NCAA Tournament 2014 schedule: Virginia faces tough tests in East Region

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova, North Carolina and Michigan State are among the teams expected to give the Cavaliers a tough test.

Virginia is the top seed in the East, earning the distinction after winning the ACC regular season and conference tournament titles. They won't have an easy path to the Final Four, however, as contenders such as Villanova, Iowa State, Michigan State, North Carolina and small-school sleepers like George Washington look to upset the Cavaliers.

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina, 9:25 p.m. ET, Friday, TBS

Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and they've been playing some of their best basketball in March. Coastal Carolina, meanwhile, is the second-worst tournament team according to KenPom, ranked only above fellow 16-seed Texas Southern.

No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 George Washington, 6:55 p.m. ET, Friday, TBS

Memphis isn't the dominating mid-major team of recent history, but the Tigers still have a solid squad. They lost by two points to top overall seed Florida, and have one of the top assist rates in the nation. They'll face a George Washington team that is certainly no pushover. The Colonials defeated Creighton, Manhattan, Maryland and VCU in the regular season, and have an experienced team led by graduate transfers Isaiah Armwood (Villanova) and Maurice Creek (Indiana).

No. 5 Cincinnati vs. No. 12 Harvard, 2:10 p.m. ET, Thursday, TNT

The Bearcats are considered the second-best team in the American conference by KenPom, behind just Louisville — who they split their season series with. Cincinnati is led by guard Sean Kilpatrick, who is averaging 20.7 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game and 1.4 steals per game. Harvard continues their resurgence under Tommy Amaker, with one of the best defenses in the nation bolstered by a dangerous three-point attack.

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware, 4:40 p.m. ET, Thursday, TNT

The Spartans have had plenty of success in the tournament under Tom Izzo, and come into March Madness fresh off a conference tournament title. Michigan State is led by sophomore guard Gary Harris (17.1 points per game) and senior forward Adreian Payne (15.8 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game). They'll face a Delaware team that did not defeat a top-100 KenPom team all year long, but has two players (Devon Saddler and Davon Usher) who are averaging over 19 points per game.

No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Providence, 7:20 p.m. ET,  Friday, TNT

The Tar Heels had a strange start to the season, losing to Belmont, UAB and Wake Forest but defeating Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky. North Carolina is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country, as are Providence, who sport a highly efficient offense that ranks second in the nation in free throw percentage. The Friars were a surprise winner of the Big East Tournament, defeating Creighton in the final — a team they also beat once in the regular season.

No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 14 NC Central, 9:50 p.m. ET, Friday, TNT

Iowa State got off to a 14-0 start under head coach Fred Hoiberg this year, with wins over Michigan, Iowa and Baylor. After a brief downspell in Big 12 play, the Cyclones ran through the Big 12 tournament, defeating Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor to bring home the automatic bid. After a loss to open up MEAC play, NC Central ended the season on an 18-game winning streak, winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles for the conference.

No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 Saint Joseph's, 6:55 p.m. ET, Thursday, TBS

The Huskies started the season 9-0, and look well on their way to returning to previous heights under Jim Calhoun. Their biggest win came over Florida, with two over Memphis as another significant achievement. UConn is led by star senior guard Shabazz Napier, who is averaging 17.4 points per game and will be looking to take over in the tournament. Saint Joseph's won the Atlantic-10 tournament to clinch their bid, defeating VCU (for the second time this season) in the title game to get there.

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Milwaukee, 9:25 p.m. ET, Thursday, TBS

The Wildcats just missed out on a top seed, and could create a tough matchup for Virginia if the two teams end up meeting. Villanova lost just three games in the regular season — blowouts to Creighton (two of them) and Syracuse — before falling in the opening round of the conference tournament to Seton Hall. Milwaukee won the Horizon League tournament, and boasts a pair of wins over Green Bay as their most impressive victories.

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