The March Madness East region of the bracket features Big Ten champion Purdue, the 1 seed who no one seems to believe in, plus blue bloods Duke and Kentucky.
When the East Region of the March Madness bracket tips off on Thursday, no team will have more bulletin-board material than Purdue.
They’re the 1 seed, the Big Ten champions, and they have the likely Player of the Year – but it’s hard to find an expert who’s taking the Boilermakers to make the Final Four.
Can one great player carry a team in March Madness?
The March Madness East Region Favorite
Purdue. Are you really the favorite if no one believes in you?
Here’s what Purdue has going for them – they rose above a mediocre pack to dominate the Big Ten in the regular season and conference tournament.
They accomplished this largely on the considerable shoulders of Zack Edey, the Naismith Award frontrunner averaging 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. At 7-foot-4 and 305 lbs., Edey represents the single most challenging player matchup in March Madness.
The concerns seem to focus on his supporting cast – only one other Boilermaker averages double-figure scoring, guard Fletcher Loyer with 10.9 per game – and how Purdue will survive if an opponent can contain Edey.
The East Region Contenders
Here’s one popular pick to outlast Purdue – the Big East champion Golden Eagles, led by four double-digit scorers and a threat to present matchup problems specifically tailored to beat Purdue.
Marquette’s Tyler Kolek is second in the country in assists per game (7.7) and the team ranks second in fastbreak points, presenting an interesting contrast to methodical Purdue.
Coach K is retired, but you can’t have a March Madness discussion without the Blue Devils, flying high off an ACC Tournament title and playing their best basketball of the year.
Beset by injuries early, Duke is 17-1 with their full lineup available as it should be at the start of March Madness.
Another blue blood featuring the defending Player of the Year in Oscar Tshiebwe, the Wildcats are menaces on the offensive boards. They rebound almost 40 percent of their own misses, and the talent is second to none.
Consistency is the issue for a team that just last year saw its high hopes unravel as a 2 seed in an opening loss to St. Peter’s.
FanDuel Sports SPECIAL OFFER
The East Region’s Cinderella Team
Tough call in a loaded region featuring Michigan State, Oral Roberts, and others. But the Ragin’ Cajuns are more than just a cool nickname with the interior duo of Jordan Brown and Terence Lewis.
With point guard Zakai Ziegler lost to injury, No. 4 Tennessee figures to have its hands full against a Louisiana team in search of the program’s first March Madness win since 1992.
East Region’s Best First-Round Game
No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic: The No. 8 Tigers come in off a win against no less than the Midwest’s top seed in Houston.
The Tigers play fast, they play aggressive, and they’re big with plenty of depth. They’re one of the teams that causes matchup problems and nightmares for power programs in March every year.
Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic is the other type of team that poses problems – experienced, confident, and prolific. The metrics and analytics love the Owls, champions of Conference USA tied for the most wins in the country with 31. They lead the nation in bench points and won’t be intimidated by Memphis’ depth.
BetRivers Sports SECOND CHANCE
East Region Predictions
If March Madness was predictable, it wouldn’t be as popular.
So don’t write off Purdue just because so many experts do. Edey is a unique weapon, and teams will struggle to prepare for him on such short notice.
At the same time, a region with Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State has plenty of options – and they’re not even among the top-4 seeds. The East is this year’s wide-open region, with 6-7 teams having a convincing case to make the Final Four.
March Madness East Region Pick
March Madness East Region Odds
Here are the odds for each team to win the East Region, along with their National Championship odds (all odds from FanDuel):
|TEAM||TO WIN EAST REGION||TO WIN NATIONAL TITLE|