2015 NCAA Tournament Preview: East Region


We wrap-up our NCAA Tournament previews with the East Region. The East is one of the more intriguing regions in the tournament. If you missed any of the other three previews, make sure you give them a read. Without further ado, here’s the East preview:

Favorite: The East is one of the more interesting regions in the entire tournament. Villanova is the No. 1 seed in the East after a remarkable 32-2 season in which the Wildcats only fell to Georgetown and Seton Hall (in overtime). The other highly-touted Wildcats are led by the tremendous guard play of Ryan Arcidiacono (10.2 ppg & 3.5 apg) and Darrun Hilliard II (14.0 ppg & 3.3 rpg). Villanova rolled through the Big East as they captured the regular season and tournament titles. If Villanova’s guards weren’t enough for opposing teams to worry about, the post play of JayVaughn Pinkston (9.6 ppg & 5.4 rpg) and Daniel Ochefu (9.2 ppg & 8.4 rpg) has been phenomenal all year. The depth is mind-boggling for the Wildcats as they have eight players that play double-digit minutes. Villanova also possesses a pair of DMV product coming off the bench in Kris Jenkins (6.4 ppg) and Phil Booth (5.6 ppg). It’s safe to say that the Wildcats have strong chance of coming out of the East Region.

Virginia claimed the No. 2 seed in the East, and arguably would’ve been a No. 1 seed if they hadn’t fell in the ACC Tournament semifinals against North Carolina. The Cavaliers have had an extraordinary year, but have to be considered a question mark heading into the NCAA Tournament. Forward Justin Anderson is arguably the Wahoos’ best player and is coming off a month in which he barely played, aside from 26 minutes in the ACC Tournament (12 and 14 minutes in games against Florida State & North Carolina). Before Anderson’s injury, it was thought that the Cavaliers could eventually face Kentucky in the tournament, but that’s a question mark at this point. If Virginia can get production from Anderson, they could go far, but that’s a huge if.

Sleeper: UC Irvine seems to be the most likely team in the East Region to pull of an upset. While the Anteaters are facing a battle-tested Louisville squad, the Cardinals are now without point guard Chris Jones, who was dismissed from the team following rape allegations. Without Jones, the Cardinals don’t have a ton of scoring aside from guard Terry Rozier (17.1 ppg & 5.3 rpg), forward Montrezl Harrell (15.7 ppg & 9.5 rpg), and guard/forward Wayne Blackshear (10.9 ppg & 4.3 rpg). Forward Will Davis II (12.9 ppg & 7.0 rpg) is incredibly athletic and can rise above the rim with the best of them. If Davis is able to find his groove early, UC Irvine could pull off one of the bigger upsets in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

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  • Best 1st Round Game: Maybe I’m nuts, but Villanova/Lafayette could be a lot closer than people think. Villanova had one of the best seasons out of any team in the country not named Kentucky. However, they’re facing a scrappy Leopards team coached by former Villanova star Fran O’Hanlon. O’Hanlon would love nothing more than to knock off his alma mater. It all starts with guard play for Lafayette as Nick Lindner (12.8 ppg & 5.4 apg) and Seth Hinrichs (13.1 ppg & 5.8 rpg) lead the way. As a team, the Leopards are pretty potent from beyond the arc as they’re connecting on 41.3 percent of their long-range shots. If Lafayette gets consistent post play from big man Dan Trist (17.3 ppg & 6.7 rpg) and solid scoring from their guards, the Wildcats may see this one get a little too close for comfort.

    Best Potential 2nd Round Game: Michigan State/Virginia could end up being a thriller. While the Spartans are a No. 7 seed, they’re a very strong contender to make a run. They have No. 10 Georgia in the opening round and could roll to victory. Like I said earlier, Virginia has a lot riding on the health of Anderson and if he’s not close to 100 percent, Tom Izzo’s team could seize the opportunity. The Spartans nearly won the Big Ten Tournamet championship and won their previous four games before that. Despite struggling at times during the season, Michigan State is never a team you want to face in March.

    Players To Watch:

    Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) – The junior guard is as talented a scorer as you’ll see in the East Region. Hield is averaging 17.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg for the Sooners and can score from just about anywhere on the court. He is also dangerous from beyond the arc as he’s shooting 37.1 percent from that range. If Hield gets going, Oklahoma could make a deep run in March.

    LaDontae Henton (Providence) – Henton is one of the more intriguing players in the region. The left guard can fill up the stat sheet at will and provides coach Ed Cooley with a nice one-two punch with Kris Dunn. Henton can shoot at a solid clip, but can also score from the perimeter. The Michigan native is averaging 19.7 ppg and may be one of the biggest scoring threats in the entire tournament.

    Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa) – Tuttle is one of the top mid-major players in the entire country. The Iowa native is averaging 15.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg on the season and is as fundamentally sound as they come. Tuttle is the unsung leader of this Northern Iowa squad and they have a solid match-up against No. 12 Wyoming on Friday.

    Montrezl Harrell (Louisville) – Harrell is one of the top scoring options for the Cardinals, especially without Jones on the team. It’s mind-boggling to think that Harrell almost ended up at Virginia Tech, but Louisville has been a great fit for him. He is one of the most athletic big men you’ll see in the tournament. If he can get the best of Davis in the second round, Louisville may be able to make a run despite being shorthanded.


    This is one of the more difficult regions to peg. Villanova could run through the East pretty easily, but there is just something about Virginia. A lot of the Cavaliers potential success relies on how the health of Anderson, but I’ll take Virginia to come out of this region.

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