East Region Preview: Big Names, Bigger Competition

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 13: David Lighty #23 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the championship game of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ohio State won 71-60. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The first region announced on Selection Sunday, the East Region is, in short, the best of the four quadrants, and should be the primary focus for the first two weekends of the tournament. Featuring four Big East teams, and six of the field’s 20 most profitable college basketball programs, you won’t want to stray away from any games here, especially now that it has been announced that Gus Johnson will be on the call for a few of them. 

We won't bore you with predictions, but there's plenty to be gleaned after the jump...

Guy we will be "Searching For" five years from now

  • Nick: Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine – The up and down guard is talented, but streaky shooting and inability to know what’s best for the team makes him the butt of many jokes. He's going to be mildly memorable, but certainly not a pro.
  • Dave: West Virginia's Joe Mazzulla - Injuries have made Joe's career seem about eight years long. Don't expect NBA teams to seek out the services of this 6'2" point guard with the jump shot of a post player. He's a tough kid who enjoys nature, so maybe we'll find him in an Italian or Turkish league at some point down the road.
  • Dan: Washington's Isaiah Thomas - Thanks to his much more famous predecessor at the same position, we'll never forget this name, but the Huskies' diminutive point guard may soon fade from our consciousness. His Pac-10 winning shot will likely latch on in the epic Gus archives, but at only 5'9'', Thomas is a candidate to shuffle between the D-League and The League

Best possible story line

  • Nick: Not George Mason replicating their 2006 success. This is the tournament’s best bracket, with the most "big names." We should hope for the favorites to advance, creating a marquee weekend of regional semis and a final.
  • Dave: A possible Kentucky/North Carolina match-up to decide the region. These are two of the most successful programs in the history of the sport, with two coaches who consistently draw the ire of opposing fan bases. Plus, and this is the important part, the winner here could conceivably go on to play the Dukies in the Final Four.
  • Dan: It seems like forever ago that the Oden/Conley/Cook trio took Ohio State title game. The other freshman in that cog? David Lighty. The fifth year senior returns to his home in Cleveland for the opening weekend, and will look to return to the Final Four for the second time in five seasons.

Why Ohio State won’t prevail

  • Nick: UNC is the only team in this bracket that can hang with the Buckeyes for 40 minutes, so this is probably going to have to go chalk just for the opportunity for Thad Matta’s club to get bounced before Houston. Thinking a loss can only come if Diebler isn’t hitting and the team is dealing with foul problems.
  • Dave: No. 1 is foul trouble because depth is an obvious concern. Aside from that, the Buckeyes don't dominate mediocre-to-good opponents like they're capable of. They also play in a surprisingly high amount of tight games for a unanimous Final Four "lock", let alone the top overall seed. I also think it's possible we'll see Sullinger's weaknesses at the defensive end get exposed a bit, especially in late-game high pick and roll situations.
  • Dan: The Buckeyes' haven't run into this problem because they haven't played anybody with an NBA front line. But if Sullinger or Lauderdale get into foul trouble they become vulnerable down low against bigger teams like Kentucky and UNC. In the end, North Carolina's talent and length in the post could be too much for Ohio State to overcome, especially if someone like Barnes is locking up Diebler on the outside. Ohio State has the most talent in the bracket, but the matchup with North Carolina is certainly not favorable.

So who we got?

  • Nick: Ohio State over Syracuse.
  • Dave: Kentucky over Syracuse.
  • Dan: North Carolina over Ohio State.

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