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2017 NCAA Tournament: East Region Preview

Here’s almost half the Big East and a couple of really compelling small conference schools. Oh, and Duke.

NCAA Basketball: CAA Conference Tournament - UNCW vs Northeastern
Take care of the ball and jack threes. The low major recipe for upset success.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Banners’ coverage of the 2017 NCAA Tournament! Here we will give you the same info that you can get hundreds of other places on the web processed slightly differently and with our own slant as you prepare to immerse yourself in all things college basketball in the most glorious four days on the sporting calendar. We will break the bracket down region by region to get you completely prepared to pick and, more importantly, root with the best information available.

If you were looking for where the rest of the Big East landed in the tournament, it was here in the East Region. Villanova landed the #1 overall seed, Providence hit the play-in games, and Marquette drew themselves into a chance where two sweet shooting nights could see them knocking off hated Duke. So if the East is primarily where you go to see the Big East (that stands to reason, I guess), what else is there on offer?



Look at this group. Nova gets no argument, and neither does Duke, Baylor is a top 15 KenPom team, as are Florida and Virginia. There’s your top five. Sixth seeded is SMU, 30-4 overall, 11th in the KenPom and fresh off a pasting of UC in the AAC final. South Carolina, at seven, beat Michigan, Syracuse, Florida, and Vermont. The 8/9 game features freaking Wisconsin and a Va Tech team that has already beaten Virginia and Duke. At 10 and 11 come Big East teams, and 12th is UNCW, the trendiest upset pick in the bracket and the highest ranked low major in the field. If you’d like to start arguing that a 13 or 14 is overseeded, I suppose you could, but the fact of the matter is this bracket is loaded.


#5 Virginia

Congrats Hoos, your worst loss this year is to Pitt. Other than that, you have no losses outside the KenPom top 50 and you’ve beaten Louisville twice and UNC. Virginia Tech, that frightening nine seed in this region? You wailed on them by 23. What’s your reward? A five seed against the one kind of team that can beat the packline. What sense this makes when both Purdue and Butler pulled four seeds and Florida State pulled a three is beyond me.

Easy to like:

#13 ETSU

They got here on the back of one of the wildest finishes of Championship Week and they straight up shoot the lights out inside the arc. The Buccaneers do what they do well, and they don’t worry about the rest. They turn you over, but they don’t really care if they turn it over because why worry about a little thing like that. Their tallest player is 6-9 and they love to shoot it inside. This, of course, means they get a ton of shots blocked. Their response, somehow block 14.4% of their opponents attempts with that same undersized lineup. These guys just flat out get after it and dare you to beat them by being more efficient. Florida probably will, but ETSU won’t give one thought to changing.

Fun to watch:

#10 Marquette

This is a team that Xavier fans are familiar with. What makes them fun, when they aren’t doing it to the Musketeers, is that never-ending barrage of three pointers. The Golden Eagles shoot 43% behind the arc (best in the nation), take 41% of their shots from behind the arc, and get 38% of their points from there. Basically, they just chuck it from the cheap seats with just the slightest invitation. That’s always fun to watch.

Easy to hate:

#2 Duke

The most sanctimonious, grandstanding, self-important, reprehensible move of this season somehow didn’t come from Mick Cronin or Jim Boeheim though, God bless them, they tried, but from Coach K of the imminently loathable Duke. When his team of young men wasn’t playing up to his exacting standards (well, from what he could see in repose) he locked them out of the locker room and forbade them to wear any team gear. This, of course, can in no way impact the play of a team, but it is a great way to make sure you get to keep suckling at the media teat.

And Grayson Allen. Allen is the Christian Laettner heir apparent for the most Duke player in this tournament. He whines, he cries, he flops, he gets every call, and he’s despicably dirty. Don’t like a guy? Kick him. Someone rightfully stole the ball from you? Trip him. Get caught? Cry. People complain about the AAU mentality and players who preen after dunks, but Grayson Allen is the real menace to college basketball. He and his ilk hide behind their money and never take the beatings their attitudes would earn at any YMCA in the nation.

Danger team:

#12 UNCW

First things first, they aren’t a great defense. No low major that has made it this far is likely to truly be able to clamp down on an ACC or Big East type team. What the Seahawks do is absolutely cherish the ball right up until the moment they can shoot it from deep. UNCW turns the ball over on 13.9%, tied for first in the nation with Notre Dame and Mike Brey’s dreary burn “offense.” After they haven’t turned the ball over, they shoot threes on 42% of their trips at a respectable 36%. When they shoot inside, they do it at a ninth best in the nation 56%. If they get hot, which they can, they’re going to make enough of their possessions pay to pull a shock...or two.

Best matchup:

#7 South Carolina v. #10 Marquette

The nation’s third best defense takes on the seventh best offense. Marquette loves to knock down threes, the Gamecocks defy any team to even find the room to get them off. The Golden Eagles don’t turn the ball over much, SC forces turnovers well. On the other end of the floor, neither team inspires, but the battle when Marquette has the ball should be amazing.

Player to watch:

TJ Cromer, ETSU

You may only get to see him once, so watch carefully. Cromer is a guard who flat out fills it up. You can bank him for 20, he gets 30 from time to time and, in the semi-finals of his conference tournament, he scored 41 on only 18 shots. 40% behind the arc, 51% inside it, and careful with the ball, Cromer is the kind of guy who can strap a team on his back and pull off a huge upset. It may not happen, but you can bet TJ won’t let the opportunity to lift on the big stage pass him by.