Breaking Down the Brackets: East Regional Preview

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Heading to the East for our afternoon breakdown and tomorrow morning Rockchalk will have the one we're all waiting for in the Midwest breakdown featuring the defending National Champion Kansas Jayhawks.  Thought I'd get that in one last time.

East Regional General Info:

Regional Site:  Boston MA, TD Banknorth Garden

Conference Tournament Champions:  6

At Large Teams:  10

Power Conference Teams:  10

Mid Majors:  6

Pods:  Greensboro NC, Philadelphia PA, Dayton OH, Boise ID

Interesting Facts:

 

Team breakdown, matchup previews and prediction time after the jump....


Team Capsules

#1 Seed Pittburgh Panthers

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     Bid:  At-Large Big East

     Location:  Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

     Record:  28-4

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 2

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 34

                                                                       Key Offensive Stat: Off Reb % (1)

                                                                       Key Defensive Stat: Steal % (26)

                                                                       Player to Know:  Sam Young

The Panthers are big physical and have to be considered one of the favorites.  Beating UConn twice during the regular season and putting a formidable and experienced crew on the court every night.  The question will be if their typical physical Big East style of play will be allowed to persist come tourney time or if the ref's whistle get's in the way of a potential Final Four run.

 

#2 Seed Duke Blue Devils

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     Bid:  ACC Champion

     Location:  Durham, NC

     Record:  28-6

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 4

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 17

     Key Offensive Stat: Turnover % (19)

     Key Defensive Stat: Steal % (30)

                                                                       Player to Know:  Kyle Singler

Coach K once again has a team with expectations behind them and the Duke name on their chest.  Jon Sheyer's move to the point guard slot in place of Greg Paulas has propelled this team to a higher level.  A more experienced front court and the versatility of Kyle Singler could be huge in this Duke team going further than in years past.

 

#3 Seed Villanova Wildcats

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     Bid:  At-Large Big East

     Location:  Philadelphia, PA

     Record:  26-7

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 25

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 25

     Key Offensive Stat: FT% (30)

     Key Defensive Stat: Steals (53)

     Player to Know:  Scottie Reynolds

 

A senior led front line and Scottie Reynolds bring a Villanova squad to the tourney that has been somewhat forgotten amongst the Big East giants this year.  Jay Wright is a tourney tested coach and the team is tough they could easily make a run at this region coming from out of the shadows a bit.    

  

#4 Seed Xavier Musketeers 

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     Bid:  At Large Atlantic 10

     Location:  Cincinnati, OH

     Record:  25-7

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:  44

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 18

     Key Offensive Stat:  FT% (6)

     Key Defensive Stat:  FG% (11)

                                                                         Player to Know:  BJ Raymond

RockChalk's future alma mater the ever dangerous Xavier Musketeer basketball team.  Again I'm sure he can give you a more in depth run through of these guys but they are a team that has expectations of success after the recent years they've seen.  However they bring a relatively inexperienced backcourt beyond BJ Raymond to the dance this year and that may be their undoing.

 

#5 Seed Florida State Seminoles

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     Bid:  At Large ACC

     Location:  Tallahassee Florida

     Record:  25-9

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency:  95

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 12

     Key Offensive Stat:  Turnovers (292)

     Key Defensive Stat: FG% (18)

     Player to Know:  Toney Douglas

Toney Douglas is one of the stars in the NCAA this year.  If you didn't know him prior to last weekend you surely couldn't have missed him over the conference tourney weekend.  This team goes as far at Toney takes them and while they've beaten some strong teams during the year a slump by Douglas could spell the end of the run.

 

#6 Seed UCLA Bruins

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     Bid:  At Large Pac 10

     Location:  Los Angeles California

     Record:  25-8

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 3

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 37

     Key Offensive Stat: FG% (6)

     Key Defensive Stat: Turnover% (15)

     Player to Know:  Darren Collison

One of the most disappointing teams of the 2009 season the Bruins are a big reason the Pac 10 is considered down this year.  They do have the tourney experience but they don't have the same level of talent as they did in years past especially defensively.  If they can get going on offense they can be dangerous but another Final Four trip might be tough for the Bruins.

 

#7 Seed Texas Longhorns

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     Bid:  At-Large Big 12

     Location:  Austin, TX

     Record:  22-11

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 46

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 27

     Key Offensive Stat: Off Reb% (21)

     Key Defensive Stat: FG% (45)

     Player to Know:  Dexter Pittman

The loss of DJ Augustine hurt more than many thought it would for the Texas Longhorns.  Combine that with the struggles of Conner Atchley and the results speak for themselves.  AJ Abrams is key to this teams success along with Damian James, but Dexter Pittman the big man in the middle can be the catalyst if he plays the way he's shown capable at times.

#8 Seed Oklahoma State Cowboys

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     Bid:  At Large Big 12

     Location:  Stillwater, OK

     Record: 22-11

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 16

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 73

     Key Offensive Stat: Turnovers% (16)

                                                                        Key Defensive Stat:  Reb% (39)

                                                                        Player to Know:  Byron Eaton

Okahoma State has made major strides over the course of the season and Travis Ford has earned a lot of praise for his handling of this team.  Byron Eaton is absolutely critical to their success and if he struggles their done.  Combine that with a lack of overall depth creates some potential problems for the Cowboys.  If their at full strength they can be dangerous but they are definitely one step away from trouble.

#9 Seed Tennessee Volunteers

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     Bid:  At Large SEC

     Location:  Knoxville, TN

     Record:  21-12

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 17

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 71

     Key Offensive Stat: 2pt FG% (26)

     Key Defensive Stat: Reb% (68)

     Player to Know:  Wayne Chism

Tennessee started out with high hopes and stumbled through their season in the lackluster SEC.  Replacing four guards from last year's #2 seeded Vols team has proven far more difficult than expected as has the leadership that went with it.  If they're going to be succuessful it's going to require a strong effort on the defensive end and as difficult as it is to see this team go far it isn't out of the question as they do have the potential to be dangerous.

 

#10 Seed Minnesota Golden Gophers

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     Bid:  At-Large Big 10

     Location:  Minneapolis, MN

     Record:  22-10

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 88

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 20

     Key Offensive Stat: Off Reb% (36)

     Key Defensive Stat: Block % (1)

     Player to Know:  Lawrence Westbrook

 

Another Big 10 bubble team that benefits from the falloff in the SEC.  The Gophers are just like any other Big 10 team and prefer a slowdown slugfest in terms of style of play.  This gopher team is young but minus Lawrence Westbrook they struggle offensively.  At the right pace their defense could get a win but it's not going to be pretty.

#11 Seed Virginia Commonwealth Rams

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     Bid:  CAA Champion

     Location:  Richmond, VA

     Record:  24-9

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 75

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 48

     Key Offensive Stat: Turnover % (67)

     Key Defensive Stat: Opp FG% (29)

     Player to Know:  Eric Maynor

Virginia Commonwealth returns to the tournament as a very dangerous team.  They will have the best chance of success when Maynor is knocking down threes but Larry Sanders is just as important especially when it comes to VCU's tendency to lose the rebounding battle.


#12 Seed Wisconsin Badgers

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       Bid:  At Large Big 10

       Location:  Madison, Wisconsin

       Record:  19-12

       KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 24

       KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 60

       Key Offensive Stat: Turnover% (6)

       Key Defensive Stat:  Off Reb% (24)

       Player to Know:  Marcus Landry

Wisconsin squeeked into this one under the wire.  Losing 6 straight at one point in the season it wasn't out of the question that the Badgers wouldn't be here.  They are a very disciplined and well coached team as always though and you never know what can happen in the tourney.  Once again the question is, how good is the Big 10?

 

#13 Seed Portland State Vikings

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       Bid:  Big Sky Champion

       Location:  Portland Oregon

       Record:  23-9

       KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 79

       KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 200

       Key Offensive Stat: FG% (31)

                                                                             Key Defensive Stat:  Turnover (96)

                                                                             Player to Know:  Jeremiah Dominguez

Portland State reaches the tourney as the Big Sky Champs in 2009.  They are very effective from long range boasting 4 solid long range shooters.  Rebounding is where they struggle though and against a big physical front line they likely find themselves overmatched.

 

#14 Seed American U Eagles

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       Bid:  Patriot League Champion

       Location:  Washington DC

       Record:  24-7

       KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 117

       KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 124

       Key Offensive Stat: FG% (22)

       Key Defensive Stat: Opp FG% (24)

                                                                            Player to Know:  Brian Gilmore

5 senior starters return on a team that nearly upset the #2 seed Tennesse Volunteers last year.  They are a slow it down pace type a team however and if they get caught in a shootout they won't have the firepower to keep up with the big boys.  Long possessions and knock down their threes and American could be in the mix again though.

 

#15 Seed Binghampton Bearcats

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       Bid:  American East Champion

       Location:  Binghampton, NY

       Record:  23-8

       KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 178

       KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 159

       Key Offensive Stat: FT% (41)

       Key Defensive Stat: Opp FG% (51)

                                                                            Player to Know:  DJ Rivera

Bighamton brings a very undersized team to the 2009 dance.  That translates to little or no inside scoring and combine that with a horrendous track record of taking care of the ball and you don't have a recipe for tournament success.  There best chance at a win is to force a hectic pace, somehow force a large number of turnovers as well and knock down the outside shot.  Isn't that how most upsets happen though?

 

#16 East Tennessee State Buccaneers

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     Bid:  Atlantic Sun Champion

     Location:  Jackson City, TN

     Record:  23-10

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 106

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 149

     Key Offensive Stat: Turnover% (77)

     Key Defensive Stat: Block% (70)

                                                                            Player to Know:  Kevin Tiggs

The Buccaneers get the unfortunate task of taking a frail front line into battle with Dejuan Blair.  They can be up tempo, hastle you on defense and if they're lucky get out and run.  Truthfully, no offense but why bother.

The Matchups

 

The Matchups

#1 Pittsburgh vs.ETSU

What To Watch: It's a #1 vs a #16 so I'm curious to see how the physical play of the Panthers is handled by the officials.  There has been a lot of talk about how Big East officials really allow the big bodies to bang around and it may be a detriment when they get in the tourney with other officials.  Maybe we get some hints in this one.

Pitt Will Win If:  Need you ask??

ETSU Will Win If: Miracle on hardwood

Player to Watch: Sam Young struggled in the Big East tourney loss, watch to see if he get's back on track and comfortable once again.

#8 Oklahoma State vs. #9 Tennessee

What To Watch:  Two undersized teams that aren't the most physically imposing underneath.  Who does the most effective job on the glass will go a long way toward determining the winner.

OSU Will Win If: Quite simply OSU needs a solid showing from Byron Eaton and his handling of the Vols defensive pressure will be important.

Tennessee Will Win If:There guards can limit mistakes and minimize the impact that the OSU guards have on the game.  Tennessee's guards have struggled all year on both end of the court so they will need to be good enough at least in order to win.

Player to Watch: James Anderson is an exciting player for the Cowboys and one of the few that has the ability to create offense.  He's an exciting player to watch and can be a difference maker in any game.

#5 Florida State vs. #12 Wisconsin

What To Watch:  How well Toney Douglas manages an extremely disciplined and smart opponent.  How well Wisconsin manages to impose their style of play and control Douglas will determine if they can pull and upset here and I think they've got a shot.

FSU Will Win If: Plain and simple if this thing goes up tempo and Toney Douglas is on.

Wisconsin Will Win If: They slow Douglas there will be little support ready to pick up the slack.

Player to Watch:Toney Douglas...this is just one of those games where so much hinges on how well one player is able to perform or the other team is able to contain him.

#4 Xavier vs. #13 Portland State

What To Watch: Guard play is something Xavier has struggled with on occasion and how effective they are will be a good indication as to how this one goes.  That said it's hard to believe that even that alone is enough although Portland State does have some talent, it probably isn't enough.

Xavier Will Win If: There frontcourt continues to provide the rebounding and support they have throughout the season.  A solid 5 man rotation up front has been fairly consistent up front and look for that to continue.

Portland State Will Win If:  Portland State has some exciting offensive players and if they're hot and Xavier is cold it could happen.  However Xavier has more depth and more options to turn to so it could be tough.

Player to Watch: Derrick Brown has developed into more than just an inside scorer so he's a more complete player and a fun inside guy to watch.

#6 UCLA vs. #11 VCU

What To Watch: VCU has been a surprise in the past but that won't be the case this year.  Still though they do have the horses to pull the upset and UCLA isn't nearly the presence defensively they have been in years past.  Keep an eye on how well UCLA does on the interior in terms of rebounding and keeping out of foul trouble, both will be key to them avoiding the VCU upset bug.

UCLA Will Win If: Alfred Aboyo provides a steadying influence on the interior.  He's stepped up his play this year assuming a much more active role but if he remains inconsistent offensively it could spell trouble.

VCU Will Win If: Eric Maynor is knocking down shots from the outside and Larry Sanders get's room to work on the interior.  The two are tied closely to eachother and if it's working look for an upset in this one.

Player to Watch: Eric Maynor for VCU holds the keys to the upset machine.

#3 Villanova vs. #14 American

What To Watch: Your getting two very experienced teams in this one and whichever group of guards remain the most poised will be at a big advantage.  Villanova comes in battle tested but it's not out of the question that a senior laden American team could pull a shocker.

Villanova Will Win If: Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds are up to the task it will be hard for American to hang with the forgotten team from the Big East.

American Will Win If: They explode from behind the arc.  They've got 4 players capable of knocking down shots and with the lack of size they'll need to use the three pointer as the great equalizer.

Player to Watch: Dante Cunningham is the leading scorer and rebounder for Villanova and a legit talent on the interior.  He'll be key to this game and any run the Villanova hopes to make in the tourney.

#7 Texas vs. #10 Minnesota

What To Watch: Neither Texas or Minnesota is particularly dangerous on offense although Texas probably has the potential to be moreso.  Minnesota's defense on the other hand is certainly a strongsuit so ultimately I think we're watching to see what Texas team shows up.

Texas Will Win If: AJ Abrams can get his points and Dexter Pittman continues his recent trend of controlling the interior both offensively and defensively.

Minnesota Will Win If: They can stop the primary Texas weapons, keep it low scoring and make Texas find some alternatives in their offense.

Player to Watch: Dexter Pittman had a monster Big 12 tourney and he's really coming into his own as an inside player.  Others might draw more media attention but Pittman is a big key for the Longhorns.

#2 Duke vs. #15 Binghamton

What To Watch: Binghamton is at a significant disadvantage in terms of size and offense in this one.  It will take a Duke collapse or an out of body experience for Binghamton in order to see an upset.

Duke Will Win If: This is a fairly easy first round matchup for Duke.  Play solid defense and run your offense like they did in the ACC Tourney and they should handle this one with relative ease.

Binghamton Will Win If: Duke falls bake into bad habits and Binghamton finds a way to shoot a heck of a lot better than there sub 30% from 3pt range average.

Player to Watch: Jon Sheyer's move to point guard has been the catalyst for a resurgance on the offensive end for the Blue Devils.  His continued leadership will be crucial for a run this March.

 

RCT Predictions

Most LIkely to Pull an Upset: VCU (11-Seed)

Final Four Sleeper:  Villanova (3 Seed)

Final Four Favorite: Pittsburgh (1-seed)

Best Team No One Knows About: American (14-Seed)

Most Underseeded Team: WIsconsin (12-Seed)

Most Overseeded Team: Xavier (4-Seed)

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