The East region feels like a crash course featuring only two teams — Villanova and Duke. Upsets can happen, and I love SMU to make the Sweet 16, but I don’t envision an Elite Eight with a different matchup. It doesn’t mean this region will be boring. By the second weekend, though, it will likely be chalk.

Here’s the breakdown for the East region.

Best Bets

UNC Wilmington (+7.5) vs. Virginia

Virginia is one of those teams that could challenge Villanova en route to an Elite Eight or lose in the first round. The Cavaliers can’t score, but their defense is elite. That inability to score, though, may haunt them as the favorites in the first round against the Seahawks. I like Virginia to move on and compete well against Villanova in the Sweet 16, but I don’t like them to blow out UNC Wilmington. The Seahawks can score and will keep this close. — Go Against The Chalk with UNC Wilmington

Virginia Tech (+5.5) vs. Wisconsin

I love teams that everyone is writing off. Virginia Tech can play and they’re likely tired  of hearing everyone talk about how much Wisconsin got underseeded. Virginia Tech had the best field goal percentage in the nation’s best conference. The Badgers force the opposition to value possessions and the Hokies can do that better than almost anyone in this tournament. — Go Against The Chalk with Virginia Tech

The Villanova Wildcats are a good bet against the spread. Flickr

Mount St. Mary’s vs. Villanova (-26.5)

Villanova is really good and I’d have to believe they’re tired of hearing about Duke. Villanova knows what they need to do during tournament time and will come into this matchup in business-like fashion. Not even 30 points is enough to get me off of this line. — Go Chalk with Villanova

East Tennessee State (+10) vs. Florida

I don’t love this game because Florida is still very talented. But East Tennessee State has enough talent to compete and I don’t like how Florida finished the season. The defense is there for the Gators, but the offense has been absent in recent weeks. The Gators should pull this out, but it will be close. — Go Against The Chalk with East Tennessee State

Ranking the Double-Digit seeds

  1. No. 12 UNC Wilmington — They’re tournament tested and can score on anyone. The lack of defense worries me some, but if they can get past Virginia, they have a decent path to the Sweet 16.
  2. No. 11 Providence/USC — I love SMU, so I doubt either one of these teams will advance. But they both have some decent qualities, so if they can beat SMU, then the Sweet 16 should be in their future.
  3. No. 13 East Tennessee State — They have a lot of talent, but the first two games would be against two of the better defensive teams in the NCAA. I don’t love their chances at getting to the Sweet 16, but it’s not out of the question for one victory.
  4. No. 10 Marquette — Sorry Marquette. Even if you win the first round, Duke is too much of a mismatch.
  5. No. 14 New Mexico State — There’s a lot of tournament experience for New Mexico State, but I don’t love their matchup against Baylor. Even though the Bears have struggled in recent weeks, they present a major mismatch.
  6. No. 15 Troy — Troy is generally a football school and finished sixth in its conference. Enough said.
  7. No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s — Villanova is not going to overlook Mount St. Mary’s. That’s a problem.

Final Four Lock

Sweet 16 — No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 Virginia — The first meeting was a struggle for both teams that ended in a two-point win for the Wildcats. Villanova won’t let that happen again and will win comfortably.

Sweet 16 — No. 6 SMU vs. No. 2 Duke — I really like SMU, but it’s hard to ignore all the talent on Duke’s roster. When they’re playing well, the Blue Devils are the best in the nation.

Elite Eight — No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 2 Duke — This is the best matchup of the Elite Eight and it won’t disappoint. I’ll flip a coin and go with Villanova.

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