We’ll move our focus along to the East Region, which went pretty much to form during the first two rounds. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little seed variation here.
No. 4 Xavier vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh
Xavier probably was the most overlooked No. 4 seed coming into the tournament, but the Musketeers proved their chops pretty nicely during the opening weekend, running past Portland State in the first round while toughing out Wisconsin in the second.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has looked vulnerable, as No. 16 seed East Tennessee State pushed them late, as did No. 8 Oklahoma State. The Panthers have also never beaten a team seeded higher than fourth in program history. Will the Panthers break that string? I’m going to go with yes.
No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 2 Duke
For a while there, it looked like my pick of Villanova as a team to watch out was going to go poof in the wind, as the Wildcats were down 14 points in the second half to No. 14-seeded American. However, Villanova righted the ship to cruise past the Eagles and added a rout over UCLA in the second round for good measure.
Duke also looked pretty decent in its two wins over Binghamton and Texas, holding off a charge from a talented Longhorn team. This should be an interesting matchup, as both teams are talented on the perimeter with a wide array of options. However, I think the game could come down to how the big men – Dante Cunningham of Villanova and Kyle Singler of Duke – match up. I kind of like the Wildcats to pull a mild upset here.