NCAA East Region Preview

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Lindsay Van Gyn

March 29th, 2019

Duke-Virginia Tech and LSU-Michigan State headline East Region Sweet 16

Was the UCF scare enough for the Blue Devils to level up against the Hokies? Michigan State had a cakewalk in the second round, but the Tigers are here for a fight.

#1 Duke Blue Devils -7 over #1 Virginia Tech Hokies, Friday March 29th, 9:39 pm EST

All together now: “DUKE IS BEATABLE!” This is not a hot take, but I want to reiterate how close Duke came to not being in the Sweet 16. In fact, it could be argued that they got beat by UFC. However, I’m not here to debate. I am here to tell you who is going to win the fight to the Elite Eight between Duke and Virginia Tech.

The Hokies had an easier matchup in their game against Liberty, and when they were down at the half, they came out swinging in the second. Kerry Blackshear Jr. topped the scoreboard with 19 points and a deadly 8 rebounds, but Virginia Tech had three other players with double-digit numbers. The Hokies are averaging 73.6 points per game on 47.3% shooting from the field, 39.5% from beyond the arc, and 76% from the free-throw line. Those are some “we’re going to beat Duke numbers.” HOWEVER, let’s not count out the Blue Devils just yet.

Zion had a team-high 32 points and 11 rebounds, plus 4 assists. RJ Barrett managed a cool 16 points, 8 boards, and 4 assists, Cam Reddish had 13 points with 3 three-pointers, Tre Jones added up 11 points and another 4 assists. Dang, that’s a tough team to tangle with.

Duke has the 8th-highest scoring average in the nation with 83.5 but are fairly evenly matched with Virginia Tech on all other fronts. The Hokies have a savage defense, but you try playing defense against Zion and see how good you feel about it after.

The Hokies are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games and 6-2 ATS in their last 8 neutral-site games. Duke is 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 NCAA Tournament games.

What can I say? This is a tough call, but I feel like Duke is warming up for a takedown, and Zion and Barrett will relentlessly out-athlete the Hokies on almost every front. I’m taking them for the win.

#2 Michigan St. Spartans -6 over #3 LSU Tigers, Friday March 29th, 7:09 pm, EST

The Spartans used their second-round matchup against Minnesota as a warmup for the Sweet 16. LSU, on the other hand, had to fight to beat the Maryland Terrapins, and it was touch-and-go right until the final buzzer.

Xavier Tillman was the highest scorer for Michigan State, and the rest was upheld by a beautiful team effort, which is what makes this team so dynamic. They rank #4 in the nation in rebound margin and have limited opponents to just 10 offensive rebounds over the past 2 tournament games.

LSU will need to double down on their first-half shooting percentage (52.4%) from the floor and replicate it in the second. They dipped in the second half of both of their games against Yale and Maryland to 30.7%. If they can level up for the entirety of the game, they have a shot at beating Michigan State.

The Tigers have a solid offense, a tight backcourt game and an athletic frontcourt that gets them to the free-throw line. If you see Tremont Waters nearing a 20-point game, place your bets on LSU to win. They are 7-0 when Waters scores 20 points or more.

The Spartans are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 games against a team with a winning straight-up record, 24-9 ATS in their last 33 games and 21-7 ATS in their last 28 games after a straight-up win. The Tigers are 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 non-conference games, 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 neutral-site matchups, and 2-11-1 ATS in their last 14 Friday games.

LSU will put up a huge fuss and stay tight with the Spartans, but in the end, Michigan will prevail and head to the Elite Eight.

Lindsay Van Gyn has a masters degree in sports communications focusing on the NFL. She is a passionate writer who focuses on the cultural intersection of sports, statistics and fans.