In a year where regions don’t really matter because all March Madness games will be played in and around Indianapolis, it is still pleasant to the eye to have the bracket split up into four different mini brackets of sorts, separated by regions. In the east, the Michigan Wolverines are the number one seed and will try to glide its way to a Final Four, potentially having to do so without Isaiah Livers. Let’s key in on some of the matchups.
NCAA East Region March Madness Spotlight:
No. 5 Colorado vs No. 12 Georgetown
Circle this one. Star it. Highlight it. This game features one of the best stories entering the tournament.
The Georgetown Hoyas, led by none other than Patrick Ewing as head coach, earned an automatic bid to the party. They entered the Big East Tournament as a No. 8 seed with a 9-12 record. They left Madison Square Garden Saturday night as champions of the conference tournament with a 13-12 record.
It’s one of the ultimate feel-good stories as Ewing has brought his alma-mater back to the NCAA Tournament against all odds.
Georgetown was an afterthought entering the Big East Tournament and it’s hard to blame anyone for not putting any stock in the Hoyas before last week. The Hoyas were a turnover-prone team that didn’t excel at any one thing when arriving for the Big East Tournament. Then the magic of March happened. Georgetown stopped turning it over, starting with their first-round game against the Marquette Golden Eagles. Shots started falling from behind the arc. And the Hoyas had bought in.
The ride reached the mountain top with a dominating 73-48 win over the Creighton Bluejays, earning Georgetown a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Write this name down: McKinley Wright.
Wright is the floor general for the Colorado Buffaloes, who enter the tournament as a five seed after getting all the way to the Pac 12 Tournament final, before losing to Oregon State.
Wright has the ability to take over games and take over a tournament. In a tournament where we often see stars elevate their games to another level, Wright could fall into that category.
The senior will be getting his first taste of March Madness and he comes in boasting a stat line that consists of averages of 15.5 points per game, 5.6 assists per game, and 4.3 rebounds per game.
He has an incredible sense of the moment, a great feel for the game, and has continued to improve year after year. Wright has that late-game heroics, not afraid to take the big shot quality that is oftentimes hard to find.
Colorado is the more consistent team with a legitimate number one option. Georgetown is the team with more momentum, living in the moment riding this wave into the NCAA Tournament.
No. 11 Michigan State vs No. 11 UCLA
What an incredible appetizer to have on deck before a full slate of March Madness games on Friday. Yes, the Michigan State Spartans and the UCLA Bruins will go head-to-head in a First Four play-in game on Thursday night. The winner gets the BYU Cougars on Saturday.
Michigan State entered the season ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25, but it was not to be.
The Spartans began conference play 0-3, with losses to the Northwestern Wildcats, Wisconsin Badgers, and Minnesota Golden Gophers. A COVID-19 pause shortly after that really threw things off balance for Tom Izzo’s team.
When the season looked all but lost in late February, Izzo’s Spartans rolled off three straight wins against the Indiana Hoosiers, then No.5 Illinois Fighting Illini, and then No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes. It put them firmly back on the bubble. They closed out the regular season by beating Michigan before falling to the Maryland Terrapins in their first game of the Big Ten tournament.
What team will we get? The one that beat Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan down the stretch or the run that looked sluggish at various junctures throughout the season?
UCLA looked like a sure-fire, NCAA Tournament team before falling apart at the finish line. If you don’t like picking teams that are limping into the dance, shield your eyes away from the Bruins. UCLA enters March having lost four in a row, all four by single digits.
In their most recent game in the Pac-12 tournament, UCLA blew a 16 point lead against Oregon State, ultimately falling in overtime.
Mick Cronin’s team has shown the capability to rely on their defense to come out on top, but even that side sputtered to close out the regular season. UCLA looks to turn a new page in the NCAA Tournament and start fresh.
They say it goes January, February, Izzo, April, May etc. Michigan State will look to back that up against a Bruins team that matches up fairly evenly with Sparty.
March Madness key matchup: No. 2 Alabama vs No. 15 Iona
We could’ve gone many ways for the last matchup to watch for in the east region. But how can you ignore Rick Pitino?
That’s right. Rick Pitino is back in the NCAA Tournament after coaching the Iona Gaels to a MAAC tournament title.
Let’s preface with this: nobody is expecting Iona to go in and beat the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama opened as a 17-point favorite and rightfully so. Iona was plagued with COVID-19 pauses, playing only 17 total games this year. Alabama is a wagon on offense, and it will pepper you with plenty of 3-point shooters.
But it’s damn cool seeing Pitino take yet another team (his 5th total) to March Madness.
There has to be at least a sliver of space taking up space in Nate Oats’ mind, wondering if Pitino has a card up his sleeve for Alabama.
In reality, Iona just doesn’t have the personnel to match up with Alabama. The Tide are 29th in the nation in scoring (79.6 PPG) and eighth in rebounding (40.5 RPG).
Nonetheless, it’s a great story for Iona and many eyeballs will tune in to watch Pitino and the Gaels take on this high-powered Alabama offense.