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East Regional breakdown

East Regional breakdown

East Regional breakdown
Jeff Goodman /

Overview: North Carolina and Georgetown are a formidable 1-2 punch as the two top seeds in the region, but then it drops off a bit.

Washington State will be tough to beat, but Tony Bennett's team is unlikely to string a bunch of wins together. This region is loaded with talented players — Kevin Durant (Texas), Jared Dudley (Boston College) and Jeff Green (Georgetown) were all major conference player of the year winners.

The key for the region is whether UNC's Tyler Hansbrough returns to his old form. He was a shell of himself while playing with a mask in the ACC tournament, but his teammates — notably freshman forward Brandan Wright — stepped up their play and intensity.

Best first-round matchup: No. 8 Marquette vs. No. 9 Michigan State — This is the best opening-round matchup in the entire tournament. Two high-profile programs and high-energy coaches.

Best potential matchup: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Georgetown — The top two teams in the region. The Tar Heels guards are much deeper and could bother the Hoyas guards.

Upset special: No. 13 New Mexico State over No. 4 Texas — Kevin Durant is the best player in the country and D.J. Augustin is terrific as well, but the Aggies have plenty of athleticism and will find a way to contain Durant.

Cinderella? New Mexico State is athletic and the Aggies are full of guys getting a second chance. They'd have to beat Kevin Durant and Texas and then they get the winner of the USC-Arkansas game.

My pick: North Carolina — The Tar Heels still haven't completely found their groove, but their road isn't all that difficult. Marquette isn't big enough and Michigan State isn't talented enough to stop UNC and the Tar Heels will overcome a tough test if they have to face Georgetown in the Elite Eight.

Story Lines:

The emotional Bobby Knight of Texas Tech takes on the mild-mannered Al Skinner and the Boston College Eagles.

Tom Crean faces his old boss when Marquette plays Michigan State in the first round.

This will be it for Kevin Durant, so enjoy him while you can.

Five Players to Watch:

Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
Dominic James, Marquette
Kevin Durant, Texas
Jared Dudley, Boston College
Jeff Green, Georgetown

Best Player You've Never Heard of:

Caleb Green, Oral Roberts

Overrated: No. 7 Boston College
Underrated: No. 13 New Mexico State

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