Syracuse, Ohio State Beasts in the East Region
The Syracuse Orange nailed down the one seed in the east giving them the opportunity to stay close to home throughout the regional finals. Head Coach Jim Boehiem led the ‘Cuse to a 31-2 overall record and a 17-1 Big East Conference record. That earned the Orange another Big East regular season title and, despite losing to Cincinnati in their conference tournament’s semi-final , Syracuse retains the number one seed in the east. The Orange is led by sophomore guard Dion Waiters 12 ppg, and senior forward Kris Joseph 13.8 ppg. Syracuse is solid inside with 7’ center Fab Melo and big man C.J. Fair controlling the paint. The Orange is used to being the hunted in the NCAA tournament and this year is no different.
The other contenders in the east consist of #2 Ohio State, #3 Florida State, #4 Wisconsin and #5 Vanderbilt. If somebody is going to knock the Orange out it is going to come from this group. Wisconsin or Vanderbilt will most likely get the first shot at the ‘Cuse, as the winner of that possible 4 vs. 5 game will face Syracuse in the region’s semi-finals March 22. Vanderbilt enters the tournament with momentum this year, as the Commodores beat Kentucky in the SEC Conference Tournament final 71-64. Vandy is led by senior forward Jeffery Taylor 16.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg, and junior guard John Jenkins who puts up 20 ppg for the Commodores. Vanderbilt has been abused when in this spot in recent history, losing their last two tournament openers while they were a four or five seed. The Commodores will have to get past a disciplined Harvard team lead by former Dukie Tommy Amaker in their opener this year if they are going to make a run.
Wisconsin is always tough come tournament time and this year is no different. The Badgers finished the season 24-6 and 12-6 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten Conference tournament semifinals, 65-52. The Badgers opened the tournament against a Montana team that has posted its best record in 20 years and has now won 14 games in a row coming into the dance. Wisconsin is a well-balanced team controlled by senior guard Jordan Taylor who puts up just under 15 ppg. Wisconsin has three players that average double-digits in points per game and are well-disciplined so they don’t turn the ball over and can control play. Great guard play is always big in the tourney and once again Wisconsin has what it takes to make some noise in the tournament.
Ohio State locked down the second seed in the east region despite falling just short to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament final 68-64. Jared Sullinger mans the Buckeyes, scoring 17.5 ppg and posting 9.3 rpg. Ohio State finished the regular season tied with Michigan State and Michigan at 13-5 in Big Ten conference play. This is the Buckeyes’ 28th invitation to the NCAA Tournament and they will be looking to make their 21st final four appearance by winning the east regional in Boston March 24th.
Standing in the way of the Buckeyes’ march towards the regional finals will be the Florida State Seminoles. The upstart Seminoles beat North Carolina 85-82 in the ACC Tournament final to win their first ACC tournament title in school history. Florida State 24-9, 12-4 in ACC conference play finished the season third overall in the conference, just behind North Carolina and Duke. There is no Tommy Ward on this roster but the Seminoles are led by junior guard Michael Snaer, who averages 14.4 ppg. Senior forward Bernard James patrols the middle for the ‘Noles and averages 10.6 ppg and 8.2 boards per game. Florida State will be a sexy pick in the east region. They open up against St. Bonaventure, who is making their first tournament appearance since 2000. The Bonnie’s are in the midst of rebuilding a program torn down by scandal at the turn of the century.
If you want a sleeper or two in this region, look no further than the eight seeded Kansas St. Wildcats. The Wildcats Head Coach Frank Martin is just plain scary to look at and they play a tough, physical game that can catch any opponent off guard if they are not prepared. Kansas State opens against another sleeper in this region, Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles made the fields as an at-large team from Conference USA. Southern Miss. is coached by former Iowa State’s Head Coach Larry Eustachy, who won the Conference USA’s Coach of the Year Award for 2011-2012. Eustachy continues to make a comeback after losing his job at Iowa State due to some less than appropriate behavior with a few co-eds.
The top five seeds in the east are all capable of making a run to New Orleans. The chalk is tough so don’t look for Cinderella here. Vanderbilt could serve as an early wake-up call for Syracuse next weekend if both teams make the sweet 16. Look for the Orange to face either Florida State or Ohio State in the regional final, March 24th, in Boston and move on to New Orleans. “The ‘Cuse is in the House! Oh, My God! Oh, My God!”