The NCAA Tournament’s East Region might as well be labeled the “Region of Kings.”
Several of the top basketball programs in the country will be among the 16 teams battling it out for a trip to Houston out of this side of the bracket. North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Notre Dame all find themselves in the East.
Here are picks for all of the East regional games.
No. 1 North Carolina over No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast University/Fairleigh Dickinson
It doesn’t matter who wins the play-in game. North Carolina will roll by double digits.
No. 9 Providence over No. 8 Southern California
Kris Dunn is one of the best players in the country, and a player like that can carry a team through a round or two. Also, we’ll take the Friars’ defense to slow down a potentially explosive USC offense.
No. 5 Indiana over No. 12 Chattanooga
The Mocs will be a trendy 12-5 pick, and their defense should keep the game close. But Yogi Ferrell is a difference-maker for the Hoosiers.
No. 4 Kentucky over No. 13 Stony Brook
John Calipari ain’t happy with his team’s seed, and that’s bad news for the Seawolves.
No. 6. Notre Dame over No. 11 Michigan/Tulsa
We like the Wolverines getting by Tulsa, only to bow out to Notre Dame, which is going to be a prickly bunch after being steamrolled by North Carolina in the ACC final.
No. 3 West Virginia over No. 14 Stephen F. Austin
This has the makings of an ugly matchup, as both teams force a ton of turnovers. But the Mountaineers’ edge on the glass gives them the nod.
N0. 7 Wisconsin over No. 10 Pittsburgh
The Badgers are playing their best basketball right now, which is good enough to get by a mediocre Pitt club.
No. 2 Xavier over No. 15 Weber State
Xavier’s got one of the most balanced teams in the tournament.
No. 1 UNC over No. 9 Providence
If the Tar Heels can play the level of defense they showcased in the ACC tournament, they should make relatively easy work of the Friars.
No. 4 Kentucky over No. 5 Indiana
These two clubs might duck each other in the regular season, but they can’t hide now. The backcourt matchup will be splendid. We’ll take John Calipari over Tom Crean in this one.
No. 3 West Virginia over No. 6 Notre Dame
Notre Dame has the potential to put points on the board, but setting up its offense will be difficult against West Virginia’s press.
No. 2 Xavier over No. 7 Wisconsin
Xavier has balance and depth. Wisconsin is no match.
No. 1 North Carolina over No. 4 Kentucky
North Carolina must pound the ball inside where it has the decided advantage. If the Heels get to the line, they’ll make Kentucky pay, as UNC was among the NCAA’s better free-throw shooting clubs.
No. 3 West Virginia over No. 2 Xavier
In hindsight, West Virginia’s matchup with Stephen F. Austin might be the team’s most difficult matchup before the regional final.
No. 1 North Carolina over No. 3 West Virginia
The Mountaineers will press and bully their way to the Elite Eight, but North Carolina has the guard play to neutralize “Press Virginia” and open up the game. Carolina is just too deep.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images