Zach Hampu’s Full East Region Bracket Predictions

First Round

Duke vs NC Central/North Dakota State

I really don’t see a plausible scenario in which Duke could possibly lose this game.

Prediction: Duke

VCU vs UCF

UCF has gotten some attention in the last couple weeks but VCU is by far the better team. Despite an A10 tournament loss to Rhode Island, VCU is really good.  They dominated the A10 in the regular season and they have KenPom’s 7th best defense.

Prediction: VCU

Mississippi State vs Liberty

Mississippi State has lost three of their last five but I think they’ll escape their first round matchup. Liberty is the weakest of the 12 seeds and does not have the firepower to beat the Bulldogs.

Prediction: Mississippi State

Virginia Tech vs Saint Louis

This is a tough game that I’ll probably flip back and forth on a couple times before the game is actually played.

Saint Louis is a talented team that was considered somewhat of a disappointment after being picked by many to win the A10 in the preseason.  Javon Bess started his career at Michigan State so the Bilikens have high major talent.  They got hot and won the conference tournament and now look like the team they were expected to be.

However, Justin Robinson will be back for the Hokies and I think this is a very good Virginia Tech team.

Prediction: Virginia Tech

Maryland vs Belmont/Temple

I think Belmont will take care of Temple on Tuesday but either way, the Terrapins are in trouble.  Maryland has lost three of their last four and will be facing either a high powered offense in Belmont or a Temple team with talented and experienced guards in Shizz Alston Jr. and Quinton Rose.

Prediction: Belmont/Temple

LSU vs Yale

There are so many distractions and so much uncertainty around LSU right now, it is not exactly an ideal scenario heading into the tournament.  Even if the Tigers do have Will Wade and Javonte Smart it may not matter.  Anyone can beat you in the NCAA tournament if you aren’t mentally prepared.

Yale is coming off of an Ivy League tournament win and I expect a big game from Miye Oni.

Prediction: Yale

Louisville vs Minnesota

At KenPom’s #17, Louisville is one of the most under-seeded teams in the tournament.  Minnesota’s Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy are a strong duo but Louisville is strong on both ends of the floor and is an all-around better team.

Prediction: Louisville

Michigan State vs Bradley

Michigan State is hot right now and they will roll through their matchup with Bradley.

Prediction: Michigan State

Second Round

Duke vs VCU

With VCU’s defense and Duke’s inability to shoot from behind the three point line, there’s a real chance of an upset here.  It’s also hard to ignore the struggles Duke can have in the half court.

However, at the end of the day I think Duke is too talented and athletic and will overwhelm VCU.

Prediction: Duke

Mississippi State vs Virginia Tech

Two experienced teams with strong offenses, but Virginia Tech has the better defense plus the previously mentioned return of Justin Robinson.

Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon and a deep supporting cast will put up a strong fight but I’ll take Virginia Tech.

Prediction: Virginia Tech

Belmont/Temple vs Yale

Yale may be able to shock a distracted LSU team in the first round but they won’t beat another good team in the second round.  No matter if it’s Belmont or Temple, either one will be too much for Yale.

Prediction: Belmont/Temple

Louisville vs Michigan State

Louisville is undoubtedly under-seeded but Michigan State is a much better team than the Cardinals.  Cassius Winston is one of the best guards in America and Louisville doesn’t have anyone who can stop him.  Expect a big game from Winston.

Prediction: Michigan State

Sweet Sixteen

Duke vs Virginia Tech

The Hokies knocked off Duke the last time they met but there’s a big difference between that game and their potential matchup in the tournament.  His name is Zion Williamson.

Virginia Tech has strong guard play and if they can slow this game down and get hot from three they’ve got a shot.  However, Duke is a completely different team with Zion and odds are they advance to the Elite Eight.

Prediction: Duke

Belmont/Temple vs Michigan State

At this point in their run either Belmont or Temple will run into their first great team.  Michigan State is KenPom’s #4 and could’ve easily have been a 1 seed.

The aforementioned Cassius Winston has a strong supporting cast that will be too much for the Bruins or Owls, this one goes to the Spartans.

Prediction: Michigan State

Elite Eight

Duke vs Michigan State

This would be a great coaching matchup in the Elite Eight.  At some point, Duke’s poor shooting and half-court offense will catch up to them and I think it will be in the Elite Eight.

Michigan State is very good on both ends of the floor. They’ll ideally slow the game down but it won’t be a death sentence if Duke is able to get out and run a little bit.  Nick Ward is still getting back to full speed and I think that will be huge for the Spartans.

Zion carried a large burden in the ACC tournament and I think Duke will continue to rely heavily on him.  He’s still coming back from an injury, who knows how he’ll react to two intense games in three days.

Prediction: Michigan State

 

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