Breaking Down the Brackets: East Region

Steve O Speak

1 Kentucky:  There is no doubt that the Wildcats have the most talented players in the nation. And if this tournament was solely decided by NBA future talent they would be a shoe-in for cutting down the nets in April. Fortunately for the rest of the teams in the country, this tournament is decided by a lot more than NBA talent. Even still Kentucky is one of the favorites of this tournament and have the talent, depth, and skill to win the title. The Wildcats are a very balanced team with star talent on the perimeter in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, and underneath with Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins.

While it’s easy to love Kentucky, there are some hurdles they will have to overcome. Not the least of which is their freshman-centric starting lineup and rotation. We’ve seen a number of great freshmen and freshmen classes lead their teams deep into the tournament over the past few years, but the only freshman class to cut down the nets was Syracuse in 2003. That is not a great precedent for this Kentucky team, and something they will have to overcome. Something else they have to overcome is a pretty tough potential schedule. In the second round they will likely face a Texas team, that at one point in time was considered just as good of a team as Kentucky. And though they collapsed some down the stretch, the Longhorns have the talent to be extremely dangerous in this region. If Kentucky survives them, as they will likely face a dangerous Wisconsin team in the Sweet 16. That is almost as tough as a road that Kansas will face and, much tougher than Syracuse or Duke. Kentucky has the talent, but it will remain to be seen if their lack of experience will be their down fall.

2 West Virginia:  The West Virginia Mountaineers are my pick coming out of this region. They have tremendous talent, and athleticism and can run the floor with anybody. Though they lack a true big man, the Mountaineers have enough length to succeed in this tournament. They have one of the most underrated players in the nation in G-F De’Sean Butler. Butler was huge for West Virginia on their way to winning the Big East Conference Tournament.

WVU isn’t without weaknesses, they can be inconsistent and lack great depth, but have been able to overcome those issues this season. They do rely on their starters a bit to much and don’t do well if they get in foul trouble or overtime games. But few teams go deeper than 7 guys, so it hasn’t been a major issue for them. One thing that has haunted them this season is their consistency. They have struggled against the top teams in the Big East, and didn’t separate themselves from the pack. And while they did win the Big East Tournament, they didn’t have to face any of the other top teams (Pitt, Villanova, Syracuse). That being said, West Virginia could have made a solid case for deserving a number 1 seed, and even without facing some of the top teams winning the Big East Tournament is extremely impressive. I think the Mountaineers have a pretty clear path in the bottom part of this bracket, and have the ability to knock off Kentucky.

Rest of the games:

3 New Mexico over 14 Montana:  The Lobos are a talented team that might struggle early against Montana, but should be able to pull it out. I don’t see them going too far in this Tournament, but round 1 should be no problem.

4 Wisconsin over 13 Wofford:  The Badgers are a dangerous team and could end up busting a lot of brackets later in this tournament. As long as they don’t look ahead, Wisconsin should have no problem getting past Wofford.

12 Cornell over 5 Temple:  Temple not only drew the dreaded 5th seed, but also a tough match up against Cornell. Cornell has the ability to beat Temple inside, and if that is the case I don’t see Temple surviving this game.

6 Marquette over 11 Washington:  Marquette is a quality team with one weakness, size. Luckily for them Washington isn’t a great interior team, which should allow Marquette to get past them with their excellent guard play.

10 Missouri over 7 Clemson:  In the battle of the Tigers I’ll take Missouri by a hair over Clemson. Missouri has some consistency questions, but they create defensive headaches for every team they play. I think a team like Clemson who hasn’t really seen their style before will struggle and give up a number of turnovers.

8 Texas over 9 Wake Forest:  Both teams have a lot of talent but I like the Longhorns in this match up. I feel they are the more balanced team and will be more then the Demon Deacons can handle.

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