The East Regional is not lacking big name teams, that's for sure. But the storylines see many of the teams going in opposite directions. While WVU and Kentucky are coming off of thrilling wins in their conference championships, teams like Clemson, Missouri, Texas and Wake Forest are just happy that the regular season is over.
There are definitely some exciting matchups to keep an eye on in the first round. Clemson and Missouri brace themselves for a wall-to-wall 40 Minutes of Hell for the chance to face Bob Huggins' Mountaineers. Mid-major darling Cornell faces a red hot Temple team. And ultra-talented squads Texas and Wake Forest both try to find a way to regain some of the momentum they lost in the second half of the season.
Opening Round Games
1 Kentucky vs. 16 E. Tenn. St.
National Player of the Year candidate John Wall leads Eric Bledsoe, Demarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson in their quest for the championship. Their first opponent is Eastern Tennessee State, winners of the Atlantic Sun as a five seed. The Bucs, coached by Murry Bartow, are paced by double-double machine Tommy Hubbard, who averaged 14.1 points and 8.3 rebounds on the year.
8 Texas vs. 9 Wake Forest
It's been a six weeks to forget for the Longhorns and Demon Deacons. Rick Barnes' club went 6-6 in their last twelve games, and Wake Forest, after winning four in a row to start February, dropped four of their last five regular season games and were embarrassed by 12th-seeded Miami in the ACC Tournament. It all starts over in March, and both teams are out to prove they can win.
5 Temple vs. 12 Cornell
The Big Red plowed through the Ivy League this year and locked up the first official NCAA Tournament berth behind Ryan Wittman. Unfortunately for Cornell, the Temple Owls were a wrecking crew as well. The Owls finished with a 29-5 record, an A-10 Championship, and a KenPom ranking of 18 to show for it. This proves to be a must-see first round matchup.
4 Wisconsin vs. 13 Wofford
The last time Wisconsin played Wofford, they wore ridiculous socks and smoked the Terriers. It's two years later, but the Badgers are hoping to make a deep run after bowing out in their first round game against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin owns wins against Maryland, Duke, Marquette, Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State, and with Bo Ryan on the sidelines, they are always dangerous.
6 Marquette vs. 11 Washington
These are two teams with a lot of momentum. Washington played their way into the tournament by taking the Pac-10 crown, while Marquette won 11 of their last 14 games, including a statement win against ‘Nova in the Big East Tournament. The Golden Eagles have Lazar Hayward on their side, and aside from having one of the best first names ever, he is a pretty good player to boot, averaging 18 points on the year.
3 New Mexico vs. 14 Montana
Steve Alford has been here before. A three seed while Head Coach at Iowa, the Hawkeyes were shocked by Southland Champs Northwestern State. Now a Lobo, Alford coached New Mexico to a 29-4 record this year, including 10 road wins. Big Sky Champs Montana will need another spectacular performance out of Anthony Johnson, who dropped 34 points in the second half of the Grizzlies' win over Weber State.
7 Clemson vs. 10 Missouri
Both teams better hydrate ahead of time. The committee decided to be cute and match up both Tigers, who just so happen to also press from end to end the entire game. Although Clemson and Missouri didn't exactly finish strong down the stretch, this is sure to be a physical, sloppy and highly entertaining game.
2 West Virginia vs. 15 Morgan State
Bob Huggins looked about as emotional as we've ever seen him after the Mountaineers' win over Georgetown at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Da'Sean Butler played out of his mind and hopes to carry that momentum over into the Dance. Morgan State earned their second straight NCAA Tournament berth after defeating South Carolina State, and their senior-laden club will try to give the Mountaineers all that they can handle.
Best Opening Round Game
This part of the bracket has some of the best first round games in the entire Tournament, but one game stands out: Temple vs. Cornell. This is a chance for two mid-majors to duke it out and both teams are certainly deserving of their seeds. The battle between Cornell's Ryan Wittman and Temple guards Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez is definitely one to watch.
Best Chance At A First Round Upset
Calling Cornell over Temple wouldn't be an upset, even though it is billed as a 12-5 game. So it's time to look at one that might not happen, but is intriguing nonetheless. Wofford comes into the Tournament winning 19 of their last 20 games. The Terriers played Pittsburgh right down to the wire way back in November, beat South Carolina and Georgia, and played Michigan State tough-so they've shown they won't be scared of the Badgers.
It's a cop-out, but #1 vs. #2. Seeing Kentucky against West Virginia, Huggins vs. Calipari, Wall vs. Butler would be incredible, especially if Gus Johnson were somehow involved.
It's a complete mess trying to pick the games here, but I'll give it a shot. While the middle of the region is a toss-up, I think the bookends of UK and WVU will be able to hold their seeding and meet up for a chance at the Final Four. There are some definite contenders, but I'm not convinced that any of the teams have enough to take the Wildcats and Mountaineers down.