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Bracket Breakdown: East Region

by Photo of Geoff Hutchinson

Can Ohio State live up to its preseason expectations?

Bracket Breakdown: East Region

The brackets are out, which means only one thing: March Madness has arrived.  Before the tournament begins, CHARGED.fm will give you a breakdown of each region of the bracket.  Here's what to expect in the East Region.

Overview:

In the East, you find the #2 overall seed in Syracuse with a very interesting path on its quest to the National Championship. In the bottom of the bracket, you will find Ohio State as the #2 seed, and two teams that just defeated #1 seeds in their conference tournaments in #3 Florida State, and #5 Vanderbilt. Syracuse’s last loss can also be found in this region in #6 Cincinnati, who defeated Syracuse in the Big East semifinals. It would not be complete with mentioning #4 Wisconsin, who has always been a tough out in the tournament under coach Bo Ryan. Red-hot mid majors such as #12 Harvard, #13 Montana, #14 St. Bonaventure, and #15 Loyola (MD) lurk in the background, waiting for the opportunity to potentially send one of the favorites in the region home early.

Most Compelling Matchup: 6th seed Cincinnati versus 11th seed Texas

The 6/11 matchup brings us two pretty evenly matched teams. According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, the 11th seed Texas is actually the higher-rated team. Cincinnati is coming off a loss in the Big East Tournament to Louisville, where the Bearcats struggled to generate offense for most of the game. That has been an issue of this team all season long. The Bearcats have a balanced offensive attack, with four players averaging in double figures. Cincinnati’s four guard lineup could cause problems for Texas freshman guard Myck Kabongo, who has struggled with turnovers this season. As for Texas, coach Rick Barnes has relied primarily on guard J’Covan Brown to supply the firepower for this young Longhorns squad. Texas is amongst the nation’s best at getting to the free throw line, while Cincinnati doesn’t foul its opponents, for the most part.   Both teams feast on the offensive boards, while neither does a particularly good job at defensive rebounding. This should be the most intriguing matchup in East Regional during the second round due to how evenly matched both teams are.

Upset Lock: 10th seed West Virginia over 7th seed Gonzaga

Poor Gonzaga. All they did was finish the season with a 25-6 record including wins over tournament teams such as Xavier, St. Mary’s, and Notre Dame, and how does the NCAA Selection Committee reward them? Giving them a 7th seed in the Pittsburgh regional against West Virginia. This will be a de facto home game for the Mountaineers, as West Virginia is only 90 minutes away from the venue. The Mountaineers are led by senior forward Kevin Jones, who averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds during the season. Jones, along with senior guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant carry a majority of the offensive load for West Virginia, accounting for over 50% of the Mountaineers’ points on the season. West Virginia has struggled to score at times this year, especially when either Jones or Bryant isn’t on their A game.

Gonzaga has a well-balanced offense with 4 players scoring in double figures. Freshman guard Kevin Pangos, an import from Canada, has lit up teams with his profilic three-point shooting. Center Robert Sacre provides a solid low post option for Mark Few’s Bulldogs. If this game was played anywhere else except Pittsburgh, I would count on a Gonzaga win, but the long journey across country, along with the de facto road game will not be enough for the Bulldogs to overcome in the end.

X-Factor: William Buford, Ohio State

If Ohio State plans on playing in New Orleans, it will need more consistent play from their senior guard William Buford. When Ohio State struggles, it’s usually because Buford has an off night from the field. While Jared Sullinger gets most of the publicity from the media, the key for the tournament will be William Buford. As a team, Ohio State shoots 33% from 3 point range, and the Buckeyes will need their marksman to connect from long range to help keep defenses honest for Sullinger in the post. If Buford is unable to do this, things will become difficult for Ohio State on offense.

Honorable Mention: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt. The junior sharpshooter can fill it up from behind the arc. If Vanderbilt hopes to make some noise in the tournament, it will need Jenkins’s deadly shooting.  

Final Four Prediction: Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes have the best player in the region in center Jared Sullinger, along with great complimentary role players such as Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and William Buford. It will not be a cakewalk for the Buckeyes by any stretch of the imagination, but in the end, their talent should win out. A potential Sweet Sixteen matchup against Florida State could prove to be very dangerous as the Seminoles have the size to effectively bother Sullinger. However, the concern as always with the ‘Noles is their ability to generate consistent offense.  

Another major issue that plagues the ‘Noles is that they turn the ball over on 23.7% of their possessions, while Ohio State forces turnovers on 22.8% of its opponents’ possessions. After that, Ohio State could possibly have to face Big East power and #1 seed Syracuse in the Elite Eight. Sullinger’s ability to dominate the paint will be a major key, as Syracuse struggles to effectively rebound out of their 2-3 zone. While, there are concerns about Ohio State’s ability to consistently hit open 3 pointers, I think they have more than enough capable shooters to counteract Syracuse’s length. If Ohio State faces any other team in this region, they will simply outclass them, and advance rather easily.

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