East Region Preview: Separating contenders from pretenders

first_imgThe East Region the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team finds themselves in is filled with individual talent and three potential All-Americans among the top five seeds. As far as team talent goes, however, there is quite a bit of parity throughout the bracket, essentially putting a trip to Houston for the Final Four up for grabs.Here is a power ranking of potential Cinderella teams, pretenders and contenders in this year’s East Region.Men’s basketball: A quick look at what Wisconsin is up against in the East regionAfter a miraculous turnaround in the second half of the season under head coach Greg Gard, the Wisconsin men’s basketball Read…Cinderellas14. Chattanooga (29-5, 15-3 Southern)The Mocs showed earlier in the year that they could compete with some of the country’s bigger schools, with wins over Georgia, Illinois and Dayton in their non-conference schedule. Finishing the season winning 16 of their last 18 games, Chattanooga will bring plenty of momentum into the tournament behind a balanced offensive approach.13. Stony Brook (26-6, 14-2 American East)Stars are made in March and the Seawolves have a star in senior forward Jameel Warney that is fresh off a 43-point, 10-rebound performance in the American East championship game. While they draw a tough matchup against Kentucky in their first game, a player like Warney gives Stony Brook a chance should he able to assert his dominance against the Wildcats’ frontcourt.Pretenders12. Tulsa (20-11, 12-6 AAC)Tulsa is probably the most head-scratching selection from the committee, as they finished fifth in the final American Athletic conference standings. They also have just five wins over teams currently in the tournament — none of whom are above a nine-seed — and are likely destined from an early exit.11. Pittsburgh (21-11, 9-9 ACC)The Panthers needed last-season wins over then-No. 14 Duke and Syracuse in order to move into the tournament field, but being 0-7 against all other ranked teams they played this season is not encouraging for Pitt’s postseason aspirations.10. University of Southern California (21-12, 9-9 Pac-12)The Trojans showed huge improvement as a program, but still managed to fly under the radar for majority of the season. But while they will be battle-tested after playing a brutal Pac-12 schedule, USC has lost seven of their last 10 games as they enter tournament play.9. Michigan (22-12, 10-8 Big Ten)A win over the Big Ten’s best team in Indiana was all the Wolverines needed to get into the tournament. They’ve shown they can compete with some of the country’s best teams all season, but it has been a matter of closing out those games that has given Michigan trouble.8. Providence (23-10, 10-8 Big East)The combination of point guard Kris Dunn and forward Ben Bentil can rival any one-two punch college basketball has to offer, but the Friars just haven’t been able to put it together as an entire team in the second half of the season. After backing into the tournament, Providence will have to turn things around quickly if they want to make a run.7. Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7 ACC)The Fighting Irish has the experience of being here before after an Elite 8 appearance in last year’s tournament, but the lack of depth has really cost them this year. Their best chance of advancing is if they get hot from behind the arc, which they’ve shown at times this year can happen at any moment.6. Wisconsin (20-12, 12-6 Big Ten)What leaves the Badgers as a pretender rather than a contender this postseason is their inconsistent play. While they boast great wins against Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana and Iowa, UW’s loss to Nebraska in the second round of the Big Ten tournament showed how they can fall flat at any moment.Men’s basketball: Nebraska’s tough defensive effort down BadgersINDIANAPOLIS – Once the final horn sounded on Thursday night, Wisconsin men’s basketball players hung their heads, matching the sentiments Read…Contenders5. Indiana (25-7, 15-3 Big Ten)The Big Ten regular season champions have the fire power and a seasoned leader in senior point guard Yogi Ferrell to finally make a run at a Final Four this season. The Hoosiers’ history in March, however, leaves reason to be cautious despite the excellent regular season this team put together.4. Xavier (27-5, 14-4 Big East)The Musketeers were a model of consistency all season, as they ended up being a top-10 team week after week following their hot start to the season. They played a rather soft schedule in the Big East and failed to make the conference championship game, but the team, for the most part, have taken care of business when they needed to this year.3. Kentucky (26-8, 13-5 SEC)Kentucky will likely be a trendy Final Four pick out of this region given that the program has gone to back-to-back national semifinals with two completely different teams. There is no reason to believe that they can’t make it three in a row given the length they have in the frontcourt and the explosive offensive coming from their backcourt in the form of guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray.2. West Virginia (26-8, 13-5 Big 12)What makes the Mountaineers such a dangerous team is their full-court defense that wears opponents down. With teams playing two games in three days, fatigue will naturally set in at some point, and going against West Virginia’s pressure will only accelerate that process.1. North Carolina (28-6, 14-4 ACC)With a sharp-shooting backcourt and a frontcourt that looks to destroy its opponents on the boards, there is no question North Carolina boasts the most all-around talent in the region. Led by a pair of seniors with plenty of postseason experience in Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the Tar Heels are among the most dangerous teams in the country.last_img

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