach in the Big East. Now he’s at Louisville. While his first year at Louisville has had its ups and downs, Mack-coached teams have won at least one game in six of his eight tournament appearances, including the last four in a row.

Pick: Louisville

(2) Michigan State vs. (15) Bradley

The Tom Izzo in March narrative has gotten drastically overrated in the past couple years, and they lost to a 15-seed in 2016, but it’s not happening this time.

Pick: Michigan State

Round of 32

(1) Duke vs. (8) VCU

VCU has the seventh-best defense in the nation, but the 188th-best offense. That’s not a recipe for success when you’re facing this Duke team.

Pick: Duke

(4) Virginia Tech vs. (5) Mississippi State

The Hokies are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the tournament, and Mississippi State is one of the worst three-point defending teams in the tournament. I don’t see how the Bulldogs can stop Virginia Tech’s long game.

Pick: Virginia Tech

(11) Belmont vs. (3) LSU

The run continues for Rick Byrd and Belmont. If Will Wade wasn’t suspended, LSU would be a dark horse Final Four candidate, but Wade is gone and likely won’t be unsuspended for the tournament, and Tony Benford has shown in his previous head coaching stop at North Texas (62-95 in five years) that he struggles in the main role.

(7) Louisville vs. (2) Michigan State

Chris Mack and Tom Izzo is a fine coaching matchup for the first weekend of the tournament, but it seems like Cassius Winston is the best player on either team, which gives Michigan State a strong advantage in this game.

Pick: Michigan State

Sweet Sixteen

(1) Duke vs. (4) Virginia Tech

As noted above, the Hokies shoot very well from beyond the arc. Duke defends the three as well as any team in the nation, and if the three-point aspect is taken out of the game, you want to go with the team that has Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.

Pick: Duke

(11) Belmont vs. (2) Michigan State

Unfortunately, this is where the Cinderella story ends for Belmont. While the Bruins have a great offense (as noted), it’s only a matter of time before having a wide discrepancy between offense and defense catches up to you.

Pick: Michigan State

Elite Eight

(1) Duke vs. (2) Michigan State

That’s right. This region ended up being chalk. These two teams are two of the best in college basketball, and it’s hard to see any other team in the region being able to pull on over on either one of them. As noted in the beginning of this piece, the region is Duke’s to lose, and I don’t think Michigan State has quite enough to stop Williamson and Barrett and the rest of the Blue Devils. Duke advances to the Final Four, as they usually do when the Tournament comes to Minneapolis.

Pick: Duke