Flyers13: It seems like someone wants UConn to come storming out of the 7 spot for another deep run. The weak(ish) pool in the East coupled with the fact that the Regional Final is at MSG seems to leave things ripe for the Huskies' picking. To all ACC apologists, I'm sorry, but UVA has two unfavorable matchups lying in wait with Memphis lurking in round 2, and then the winner of Cincinnati and Michigan St. in the Sweet 16. All these teams trump UVA's athleticism. How do you see the East shaping up?
JC: UConn is definitely primed for a run as they so often are. That's a pretty favorable section for the Huskies for several games. Virginia will probably be okay. Based on the style, almost every game they play will be close leaving them susceptible to an upset, but they're quite good at what they do. I don't have Memphis getting past George Washington but GW could still upset the 'Hoos. UVA will either lose round 2 or make the Final Four. I'm not sure how Tom Izzo does it, but every year his team's come alive in March. I'm feeling another sneaky Sweet 16 run for the Spartans.
Flyers13: I've maintained that UVA is going to do well against anyone impatient, and anyone who doesn't have the requisite athleticism to overmatch them. I think Michigan State has both for sure. Another battle tested team that is superior athletically to UVA is Iowa State. I am debating having them take the region in one of my entries. They are well-coached by Fred Hoiberg, and have played in a tougher league top to bottom than UVA. Though UVA impressed me a great deal this year, accomplishing all of this in what admittedly would be described as a down year from Joe "The Disney Dreamboat" Harris, I think they lucked out on Strength of Schedule in ACC play. As a DC metro guy, I am rooting for former Terp Mike Lonergan and his GW squad, though nerves are still a little raw from the Nigel Munson defection (6 years ago).
JC: Mike Lonergan is at the top of my list to fill a certain coaching vacancy in the ACC. His team is solid and they play aggressive defense which would make for a really intense game against Tony Bennett's pack-line D. Every time I go through the region I can see a different team winning out of Virginia, Michigan State or Iowa State. No one's even talking about Villanova. Do you think 'Nova or St. Joseph's poses a bigger threat from the Philadelphia teams?
Flyers13: The question will be: Can certain teams with coaching vacancies step up to the plate financially. I actually think Whit Babcock's old school (Cincinnati) is in fantastic position to return to the Final Four for the first time since 1992 (Nick Van Exel Heatcheck!) This region might have the most competitive balance of the four, so I can totally understand the flip-flopping. For some reason I lump Jay Wright (Nova) and Jamie Dixon (Pitt) together in a group of coaches in that I respect their ability to win 25 games a year. But when it comes to winning six games in a row, the intensity they bring might burn their teams out. I'd welcome a Philly war in the event UConn falters (which I doubt). I still haven't forgiven Martelli for how he treated that big man who wanted to transfer to UAB a couple years back. After all the bad publicity from that, I can't believe he still has his job.
JC: Thinking of Phil Martelli shook loose a repressed memory of an old A-10 game in Cassell. I recall the St. Joe's mascot has a thing where it never stops flapping its wings the entire game (but during timeouts it only flaps one to conserve energy). The Hokie Bird tried to put a hula hoop over the Hawk at one point to prevent him from flapping. Anyway, I think Cincinnati is in danger of losing to Harvard. It's not often you type that but Tommy Amaker's club is actually better than last season when they made it to the 3rd round. That should be a great opening game. Do you see any strange upsets in this region?
Flyers13: Ah the age old tactics of the Hokie Bird. The flapping is an issue at every meeting. It's a point of contention. I read up on what Amaker is doing at Harvard and I'm sufficiently impressed. I don't know if you call Providence over UNC an upset, but by the seeding it is. Providence showed me some grit in beating Creighton for the Big East Championship and they look like they're peaking at the right time. UNC had a very nice second half themselves and are playing confidently. It'll be a fantastic round 1 game to watch.
It's hard to go against Michigan St. in this region, but I like UConn as an outside choice. Adriean Payne might pull a John Wallace on this tournament though, and impose his will on both ends. He suffered an injury in the middle of the year and lost some of his steam for Player of the Year. If I had to pick a guy to have a breakout tournament it's Payne. Who are you taking in the East?
JC: I've waffled so much on this region because there are some very serious contenders. I feel dirty saying this, but I really like Virginia's chances. They're so disciplined on both ends and Tony Bennett never seems to get shaken. He'll have to get by Tom Izzo who's one of the all-time best in the tournament and you're right about Adrien Payne. He was very impressive against the Hokies when he was healthy earlier this year. A big man that can shoot with range should strike fear in the heart of all. Still, I'm taking the Cavaliers to win the East. Now if you'll excuse me, I need a shower.
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