NCAA Tournament East Region - More Than Just "Where Duke Is"

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Lindsay Van Gyn

March 20th, 2019

Duke is favored to win the whole tournament at +210.

The birds-eye story in the East Region is simple: Will anyone upset Duke? The more granular element to this part of the bracket is simple. There are tons of games here where we think we know what's going to happen, but this is March Madness. Don't get too blinded by the presence of Zion Williamson here. There's tons of earning potential in an East Region that is otherwise wide open.

#9 UFC Knights -1.0 over #8 VCU Rams 

Both of these teams are strolling into their first March Madness game with winning records. The Knights have won 7 of their last 10 and the VCU Rams have been winners in 12 of their last 13.

This should be a simply delightful bloodbath with two evenly matched teams. VCU is 10th in points allowed and 6th in FG% allowed. The Knights are 38th in points allowed and 13th in FG%.

Additionally, the Rams are 15-4 ATS in their last NCAA Tournament games and the Knights are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 non-conference games

In the end the edge is awarded to the Knights who have size and will feed everything through college basketball’s tallest player, Tacko Fall. The Rams just don’t have the depth (or height) to deal with him.

Onward, Knights.

#12 Liberty +6.5 over #5 Mississippi St. Bulldogs

The Liberty Flames won the Atlantic Sun championship as a 6.5 point underdog and the Mississippi State Bulldogs lost it all against the Vols in the SEC tournament.

The Flames are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games versus a team with a winning straight up record and are 5-16 in their last 21 neutral site games. The Bulldogs are 4-1 in their last 5 non-conference games and 35-16-1 in their last 52 games following an ATS loss.

Liberty is darn good and have not lost two in a row all season. They took down Georgetown and Vanderbilt, which is notable given their own stature in the big picture of the NCAA. 

The Liberty Flames will continue to claim authentic underdog status by taking down the Bulldogs. At worst, they keep this close, so grabbing the points here seems like the profit maker. 

#4 Virginia Tech Hokies -9.5 over #13 Saint Louis Billikens

Saint Louis is one of the surprise attendees to the Big Dance after beating up Bonaventure on Sunday. The poor Hokies suffered a devastating loss to Florida State in the ACC tournament and will look to knock this lower seeded team out. But they shouldn’t be so confident.

Saint Louis has allowed just 93.3 points per 100 possessions and held teams to a FG% of just 46.9, perfectly landing them 26th in the league. Virginia Tech has forced 21.7% turnover rate on their opponents and are 8th in the league for 3-point shots.

Backing the Billikens has been an easy choice as they are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 after a straight-up win and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 after an ATS win. The Hokies are 0-4 in their last 4 NCAA Tournament games and 5-1 ATS in their last 6 neutral games. 

As much as I like Saint Louis overall, this seems like a talent mismatch through and through. Virginia Tech has been grinding through the ultra-competitive ACC all season long. This will be a cakewalk for them.

#14 Yale Bulldogs +7.5 over #3 LSU Tigers

Could this be the first major upset for March Madness? Possibly.

LSU limped away from the SEC tournament in a 76-73 decision against the Florida Gators. Yale nabbed a spot by way of claiming the Ivy League Championship over the Harvard Crimson.

The Bulldogs have an average of 87 PPG, are 24th in the country for scoring, and shot 60.4% from the field in their game against Harvard. They may not have a strong defence but their offence can be crippling.

LSU had a stellar season and topped the standings until they were unable to parlay it into an SEC title. They have slumped in recent weeks and it’s not particularly the best time to do this.

Yale are 6-1 in ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600, 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following an ATS win, and 11-3 ATS in their last 14 neutral site games.

Guys, I’m calling upset here. The Bulldogs will win this in a close game. The Ivy League Champion usually has a ton of fight in them in the Round of 64. 

#10 Louisville Cardinals -5 over #7  Minnesota Gophers

Louisville is another team that has struggled through the end of the regular season while losing 8 of their last 12 on a tough schedule. Minnesota is also feeling lackluster after they fell to Michigan on Saturday, which knocked them out of the Big Ten Tournament.

It depends which Louisville team shows up, but recent trends haven't been kind. Everyone loved the Cardinals after they stomped Michigan State in November, but that seems like a lifetime ago.

Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy might be able to tangle with the Cards. Murphy is the Gophers all-time leading rebounder and 5th nationally in double-doubles with 22 this year.

The Gophers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 after a straight-up loss and 1-5 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games. For the Cards, they sit at 10-3-1 ATS in their last 14 versus the Big Ten and 11-4-1 ATS in their last 16 after and ATS loss

Forget the controversy and revenge narrative swirling around this and focus, people! The Cards are here for the win, I’ll take ‘em and you should too.

#2 Michigan State Spartans -18.5 over #15 Bradley Braves

Michigan State is here to play. If they can battle through injury and take the Big Ten tournament, you can bet they are not slowing down. Bradly came out of the middle of the pack to take the Missouri Valley Conference title on Sunday. We haven’t seen these guys in the tournament since 2006. Running in to the Spartans in the first round is a murderous welcome.

Bradley does have a couple stellar guards in Darrel Brown and Nate Nennel who are capable from the field. Their defense is pretty good at holding opponents to 41.1% overall and 32.8% overall.

The Spartans should be in the running for a Final Four spot but since they were crammed into the East Region it might be a decision between Duke and Michigan State.

The Spartans are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 games following a cover in the game prior, 20-6 ATS following a straight-up win and 4-0 ATS against Missouri Valley teams

Bradley is 2-6 ATS in its last 8 games as an underdog of 13 or more points and 2-5 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games.

No shocker here, folks: Michigan are going to cream the Braves and move on to the next round.  

#6 Maryland Terps -3.0 vs #11 Belmont Bruins

Belmont leads the nation in assists with 19.6 per game and this gives their guards a good look at where they need to be before getting the handoff. They have a 59.5% shooting from 2-point range. They are fast and don’t turn the ball over but their defense ranks at 127th in the league.

Maryland will be the favorite but have been noted for their turnover issues and have gaps in their defense. The Terps have phenomenal players in Cowan and Morsell who can shut down Temple’s vets.

The Terps should move through this round in a tight game against Belmont, but the Bruins will make them sweat. 

#1 Duke Blue Devils over  #16 Who Cares University

Let's just cut to the chase here: Neither of these play-in teams has a chance against Duke. If one of them does beat Duke (they won’t) it would be the biggest upset in the history of time. Duke is going to win this game, guys, and the incoming spread is going to be too big to properly get your head around. Skip this one and wait till the Round of 32 where Duke will maybe have some value.

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.