NCAA Tournament East Region Reboot: Winner, Best Player, Best Coach, & Cinderella


March 21

The second weekend is rapidly approaching for the NCAA Tournament, and we’re here to give you a region-by-region breakdown of the remaining field. We look at the East Region’s favorite, Cinderella, best player, and who we believe will head to Houston.

Favorite: Tennessee (+120)

It felt impossible for the Volunteers to find themselves as the East Region’s favorites heading into the second weekend, but here we are. Tennessee mightily struggled to close out the SEC season, and many found them to be a long shot even to reach the Sweet 16. Instead, the Vols eked past Louisiana and stifled Duke for 40 minutes to make it to the regional semifinal, where they will be favored over Florida Atlantic for a spot in the Elite Eight.

Cinderella: FAU (+470)

The Owls had a favorable path to this point, with Fairleigh Dickinson upsetting Purdue in the opening round, but they still undoubtedly deserve to be here. FAU is tied with Houston for the most wins in Division I at 33, and they are one of the deepest teams remaining in the field. Head coach Dusty May has tightened his rotation up in the tournament but is still regularly circulating through nine players each game. They have shown throughout the regular season that they are a fearless bunch, and a +470 price shows them a serious sign of respect.

Best Player: Markquis Nowell – Kansas State

Nowell is finally receiving the national spotlight he well deserves after a lethal performance in their win over Kentucky in the Round of 32. The 5’8″ senior poured in 27 points and dished out nine assists, including clutch shots to seal the win in the waning minutes. The New York City native will now get to return home and play in Madison Square Garden for the East Regional in hopes of bringing the Wildcats to their first Final Four since 1964. He will be the best player in Manhattan this weekend and could single-handedly will this team past any of these three teams.

Winner: Michigan State (+270)

March is, and always will be, Tom Izzo’s month. He is remarkably heading back to the 15th Sweet 16 of his career and has as good a chance as anyone in this wide-open region to head to Houston. The Spartans have the best coach in the region by a wide margin and a backcourt that shined in the first weekend between A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker. The Spartans are plucky on defense and have one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation, knocking down 38.7 percent of their triples on the year. Throw the seeds out the window because these guys are playing far above their 7-seed label.

Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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