March Madness Betting: East Region Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/13/2007
The East Region, which will be decided in the swamps of New Jersey in just two weekends' time, is perhaps the most top-heavy and unpredictable of all regions. Truly, any one of five teams could survive this two-week high-wire act and find their way down to Hotlanta. As a result, the upsets will be more shocking, the games more exciting and the clutch plays more critical because so many teams are separated by nothing more than the hairs on John Thompson III's head.
Yes, it's that close. And the mention of Thompson reminds me that this region has a collection of coaching masterminds unrivaled by any other section of the bracket. Williams, Crean, Izzo, Floyd, Barnes, Bennett, Hobbs, Skinner, Thompson and Knight are all marquee members of the brain trust. They'll be locked up in a two-week chess match where one wrong move can spell a decisive and irrevocable end to his team's season.
Here's one man's look at the East (East Rutherford) Region:
No. 1 Seed: North Carolina (28-6 overall, 19-12 against the spread)
North Carolina has more pure talent than any team in the tournament but their style isn't conducive to cutting down the nets. They're still relatively inexperienced, they don't clamp down defensively and they would much rather get out and run than play in the half court. I expect them to completely dominate through the first weekend, but then the road gets a bit tougher. If Hansbrough were 100 percent I may feel differently, but I think anyone who believes they'll win it all is kidding himself or herself.
No. 2 Seed: Georgetown (26-6 overall, 19-7-2 ATS)
They've played the best basketball of any team in the country over the past two months, winning 15 of 16 games and doing so in the most devastating and profitable way possible. They are on an 18-3-2 ATS tear since December and have won their last 15 games by an average of 12.7 points. Of their 26 victories, 21 came by double digits. They are the most efficient offensive team in the country, the No. 3 field goal shooting team, and the No. 5 scoring defense in the nation.
No. 3 Seed: Washington State (25-7 overall, 16-14 ATS)
Tony Bennett has done an amazing job at instilling a solid, steady, perimeter-oriented scheme with the Cougars. WSU is a veteran team with outstanding shooters and some excellent playmakers. They have the No. 15 scoring defense in the country and like to play a slow down grinder style. Only eight of their wins since Christmas were by double digits and their last six losses were by an average of just 5.1 points. Clearly, they aren't going to blow anyone out and there's great value with them getting points.
No. 4 Seed: Texas (24-9 overall, 14-14 ATS)
If you don't know about the Longhorns by now you should probably have your wife/girlfriend fill out your bracket for you. I have long said that Texas is the most overrated team in the country, but even I have to admit that they're playing outstanding lately while on a 6-1 ATS run. The trouble is that they lost (0-4 SU and ATS) to any decent nonconference team - Michigan State, Gonzaga, Tennessee and Villanova - that they played this year on a neutral court. That doesn't bode well for a deep tourney run.
No. 5 Seed: Southern Cal (23-11 overall, 20-10 ATS)
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Trojans but Tim Floyd worked his magic and got this team a great spot in The Dance. Their best ball may still be ahead of them - as in next year - but USC can still cause problems now. They are 13-6 ATS in 2007 and have been one of the most underrated teams in the country. The play better defense than people think - despite 11 consecutive 'overs' - and have a slew of guys who make a living in the mid-range game.
Best first-round match-up: No. 6 Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 George Washington
With several top-notch guards and a pair of teams that are lax defensively I think this could be a high-scoring affair. Vanderbilt could be dangerous, but GW has several players back from last year's fantastic tournament team.
Best potential second-round match-up: No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Southern Cal
I've said since December that Texas wouldn't make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. If they have to face USC - which has a tricky game against Arkansas in Round 1 - then my premonition will come true. I guarantee it. USC is better defensively and has a trio of perimeter players that will carve up the Longhorns.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 3 Washington State vs. No. 14 Oral Roberts
Call me crazy but I think that the Golden Eagles could pull a stunner. A 14-seed has won a game in each of the past two tourneys and at least one No. 14 has lost by just five points or less in the first round in six straight seasons. ORU beat Kansas in Lawrence early this season and features two career 2,000-point scorers in Caleb Green and Ken Tutt. Beware.
Dark Horse team: No. 5 Southern Cal
USC went 6-6 SU in 12 games on the road or neutral courts in the tough Pac-10. Also, four of their losses came by five or less and by an average of just 2.8 points. That means they were a couple of possessions away from being a likely No. 3 seed. If they sneak out of the first round I could definitely see them making a run to the Elite Eight - or further.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 6 Vanderbilt
Besides a tough West Coast trip for a team that doesn't travel well, the Commodores don't play very hard on the defensive end. But there's something strangely enticing about this team. Any school that can beat Florida by 13 points in February and sweep Kentucky on the season has hope of being a bracket buster. But Vandy's nonconference resume is severely lacking and they are just 5-7 SU away from home.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at email@example.com.