Have you turned in your brackets yet?image

Before you do, read this. I make no guarantees, but this will help you not finish last. Ethel the mail lady won’t read this. Let her finish last.
Like one of my favorite one-hit wonders we will Head East and preview the region nobody is really talking about.

That happens when the Midwest Region has all the best teams and somehow, the 1996 Bulls as well.

East games are in Raleigh, Spokane, San Antonio and Buffalo and finish at Madison Square Garden in The Big Apple.

Favorite: Virginia is the No. 1 seed on the strength of a regular-season and ACC tournament championship. The politicking  (reads: whining) about how good the ACC is by Coach K didn’t hurt either.
That’s how the conference ended up with a team in the First Four. Not a great team in my opinion but good enough to make it to New York because of the draw.

Adreian Payne will be tough for any team to guard.

Adreian Payne will be tough for any team to guard.

Michigan State is the sexy pick here. The Spartans did struggle at times in the regular season due to injuries, but they are healthy now and on a roll after winning the Big 10/11/12 Tournament.

Adreian Payne is a beast inside and Gary Harris makes the Spartans go at both ends. Tom Izzo knows how to coach in the NCAA Tournament as well.

In fact, this senior class is the only one that hasn’t been to a Final Four under Izzo. Don’t think for a second he hasn’t reminded them of that.

But I’m not convinced they are title bound as you will soon see.

Cinderella: Harvard upset New Mexico last year and there is almost always a 12-5 upset. Cincinnati was one of the best teams in the country for a stretch in the middle of the season, but they weren’t as good at the end.

Providence was uncomfortably on the bubble until the Friars won the Big East Tournament, likely knocking Xavier into the First Four. The No. 11 Friars are hot and could knock off No. 6 North Carolina, which is as hard to figure out as one of Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s string theories.

Either of those teams could win a couple games or more.

Most Likely to be an upset: In addition to the aforementioned Providence-UNC matchup, and perhaps Harvard, I would put my money on St. Joseph’s to knock off UConn. Granted it’s only a 7-10 game, and either team is a procedural bump away from being an 8 or 9 so it’s not much of an upset. But it is the Atlantic 10 beating the American Athletic Conference and let’s face it. We were talking about St. Joseph’s as a bubble team and potential First Four participant. The Hawks were seeded 38th overall, UConn 26th.

James Bell can score inside or hit a long-range jumper.

James Bell can score inside or hit a long-range jumper.

Unheralded Player: James Bell makes No. 2 Villanova go. He can jump out of any gym and is fun to watch in transition. He has good size at 6-foot-6 and can play a wing or mix it up inside. Bell has solid range from 3-point land as well. Scoring nearly 15 points a game and grabbing 6 rebounds he will have the ball in his hands a lot, especially late in a close game as he is an 81% free throw shooter.

Elite Eight Teams: As I mentioned, I’m not drinking the Green and White Kool-Aid. Someone will beat Sparty before they get to the regional final. I just have that feeling. That said, I like Virginia to make it, even though I think they are not one of the four best teams in the country. The other Elite Eighter is a team I have yet to mention: Iowa State.

Kind of like the San Antonio Spurs, the Cyclones quietly go about their business without much fanfare, although winning the Big 12 title in Kansas’ backyard was impressive and certainly made other teams take notice. Conference player of the year Melvin Ejim scores a ton and he will need to because Iowa State is horrible at defense, like 272nd nationally horrible. Despite that, I like them to play the Cavaliers in the Garden.

Should be an interesting regional final.