NCAA Tournament Preview: Odds, Sleepers, Pick For East Region

Duke finds itself in unfamiliar territory

by and

March 14

The East arguably features the weakest No. 1 seed of the 2023 Men’s Basketball Tournament, but don’t tell the Big Ten champions that.

The Purdue Boilermakers won the conference after entering the tournament on a cold stretch. That earned them the top seed of the region, and they have the worst odds out of any No. 1 seed to win the national title at 12-1.

The Marquette Golden Eagles won the Big East Tournament and earned the second seed in the East, and they come in with similar odds to win the championship at 15-1, which shows how the market views the top seeds in the region.

The East also features multiple enticing first-round matchups with the Kentucky Wildcats taking on the Providence Friars and the Michigan State Spartans taking on the USC Trojans. The Memphis Tigers vs. Florida Atlantic Owls might not catch national attention, but it also has the potential to be a great first-round matchup.

Here’s a preview of the East region, including a pair of picks from NESN betting analyst Sam Panayotovich.

East region field
(Odds to win region via FanDuel Sportsbook)

1. Purdue (+320)
2. Marquette (+370)
3. Kansas State (+1100)
4. Tennessee (+600)
5. Duke (+750)
6. Kentucky (+850)
7. Michigan State (+1200)
8. Memphis (+1800)
9. FAU (+2500)
10. USC (+2500)
11. Providence (+2500)
12. Oral Roberts (+10000)
13. Louisiana (+13000)
14. Montana State (+25000)
15. Vermont (+25000)
16. Texas Southern / Fairleigh Dickinson University (+25000)

Player to watch: Zach Edey, Purdue
The Boilermakers might be viewed as a weak No. 1 seed, but they have a 7-foot-4, 305-pound center that will make them a tough out. Edey led the Big Ten in scoring with 22.3 per game, and he averages 12.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Purdue has its fair share of flaws, but Edey has done his part to mask his teams deficiencies, and the path to upset the top seed in the East starts in trying to neutralize Edey, and if Purdue does make a Final Four run, it will be on the back of the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award.

Upset alert: No. 13 Louisiana vs. No. 4 Tennessee
There’s other enticing options in No. 12 Oral Roberts vs. No. 5 Duke to go with a traditional 5-12 upset, and the Golden Eagles might be an exciting pick to make another Sweet Sixteen run like they did in 2021. There’s also No. 11 Providence vs. No. 6 Kentucky with the former gaining steam as a popular selection.

But we’re going with the Ragin’ Cajuns to upset the Volunteers. Louisiana will lean on forward Jordan Brown, who averages 19.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014. Tennessee boasts one of the nation’s top defenses, but Rick Barnes’ squad will be without star guard Zakai Zeigler for the rest of the season. If Louisiana can take advantage of a low-scoring game, it has the ability to give Tennessee a short run in the NCAA Tournament.

Pick to win region: No. 2 Marquette (+450 at Caesars)
This will be a popular pick after the Golden Eagles rolled through the Big East Tournament, but man, this draw couldn’t have worked out any better. White-hot Marquette drew the weakest No. 1 (Purdue) and No. 3 (Kansas State) seeds and assuming it gets through Vermont and Michigan State or USC, it’s back to Madison Square Garden. How ’bout them apples?

Sleeper: No. 5 Duke
It’s strange to type “Duke” next to the word “sleeper,” but the Blue Devils technically are one at +750 or higher to advance to the Final Four. Purdue, Marquette and Tennessee all have better odds, but there’s definitely a world where Duke can make a deep run. Also, don’t be surprised when Memphis knocks out Purdue in the Round of 32. Big tree fall hard. 

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Thumbnail photo via Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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