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Originally published March 16, 2014 at 8:07 PM | Page modified March 16, 2014 at 9:49 PM

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NCAA tournament: Breaking down the East Region

The East Region features No. 1 seed Virginia, No. 2 seed Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State and fourth-seeded Michigan State.


The Seattle Times

And the winner is ...

MICHIGAN STATE: In a region that seems wide open, you can’t go wrong siding with Spartans coach Tom Izzo, whose teams often overachieve in March.

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First glance

No surprise to see Tony Bennett getting No. 1 seed Virginia rolling after what he accomplished as coach at Washington State. Still, the Cavaliers have little margin for error as they average just 65.9 points per game.

Michigan State, the No. 4 seed, will undoubtedly be the region pick in many brackets. It’s hard to get a handle on Iowa State, which won its first 14 games, then became mediocre until getting hot again this past week. North Carolina and Connecticut will get a lot more attention than your typical No. 6 and No. 7 seeds, and it would be foolish to underestimate 12th-seeded Harvard, in its third straight tournament under Tommy Amakerafter not going before that since 1946.

By the numbers

1 Virginia’s NCAA rank in scoring defense, allowing 55.3 points per game.

17 Number of NCAA tournaments in a row that Michigan State has competed in.

294 Virginia’s national rank in scoring offense at 65.9 points per game.

2,018 Career points for Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick.

Contenders

VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers impose their methodical style with great success. If you like run-and-gun basketball, stay away from the TV when they play. The Cavaliers may be more vulnerable than a typical No. 1 seed, but it still would not be a surprise to see them have a nice run.

IOWA STATE: The Cyclones rank sixth in the country in scoring (82.9 points) and first in assists (18.5).

MICHIGAN STATE: Coach Tom Izzohas had a few first-round flameouts in his career, but he also has six Final Four appearances.

CONNECTICUT: Senior Shabazz Napier is one of the best all-around players in the country and having a senior leader is a huge asset.

Sleepers

PROVIDENCE: The Friars are playing in their first tournament since 2004 but they have a lot of momentum after winning the Big East title, including a great performance in the title game against Creighton.

HARVARD: Since when did this become a sports school? The Crimson pulled off a shocker last year when it beat No. 3 seed New Mexico. It will surprise few if Harvard beats No. 5 seed Cincinnati this week.

Headed for a fall?

VILLANOVA: The Wildcats were in the hunt for a No. 1 seed, and they had a great year. But it’s hard to be confident with a team that lost by 28 points at home to Creighton, then by 21 in the rematch.

Star power

Napier, Connecticut’s 6-foot-1 senior guard, averages 17.1 points and 4.9 assists, but here’s the capper: he leads the team in rebounding, despite his diminutive size, at 5.9 a game.

Providence’s Bryce Cotton is another do-everything 6-1 senior guard. He averages 21.4 points, 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

Kilpatrick, a 6-4 senior guard for Cincinnati, averages 20.7 points a game, which is 9.6 more than the next highest Bearcat and 14.4 more than the team’s third-leading scorer.

Cagiest coach

Izzo and North Carolina’s Roy Williamshave won national titles and what Amaker is doing at Harvard is amazing. But the winner is Virginia’s Bennett. He has proved his style of play can work against the sport’s blue bloods.

Best players you might not have heard of

Joe Harris, Virginia: A 6-6 senior guard from Chelan, Harris was a first-team all-ACC player last year and was named a third-team all-conference pick this year.

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State: A 6-4 senior guard, he is stat-stuffing machine, averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists.



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