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2019 NCAA Tournament Breakdown: East Region

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I’ll be looking at each region over the next couple of days as the NCAA Tournament gets ready to tip. We’ll look at matchups to watch, previews, picks, players to watch and what team could be a sleeper to come out of each region.  I’ll be releasing my entire bracket on Wednesday or Thursday morning so there won’t be a ton of revealing here. 

East Region

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1. Can anyone beat Duke: Let’s be honest. This is the first storyline here. The immediate reaction to when this bracket was revealed was that Duke was given a fairly easy path to the Final Four it appears. They could have a rematch with ACC foe Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16. Michigan State won the Big 10. LSU won the SEC regular season. But, can anyone actually beat Duke?

2. What happens with LSU off the court?: LSU is a damn good team. They are incredibly talented with guys like Naz Reid, Emmitt Williams, Tremont Waters, Javonte Smart, etc. Now, the real question is will Will Wade coach? He didn’t coach in the SEC Tournament. He put out a statement saying he wants to coach again. We all know the story now. Wade was reportedly caught on a wiretap discussing payment for a recruit.

3. Pitino vs Louisville: I mean, this is perfect. I love when we get these stupid yet hilarious headlines. Will Rick make an appearance? Can we bet on how many times he’s mentioned during the game? Great storyline within the game.

4. Is Justin Robinson actually back? Buzz Williams tweeted out that Justin Robinson is back after missing the last month or so due to injury. With him back, Virginia Tech is a top-15 team in the country. They can run that 2 point guard set with him and Nickiel Alexander-Walker. Robinson is excellent at breaking down the defense off the bounce and kicking – he is the school’s assist leader.

5. Can Michigan State keep winning? I’ll be honest. I keep writing off Michigan State with all these injuries and they just keep winning. It makes almost no sense except Cassius Winston is an All-American. They are set up with a fairly tough draw assuming seeds hold with Louisville in the 2nd round and then LSU in the Sweet 16.

Players to Watch: 

There are a couple ways to look at this, but I’m looking at this strictly as an intrigue factor. These are players that could be lottery picks in the NBA Draft, could put a team on their back or are just flat out good players.

1. Zion Williamson (Duke) – Duh

2. Tremont Waters (LSU) – Waters is the leader for this LSU team. He’s an unbelievable defensive guard with his ability to create turnovers and then capitalize on the other end. As he’s improved this year, LSU has improved. As a freshman last year we saw him hit a handful of game winners, so in a close game, look for him to get the ball.

3. Dylan Windler (Belmont) – Yes, he’s technically in the play-in game, but Windler is good enough to win games for Belmont. He’s a projected 2nd round pick right now. With Belmont running that stretch and open offense, Windler’s ability to knock down shots with his size and draw attention is huge. I like Windler against Maryland because of that mismatch. He’ll draw a Jalen Smith away from the hoop.

4. Cassius Winston (Michigan State) – See above. Winston has been an All-American this year and turned into the guy that has to literally do it all for Michigan State. He has a bum ankle from the Big 10 Tournament so we have to keep an eye on his health during games as well. He takes over late in the game and late in shot clock typically with a high ball screen.

5. Miye Oni (Yale) – Did you know there’s NBA talent in the Ivy? Because that’s exactly what Oni is. He’s a projected 2nd round pick right now as well and has the ability to win a game for Yale. He was originally committed to play for Williams at the D3 level and now he’s putting up over 17 per game for Yale.

Other Names: RJ Barrett (Duke), Nick Ward (Michigan State), Naz Reid (LSU), Bruno Fernando (Maryland), Quinndary Weatherspoon (Mississippi State), Jordan Nwora (Louisville), Jordan Murphy (Minnesota)

Best 1st Round Matchup: 

No. 5 Mississippi State vs No. 12 Liberty 

Two teams that are really efficient offensively. KenPom has this projected as a 6 point win for Mississippi State, which feels right for a 5/12 game. Both teams slow it down offensively, but look to attack inside and then are good shooting teams from outside. Defensively they both want to get turnovers and then go.

Most Likely To Reach Final Four: 

1. Duke
2. LSU
3. Michigan State
4. Maryland
5. Louisville
6. Virginia Tech
7. Mississippi State
8. Minnesota
9. Belmont
10. UCF
11. Temple
12. VCU
13. Yale
14. St. Louis
15. Bradley
16. NC Central/NDSU

Team underseeded: None
Team overseeded:  VCU (No. 8)

Matchup you want to see: Duke vs LSU in the Elite Eight

Most likely first round upset: Belmont/Temple over Maryland