NCAA Tournament East Region Preview: Winner, Dark Horse, & Cinderella


March 14

The madness is just three days away, and we’re here to help you find some profitability along your way in the NCAA Tournament. We look at the East Region, where Purdue is the top dog with plenty of capable contenders. Let’s look at the top seed, a dark horse, a Cinderella, and who we believe will cut down the nets in Madison Square Garden on their way to the Final Four.Top Seed: #1 Purdue (Final Four +320)

The Purdue Boilermakers certainly have some March demons to slay, and the noise from their doubters has only gotten louder this year. They are undoubtedly the top seed the public has the least confidence in, with the longest odds of reaching the Final Four of all the 1-seeds.

The Boilermakers battled a stretch in February where they dropped four of six games in a three-week span, causing most to be concerned about their legitimacy as a national title contender. A five-game winning streak and a Big Ten Tournament title have silenced some, but their recent tournament struggles have many unwilling to back them to take down this region.

One thing is for sure: Purdue will always have the best player on the court as long as Zach Edey is healthy and out of foul trouble.

Dark Horse: #6 Kentucky (Final Four +850)

The Kentucky Wildcats still aren’t a team that many are willing to buy in on, but the talent and coaching are indisputably there. Coach John Calipari and this bunch will have something to prove this March, with zero NCAA Tournament wins since 2019. Injuries have plagued Kentucky throughout the season, but they may be getting healthy at the right time.

Five-star freshman Cason Wallace should be good to go for the opening round, while there have been murmurs of senior point guard Sahvir Wheeler returning to the floor for the first time since February 4.

They have a favorable draw in the lower half of this region, as Cal may be the best head coach among the bunch. If they could get past Marquette – led by Shaka Smart, who has struggled with tournament success recently – you could be in for a big payday.

Cinderella: #12 Oral Roberts (Sweet 16 +920)

The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles have the nation’s longest active win streak at 17 games and have shown no signs of stopping. They terrorized the Summit League over the past two months en route to a perfect 18-0 regular season, topped off by three wins in the conference tourney to seal their bed.

Their only defeats on the season have come against Houston, Saint Mary’s, Utah State, and New Mexico, three of which are in the field. Head coach Paul Mills preaches efficient offense and a plethora of three-pointers. It makes it incredibly dangerous for this team to explode for bunches of points in small amounts of time.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them leave this Duke team in the dust early on if they are hot from beyond the arc. With a struggling Tennessee team as their hypothetical second-round matchup, the Golden Eagles provide the region’s optimal option for a Cinderella.

East Region Winner: #6 Kentucky (Final Four +850)

In what we consider the weakest region, backing a dark horse should show some value here. This Kentucky team is under-seeded, well-coached, and oozing with talent. They should have their entire rotation and zero excuses to find footing against a reeling Providence team in the opening round.

Grab that first win, and anything can happen against a weaker 3-seed in Kansas State. The path is there, and this team has the ceiling to make it to Houston. Take the Wildcats as our best bet out of the East.

More NCAA Tournament Region Previews: South | Midwest | West

Thumbnail photo via Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

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