2015 NCAA Basketball Tournament: East Region Preview

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Jan 11, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack players Kyle Washington (32) forward Cody Martin (15) celebrate a win against the Duke Blue Devils at PNC Arena. North Carolina State won 87-75. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Players to Watch:  Darrun Hilliard II – Villanova, Daniel Ochefu – Villanova, Trevor Lacey – NC State, Jordan Mickey – LSU, Jarell Martin – LSU, Keith Hornsby – LSU, Seth Tuttle – UNI, Larry Nance Jr. – Wyoming, Josh Adams – Wyoming, Terry Rozier – Louisville, Montrezl Harrell – Louisville, Will Davis II – UCI, Mamadou Ndiaye – UCI, LaDontae Henton – Providence, Kris Dunn – Providence, Buddy Hield – Oklahoma, Ryan Spangler – Oklahoma, Derrick Marks – Boise St., Jordan Sibert – Dayton, Sam Rowley – Albany, Peter Hooley – Albany, Denzel Valentine – Michigan St., Travis Trice – Michigan St., Marcus Thornton – Georgia, Malcolm Brogdon – Virginia, Anthony Gill – Virginia, Craig Bradshaw – Belmont, Evan Bradds – Belmont

Four Teams in Syracuse: NC State, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Teams That Could Pull off an Upset or two:

NC State: If the Wolfpack make it past LSU in the second round, they have a legitimate chance to take down Villanova. They have an impressive résumé, boasting wins over Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, and cutting close with Notre Dame and Virginia. The Wolfpack play in the toughest college basketball conference in America and will not be afraid of the Wildcats come the round of 32, should they get past the LSU Tigers.

UC Irvine: Actually, a lot of basketball fans are actually expecting the Anteaters to pull off an upset in the second round against Louisville. Their defense inside the arch, being among the best in college basketball, should have absolutely no problem taking care of the Cardinals’ horrid offense. This is a tough one due to UCI’s strength of schedule and the threat Montrezl Harrell poses against the Anteater bigs. It will be a game to watch, that’s for sure.

Don’t Sleep on:

Georgia: They weren’t a team I listed for possible teams to pull off an upset, but they certainly have the tools to pull off a couple. Marcus Thornton and the rest of the Bulldog squad gave the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats trouble earlier this month, leading the Cats’ by as much as nine midway through the second half. The Bulldogs haven’t played an NCAA tournament game since 2011, and they will be looking to prove themselves. Watch out for the Bulldogs.

Michigan State: I know that they play Georgia in the second round and one of these two possible ‘sleeper’ teams will be going home on Friday, but whoever survives the second round has potential to make a splash deep into the East region. Michigan State, a team that fell short of expectations this year, have shown bits of what could have been. Most recently, they took current 1-seeded Wisconsin to overtime in the B1G final. The story of the Spartans this year has been cutting close. Every time the Spartans have been given the opportunity to topple a good team, they have failed. But its worth mentioning that they have been within a reasonable margin of victory just about every time, playing teams like Notre Dame, Wisconsin (twice), and Maryland to games decided within ten points. If the Spartans can turn it up a notch, they can definitely send more than a few teams packing.


Virginia: Honestly, I can’t see a scenario where the Cavaliers don’t pocket the East. Although it certainly won’t be a walk in the park, Virginia should have no problem handling themselves until the sweet-16. And if NC State or UC Irvine can pull of an upset, it would certainly help the Cavaliers in their quest for their first Final Four in 31 years.

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