2016 NCAA Tournament: East Region Preview, Predictions

Early Action

1 North Carolina vs. 16 Florida Gulf Coast

The first matchup of the region features perennial powerhouse North Carolina against 2013 upset specialists Florida Golf Coast. “Dunk City” became the first ever 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 in 2013, but this veteran laden Carolina squad will be too much for FGCU. There’s a reason why a 16 has never beaten a 1.

8 USC vs. 9 Providence

You might remember USC coach Andy Enfield–the man that commandeered FGCU to the Sweet 16 in 2013. After taking the USC job following his March Madness success, he’s landed the Trojans in the dance for the first time since 2007. Their high octane offense (80.8 PPG) will be the headline for their opponents.

Providence is led by one of the best 1-2 punches in all of college basketball. Forward Ben Bentil (21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG) can score from anywhere on the court and poses matchup problems for whichever team must defend him. Guard Kris Dunn is arguably the best and most versatile guard in the country (16.3 PPG, 6.4 APG, 5.7 RPG). The future lottery pick didn’t return for his senior season to leave with a first round exit. The Friars edge the Trojans in a close one.

5 Indiana vs. 12 Chattanooga

Ahh, the dreaded 5v12 matchup. Since 2008, the 12 seed has pulled the upset 15 out of 32 times. There’s cause for concern here, as Indiana dropped the first game of the BIG 10 Conference tournament, leaving a long layoff between games. Could the Hoosiers be upset by a Chattanooga team that lost just five games all year?

It’s never easy to pick an upset, and this isn’t going to be one of them. Despite the Hoosiers early BIG 10 exit, there’s still a reason why they won their conference outright in the regular season. Senior guard Yogi Ferell and forward Troy Williams form one of the better outside-inside combos in college hoops.

4 Kentucky vs. 13 Stony Brook

Some felt a four seed was low for John Calipari’s men, but it won’t matter against a Stony Brook side ranking 98th in BPI. Wildcats point guard Tyler Ulis spearheads one of the youngest rosters in college basketball, as Kentucky and Carolina are likely to clash in the Sweet 16.

6 Notre Dame vs. 11 Michigan/Tulsa

Last year’s Fighting Irish came within one possession of one of the greatest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, nearly topping a legendary Kentucky squad. This year’s team isn’t as deep as last season’s, but coach Mike Brey has players that know how to win. Guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia form a formidable backcourt while forward/center Zach Auguste features as one of the better rebounders in college basketball. Regardless of their oppoenent in the first round, the Irish should get it done.

3 West Virginia vs. 14 Stephen F. Austin

Bob Huggin’s “Press Virginia” team rebounds well and forces turnovers all game long. Forward Devon Williams can score and clean up on the glass down low. No team forces more turnovers than West Virginia…except Stephen F. Austin.

Yes, SFA and WVU are two best turnover forcing teams in America. The difference? West Virginia has flat out more talent and big game experience than their opponents which should help them avoid the upset.

7 Wisconsin vs 10 Pitt

Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa, Indiana, and VCU– all of whom have been defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers this season. Pitt’s only impressive victory comes at home against Duke. When comes the NCAA Tournament, you gotta love a team that’s battle tested, making Wisconsin the favorite to get it done.

2 Xavier vs 15 Weber State

So here comes upset city right? Not exactly.

The East Region has a chance for some upsets but not until after the first round is over. Weber State ranks 130th in BPI and shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to a Xavier team that’s played consistent ball all year. Guards Trevon Bluiett and Myles Davis form one of the more under appreciated backcourts in the country. Look for the Musketeers to survive the weekend.