Defending-champion Villanova earned the overall number 1 seed this year after a spectacular season, and they were rewarded with a pretty weak half of their bracket. But each team in the East region has earned some time in the spotlight, so let's take a look at them one by one.
Editor’s Note: Big wins are typically going to be wins against Top-25 KenPom teams, whereas bad losses include losses to teams that either didn’t make the tournament or are outside the Top 50 in Kenpom. There is some subjectivity in the bad losses department.
1 - Villanova Wildcats (31-3, Big East Regular Season and Tournament Champions, Kenpom Ranking: 2)
Big wins: Virginia, Purdue
Bad losses: None
The Breakdown: This team was solidly the best in the Big East this year and deserves the overall #1 seed that they received. They couldn't seem to figure out how to defeat Butler this year, but their first real test probably won't come until the Elite Eight in a potential matchup against Duke.
2 - Duke Blue Devils (27-8, T-5th in ACC, ACC Tournament Champions, KR: 12)
Big wins: Florida, North Carolina (x2), Louisville, Virginia, Notre Dame
Bad losses: Syracuse, North Carolina State
The Breakdown: The ACC gave this team plenty of opportunities for big wins, and they took advantage many times. But KenPom has this team outside the top 10, and while you could make the case that they might have the resume for a potential 1 seed, they have too many bad losses to really allow for too much controversy. However, if Grayson Allen can avoid another distracting flare-up, this team is talented enough to run to the title game.
3 - Baylor Bears (25-7, T-2nd in Big 12, KR: 13)
Big wins: Louisville, Oregon, Iowa State, Oklahoma State (x2), West Virginia
Bad losses: Texas Tech
The Breakdown: When your only bad loss is Texas Tech, a solid team that just had 1 marquee win but an other solid resume overall, and you have a lot of really good wins, you are obviously doing something right. The Bears have fallen off recently, but they definitely have the talent to compete with Duke and Villanova if they can avoid the upset.
4 - Florida Gators (24-8, 2nd in SEC, KR: 9)
Big wins: Kentucky
Bad losses: Vanderbilt (x3)
The Breakdown: Losing to Vanderbilt once isn't necessarily a bad thing, but getting swept, including a third game in the SEC tournament, is a horrible look for this team. Honestly, this hasn't been the same team since John Egbunu went down with an injury, and I have a hard time seeing them getting past the first weekend.
5 - Virginia Cavaliers (22-10, T-5th in ACC, KR: 7)
Big wins: Louisville (x2), North Carolina, Notre Dame
Bad losses: Pittsburgh, Syracuse
The Breakdown: This is an ACC team that benefited from an unbalanced league schedule and used the reputation of the league to keep their profile inflated much of the year. The two wins against Louisville are nice, but the win over North Carolina was a fluky performance where neither team played particularly well.
6 - SMU Mustangs (30-4, American Regular Season and Tournament Champion, KR: 11)
Big wins: Cincinnati (x2)
Bad losses: USC, Boise State
The Breakdown: I'm including USC as a bad loss because they honestly don't have a profile that screams "NCAA Tournament" to me, and they are in the 60s in KenPom. SMU is led by Semi Ojeleye and looks to be a dangerous team. The only thing that gives me pause from buying in is that they don't have a very strong strength of schedule. Cincinnati is pretty much the only team of consequence that they beat this year, and for the most part, they haven't really been challenged in almost two full months.
7 - South Carolina Gamecocks (22-10, T-3rd in SEC, KR: 31)
Big wins: Michigan, Florida
Bad losses: Memphis, Alabama (x2), Mississippi
The Breakdown: This is one of those teams that definitely seems overseeded, but they were matched up with what is actually probably the strongest 2, despite the committee's feelings on that.
8 - Wisconsin Badgers (25-9, 2nd in Big Ten KR: 23)
Big wins: Michigan
Bad losses: Iowa, Ohio State
The Breakdown: I initially thought this team was severely underseeded, but this is another one of those teams that was consistent against mediocre competition but didn't really have a lot of impressive wins. They whiffed on big opportuinities against Purdue, North Carolina and Creighton, and there were enough losses to mediocre Big Ten teams to keep them from standing out.
9 - Virginia Tech Hokies (22-10, T-7th in ACC, KR: 44)
Big wins: Michigan, Duke, Virginia
Bad losses: Texas A&M, North Carolina State
The Breakdown: They were able to avoid really bad losses and hover around .500 all year long in the ACC, but they definitely struggled away from home. They have some potential, but not the profile of a team that has a good shot at upsetting the top seed in the region.
10 - Marquette Golden Eagles (19-12, T-3rd in Big East, KR: 28)
Big wins: Villanova, Creighton (x2)
Bad losses: Pittsburgh, St John's, Georgetown, Providence (x2)
The Breakdown: Similar to Florida/Vanderbilt, one loss to Providence isn't necessarily a bad look. Getting swept by them however is an issue. Pair that with the only big wins being a sweep of Creighton and big win over Villanova and a 10 seed sounds about right.
11a - Providence Friars (20-12, T-3rd in Big East, KR: 56)
Best wins: Butler, Creighton, Marquette (x2)
Bad losses: Ohio State, Boston College, DePaul
The Breakdown: A sweep over fellow bubble team Marquette is probably what got this team into the field, but the lack of true quality wins is what saddled them with the First Four matchup.
11b - USC Trojans (24-9, T-3rd in Pac 12, KR: 61)
Big wins: SMU, UCLA
Bad losses: Arizona State, California
The Breakdown: Other than jumping on UCLA in a rivalry game and surprising SMU early in the season, this team consistently failed to capitalize on any of the opportunities that they had to rack up quality wins.
12 - UNC Wilmington Seahawks (29-5, CAA Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 60)
Best win: East Tennessee State
Worst losses: William & Mary, Elon
The Breakdown: This is a team with a duo of seniors surrounded by a decent cast of underclassmen. They only won the regular season conference title by one game, but they blew through their conference tournament without much difficulty. This 5-12 matchup is one to watch if you are trying to find an upset.
13 - East Tennessee State Buccaneers (27-7, Southern Regular Season Co-Champions, Tournament Champions, KR: 64)
Best win: Mississippi State
Worst loss: Wofford
The Breakdown: Coming from a competitive Southern conference, this is a senior-laden team that won't be intimidated by Florida. Expect them to make some noise, even if it is limited to pushing the Gators late in the first round.
14 - New Mexico State Aggies (28-5, WAC Tournament Champions, KR: 88)
Best wins: Cal State Bakersfield (x2)
Worst losses: Utah Valley, Grand Canyon
The Breakdown: This team is apparently the trendy upset pick, but I think this has more to do with Baylor's history last year than it does with the pedigree of New Mexico State. This team hasn't really been tested at all this year, with Colorado State being the best opponent they have played by far.
15 - Troy Trojans (22-14, Sun Belt Tournament Champions, KR: 130)
Big wins: UT Arlington
Worst losses: South Florida, South Alabama (x2)
The Breakdown: This is one of those teams that really had no business being in the field this year, except that they got hot and benefited from someone else knocking out the top seed in their conference tournament. They are a nice story, making only their second tournament appearance in school history. In 2003, they lost to Xavier in the first round as a 14 seed.
16a - Mount Saint Mary's Mountaineers (19-15, Northeast Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 213)
Best win: George Mason
Worst loss: Central Connecticut
The Breakdown: The Mountaineers will be making their fifth overall appearance in the tournament, the first since 2014.
16b - New Orleans Privateers (20-11, Southland Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 178)
Best win: Washington State
Worst loss: Abilene Christian
The Breakdown: The top overall seed in the Southland, New Orleans benefitted from starting their tournament run in the semifinals. The Privateers are making their fifth overall appearance in the tournament, with their only win being against BYU back in 1987.
Stayed tuned for our further breakdowns of the tournament, including our predictions for each region coming out in the next few days.