The East is a beast this March Madness. That side of the NCAA Tournament bracket not only features No. 1 overall seed and national title favorite Duke, but also No. 2 Michigan State – the Big Ten tournament champ – and No. 3 LSU, which won the SEC regular season title.
Jason Logan breaks down the East Regional, pointing out the live underdogs, Cinderella sleeper, the best and worst ATS team, Over/Under value, and everything you need to tame the beasts in the East this March.
The Duke Blue Devils, who are +220 favorites to win the national championship at FanDuel Sportsbooks, are -175 chalk to advance from the East Regional to the Final Four. And it’s easy to see why: top two NBA prospects, arguably the greatest college coach of all time, and the easiest path to Minneapolis in the entire bracket. Granted, Duke does have its soft spots, like scoring in a half-court set and shooting from the perimeter. But there’s no denying the talent on this team.
Central Florida has a very competitive No. 9-versus-No. 8 matchup with VCU in the Round of 64, but this Knights team is a tough matchup and checks off a lot of KenPom’s “Four Factors”, including ranking No. 58 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 36 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Central Florida plays a methodical pace, defends well, and has a game-changer in 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall. FanDuel Sportsbooks have UCF as a +5,550 long shot to win the East, due to being tracked for a second-round meeting with Duke.
After Loyola-Chicago’s run to the Final Four last year, everyone is on the lookout for similarly-sculpted “Cinderellas”. Liberty fits the mold, with an efficient offense, solid 3-point shooting, and a defense that protects the rim and allows only 60.8 points per game. The Flames, who moved from +8 to +7 for an opening-round matchup with Mississippi State, suck all the energy out of the gym with one of the slowest tempos in the country (66.5 poss per game). Liberty is a +10,000 long shot to win the East Regional with a possible run in with Duke in the Sweet 16.
BEST ATS TEAM
The Spartans really put the green in “Go Green! Go White”, finishing the season with a 24-10 ATS record. Michigan State went 2-1 ATS in the Big Ten tournament, including covering as a 1.5-point underdog in a comeback win over rival Michigan in the final. Tom Izzo’s team opens as 18.5-point chalk versus Bradley (opened -20) but hasn’t covered just once in its last six NCAA Tournament games.
WORST ATS TEAM
The Saint Louis Billikens were a No. 6 seed in the A-10 tournament and headed for a life outside of the NCAA Tournament. However, a red-hot postseason run sees them among the field of 68. Saint Louis is just 16-18-1 ATS this season – worst among East Regional teams – but has covered in three straight games (all as a dog) and is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 contests. The Billikens are getting 10.5 points as a No. 13 seed versus No. 4 Virginia Tech in the opening round.
BEST OVER TEAM
The LSU Tigers topped the total in 61 percent of their games this season, posting a 19-12-1 Over/Under mark. Louisiana State put up more than 81 points per game while allowing an average of 73 points against and enters the tournament in turmoil. Head coach Will Wade has been suspended due to his role in a federal investigation, leaving interim Tony Benford to whether the madness of March.
BEST UNDER TEAM
When you think Duke, you think of all that offensive firepower behind Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. That knee-jerk could be why Coach K’s kids have been a solid Under play this season. The Blue Devils are 9-23-1 Over/Under – staying below the total almost 72 percent of the time – and allowing just under 68 points per game. With the public puffing up their totals on a nightly basis, the wise move has been to swoop in and take the Under. It also helps that Duke doesn’t pose much threat from outside, making just 7.3 3-pointers per outing.
SHORTEST TRAVEL IN ROUND OF 64
The Duke Blue Devils will only have to travel about three and a half hours from Chapel Hill to Columbia, South Carolina for their opening round game versus the winner of NC Central and North Dakota State. Dukies generally travel well during the tournament, so expect a solid home-court edge for the Blue Devils inside for Colonial Life Arena. FYI: Zion is from South Carolina.
LONGEST TRAVEL IN THE ROUND OF 64
A pair of Virginia based teams rack up the frequent flyer miles in the East Regional, with Liberty traveling 2,751 miles and Virginia Tech going 2,674 miles to San Jose, California for the Round of 64. The No. 4 Hokies may have the worst hand out of these two programs, having to play Saint Louis at 9:57 p.m. ET on Friday night. Their latest start time all season was 8 p.m. ET.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Besides Duke’s star-studded roster, basketball bettors should keep a close eye on Yale standout Miye Oni in the East Regional. The 6-foot-6 guard ranks just behind Duke’s R.J. Barrett in KenPom’s offensive rating, averaging 17.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists for the Bulldogs. He powers a Yale offense putting up 81 points and drew a reported 20 pro scouts to the Ivy League tournament.
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