USA TODAY Sports breaks down the NCAA tournament East Regional.
Nickname: Blue Devils. Location: Durham, N.C.
Record: 29-5, 14-4. Bid: ACC champ.
Last appearance: 2018, lost to Kansas in Elite Eight.
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (94-29 in 34 appearances).
Overview: With Zion Williamson showing no ill effects from his shoe-caused knee sprain in a run to the ACC tournament title, the Blue Devils will be a popular choice to go all the way. His return gives them two lottery picks, rejoining classmate R.J. Barrett, in a young but dynamic lineup. The team’s late-season injury issues could prove to be a blessing in disguise as several role players contributed quality minutes down the stretch. Duke does not shoot the three well, so they can expect to see opponents pack the paint on a regular basis. This is Duke’s 14th time as a No. 1 seed.
Projected starters: F Zion Williamson, 6-7, Fr. (21.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.2 spg, 1.8 bpg, 69.3 FG%); F R.J. Barrett, 6-7, Fr. (22.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.1 apg); F Cam Reddish, 6-8, Fr. (13.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Tre Jones, 6-2, Fr. (9.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.0 spg); F Javin DeLaurier, 6-10, Jr. (3.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 72.5 FG%).
2. Michigan State
Nickname: Spartans. Location: East Lansing.
Record: 28-6, 16-4. Bid: Big Ten champ.
Last appearance: 2018, lost to Kansas in second round.
Coach: Tom Izzo (48-20 in 21 consecutive appearances).
Overview: The Spartans were saddled with injuries but still found a way to be Big Ten regular-season co-champ, thanks largely to sparkplug point guard Cassius Winston and a stout defense that ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.6%). This is one of the most unselfish teams chemistry-wise, ranking third nationally in assists and 11th in assist-to-turnover ratio. Xavier Tillman (9.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg).
Projected starters: G Cassius Winston, 6-0, Jr. (19.0 ppg, 7.6 apg); F Nick Ward, 6-8, Jr. (14.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg); G Matt McQuaid, 6-4, Sr. (9.4 ppg, 43% three-point shooting); F Aaron Henry, 6-6, Fr. (5.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Kenny Goins, 6-7, Sr. (8.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg).
Nickname: Tigers. Location: Baton Rouge.
Record: 26-6, 16-2. Bid: SEC at-large.
Last appearance: 2015, lost to N.C. State in first round.
Coach: Will Wade (1-2 in two appearances).
Overview: Picked to finish near the middle of the SEC, the Tigers surprised everyone by winning the regular-season title. But the recent suspension of Wade as part of the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption and a first-round loss in the conference tournament leaves some doubt about where the team stands. The Tigers shoot just 32.4% beyond the arc, which could be an issue if they get behind.
Projected starters: G Tremont Waters, 5-11, So. (15.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.8 spg), G Skylar Mays, 6-4, Jr. (13.6 ppg, 1.9 spg, 85.5 FT%); F Naz Reid, 6-10, Fr. (13.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg); F Kavell Bigby-Williams, 6-11, Sr. (7.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 65.3 FG%); G Marlon Taylor, 6-5, Jr. (7.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
4. Virginia Tech
Nickname: Hokies. Location: Blacksburg.
Record: 24-8, 12-6. Bid: ACC at-large.
Last appearance: 2018, lost to Alabama in first round.
Coach: Buzz Williams (8-7 in seven appearances).
Overview: The Hokies needed to reinvent themselves on offense late in the season when senior point guard Justin Robinson (13.7 ppg, 5.2 apg) was sidelined by a foot injury. His return is possible, but it was not clear Sunday night. Still, the team has at least been able to devise workarounds. That usually means letting Kerry Blackshear initiate from the high or low post. Still, Tech must make three-pointers if it hopesto stay in the tournament for a while.
Projected starters: G Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6-5, So. (16.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.9 spg); F Kerry Blackshear Jr., 6-10, Jr. (14.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Ahmed Hill, 6-5, Sr. (13.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 81.3 FT%); G/F Ty Outlaw, 6-6, Sr. (8.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 46.4 3FG%); G Wabissa Bede, 6-1, So. (3.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.4 apg).
5. Mississippi State
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Nickname: Bulldogs. Location: Starkville.
Record: 23-10, 10-8. Bid: SEC at-large.
Last appearance: 2009, lost to Washington in first round.
Coach: Ben Howland (19-10 in 10 appearances).
Overview: Ben Howland has the Bulldogs in the field in his fourth season at the school. He knows what it takes to succeed in the tournament with three Final Four appearances at UCLA. Quinndary Weatherspoon has the ability to break down defenses but can’t do everything himself. Defensively, the Bulldogs have a strong interior presence with Abdul Abo and reserve Aric Holman (1.6 bpg). They’ll need to slow down the perimeter scoring of other teams.
Projected starters: G Quinndary Weatherspoon, 6-4, Sr. (18.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 50.5 FG%, 40.2 3FG%); G Lamar Peters, 6-0, Jr. (11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg); G Tyson Carter, 6-4, Jr. (10.5 ppg, 54.7 FG%, 82.4 FT%); F Reggie Perry, 6-10, Fr. (9.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 50.7 FG%) F Abdul Abo, 6-11, So. (4.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 62.2 FG%).
Nickname: Terrapins. Location: College Park.
Record: 22-9, 13-7. Bid: Big Ten at-large.
Last appearance: 2017, lost to Xavier in first round.
Coach: Mark Turgeon (8-8 in eight appearances).
Overview: The youthful Terrapins were hot and cold throughout the latter part of the Big Ten schedule. They use their size to an advantage and excels on the glass, ranking in the top 10 in rebounding margin (8.8 ppg) to go with allowing opponents only 65 points a game — both of which combine for a good recipe to advance if their offense does its part.
Projected starters: G Anthony Cowan Jr., 6-0, Jr. (15.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 82.9 FT%); F Bruno Fernando, 6-10, So. (14.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 62.4 FG%); F Jalen Smith, 6-10, Fr. (11.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg); G Eric Ayala, 6-5, Fr. (8.4 ppg, 42.5 3FG%); G Darryl Morsell, 6-5, So. (7.9 pp, 3.1 rpg).
Nickname: Cardinals. Location: Louisville, Ky.
Record: 20-13, 10-8. Bid: ACC at-large.
Last appearance: 2017, lost to Michigan in second round.
Coach: Chris Mack (11-8 in eight appearances).
Overview: The Cardinals were something of a mystery team as Mack took over the troubled program. But he wasted little time instilling the scrappiness his Xavier squads exhibited over the years. This group has good frontcourt depth and defends the paint well. They can struggle with half-court offense at times, so a team that can match up with its interior strength and prevent second opportunities will give them problems.
Projected starters: F Jordan Nwora, 6-7, So. (17.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg); F Dwayne Sutton, 6-5, Jr. (10.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg); G Christen Cunningham, 6-2, Sr. (10.1 ppg, 4.9 apg); F/C Malik Williams, 6-11, So. (7.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G Khwan Fore, 6-0, Sr. (3.3 ppg).
8. Virginia Commonwealth
Nickname: Rams. Location: Richmond.
Record: 25-7, 16-2. Bid: Atlantic 10 at-large.
Last appearance: 2017, lost to Saint Mary’s in first round.
Coach: Mike Rhoades (first appearance).
Overview: The Rams’ rapid resurgence after a one-year tournament absence was a bit unexpected as a largely unproven set of pieces came together quickly to claim the A-10 regular-season crown. There isn’t much margin for error, however, as the injury to leading scorer Marcus Evans in their tournament quarterfinal loss demonstrated. If Evans is able to return, VCU’s chances of advancing improve dramatically.
Projected starters: G Marcus Evans, 6-2, Jr. (14.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.3 apg); G De’Riante Jenkins, 6-5, Jr. (11.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg); F Issac Vann, 6-6, Jr. (11.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 82.1 FT%); F Marcus Santos-Silva, 6-7, So. (9.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 59.9 FG%); F Sean Mobley, 6-8, So. (4.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg).
9. Central Florida
Nickname: Knights. Location: Orlando.
Record: 23-8, 13-5. Bid: American Athletic at-large.
Last appearance: 2005, lost to Connecticut in first round.
Coach: Johnny Dawkins (2-1 in 1 appearance).
Overview: It was a banner regular season: UCF’s 23 wins set a program record while the 13 conference wins were the Knights’ most since joining the American. Where the Knights are strongest is on defense, with a unit that ranks in the top 40 nationally in points allowed per game and opposing field-goal percentage. On the other hand, UCF doesn’t shoot from deep (312th in 3-point attempts) or well from the line (333rd in free-throw percentage).
Projected starters: G B.J. Taylor, 6-2, Sr. (16.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, 39.1 FG%, 77.4 FT%); G Aubrey Dawkins, 6-6, Jr. (15.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 39.2 3FG%, 82.8 FT%); G Terrell Allen, 6-3, Jr. (6.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 43.1 FG%); F Collin Smith, 6-11, So. (8.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 45.5 FG%); C Tacko Fall, 7-6, Sr. (10.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 75.4 FG%, 2.5 bpg).
Nickname: Golden Gophers. Location: Minneapolis.
Record: 21-13, 9-11. Bid: Big Ten at-large.
Last appearance: 2017, lost in first round to Middle Tennessee.
Coach: Richard Pitino (0-1 in one appearance).
Overview: Gophers went 2-6 in February but did enough in March including two defeats of Purdue, to make the field. For Minnesota to make a run, it has to rebound and play defense to offset an offense that would fare better if there were no three-point line. A nice blend of youth and experience could make some noise.
Projected starters: G Amir Coffey, 6-8, Jr. (16.2 ppg, 3.3 apg); G Gabe Kalscheur, 6-4, Fr. (9.9 ppg, 41% 3 FG%); G Dupree McBrayer, 6-5, Sr. (9.4 ppg, 2.8 apg); F Jordan Murphy, 6-7, Sr. (14.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg); C Daniel Oturu, 6-10, Fr. (10.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
Nickname: Bruins. Location: Nashville.
Record: 26-5, 16-2. Bid: Ohio Valley at-large.
Coach: Rick Byrd (0-7) in seven appearances.
Last appearance: 2015, lost to Virginia in first round.
Overview: Belmont is a surprise as an at-large pick after losing in the Ohio Valley conference tournament title game. The Bruins did have quality wins during the season at UCLA and Murray State. Dylan Winder and Nick Muszynski provide size that can hold their own against bigger teams. The offense is built on sharing the ball. They average almost 20 assists per game to lead the country.
Projected Starters: G Dylan Windler, 6-8, Sr. (21.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 54.8 fg%, 84.6 ft%); G Kevin McClain, 6-3, Sr. (16.3 ppg, 4.1 apg); C Nick Muszynski, 6-11, Fr. (14.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 60.8 fg%, 41.2 3FG%); G Grayson Murphy, 6-2, Fr. (9.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.6 apg 1.7 spg); F Caleb Hollander, 6-8, Fr. (7.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
Nickname: Owls. Location: Philadelphia.
Record: 23-9, 13-5. Bid: American Athletic at-large.
Last appearance: 2016, lost to Iowa in first round.
Coach: Fran Dunphy (3-16 in 16 appearances).
Overview: Temple scores at a nice clip (74.8 points a game) but is subpar overall defensively (174th nationally in points per game) and among the worst in the American – and the country – in blocks and rebounds. So how did the Owls make it back to the tournament? In large part thanks to an aggressive and gambling defense that creates steals and turnovers to create added possessions for a team with three solid scorers.
Projected starters: G Shizz Alston, Jr., 6-4, Sr. (19.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, 40.7 FG%, 35.3 3FG%, 90.7 FT%); G Nate Pierre-Louis, 6-4, So. (13.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 46.1 FG%); G Quinton Rose, 6-8, Jr. (16.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 spg, 41.1 FG%); F J.P. Moorman II, 6-7, So. (5.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 44.0 FG%); C Ernest Aflakpui, 6-10, Sr. (5.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 59.6 FG%).
Nickname: Flames. Location: Lynchburg, Va.
Record: 28-6, 14-2. Bid: Atlantic Sun champ.
Coach: Ritchie McKay (0-1 in one appearance).
Last appearance: 2013, lost to North Carolina A&T in First Four.
Overview: Liberty won its way in the field by beating Belmont in the conference tournament championship game. Their defense – 60.8 points allowed per game — and field-goal (49.0%) and free-throw shooting (77.2%) are two big factors in their success. However, they have to control the tempo against more athletic teams.
Projected Starters: F Scottie James, 6-7, Jr. (13.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 67.6 FG%); G Caleb Homesley, 6-6, Jr. (12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 apg); G Lovell Cabbil Jr, 6-3, Sr. (11.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 44.5 3FG%, 86.0% FT%); G Elijah Cuffee, 6-4, So. (7.9 ppg, 42.5 3FG%, 86.5 FT%); Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, 6-1, Jr. (7.3 ppg, 47.8 3FG%, 87.5 FT%).
13. Saint Louis
Nickname: Billikens. Location: St. Louis.
Record: 23-12, 10-8. Bid: Atlantic 10 champ.
Last appearance: 2014, lost to Louisville in second round.
Coach: Travis Ford (1-6 in six appearances).
Overview: Most A-10 observers figured the Billikens would be among the league’s top teams heading into the season. They eventually put together a run through the tournament, but the path they took was quite circuitous. The surprising transfer of touted freshman Carte’Are Gordon and a spate of injuries led to a mid-pack finish. They showed their resilience late, and it served them well as they rallied to beat St. Bonaventure in the finale. They’re an athletic group just rounding into form that could cause trouble in the first round.
Projected starters: G Javon Bess, 6-6, Sr. (15.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 80.2 FT%); G Tramaine Isabell, Jr., 6-1, Sr. (13.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg); G Jordan Goodwin, 6-3, So. (10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.5 apg); F Hasahn French, 6-7, So. (9.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg); F D.J. Foreman, 6-8, Sr. (5.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg).
Nickname: Bulldogs. Location: New Haven, Conn.
Record: 22-7, 10-4. Bid: Ivy League champ.
Last appearance: 2016, lost to Duke in second round.
Coach: James Jones (1-1 in 1 appearance).
Overview: Yale rebounded from a sluggish close to the regular season to capture a second Ivy League title in the past four seasons. The Bulldogs are balanced, with four players in double figures, and among college basketball’s most consistent shooters inside of 3-point range. As illustrated in 2016 with an opening-round win against Baylor, Yale is a threat to advance when it can limit turnovers, tread water on rebounds and convert free throws.
Projected starters: G Miye Oni, 6-6, Jr. (17.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 46.0 FG%, 76.1 FT%); G Alex Copeland, 6-3, Sr. (13.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 37.1 3FG%, 83.8 FT%); G Trey Phills, 6-2, Sr. (7.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 46.7 FG%); F Blake Reynolds, 6-7, Sr. (11.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 54.2 FG%, 43.2 3FG%,); F Jordan Bruner, 6-9, Jr. (10.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 50.0 FG%).
Nickname: Braves. Location: Peoria, Ill.
Record: 20-14, 9-9. Bid: Missouri Valley champ.
Last appearance: 2006, lost to Memphis in Sweet 16.
Coach: Brian Wardle (first tournament appearance).
Overview: Bradley won its way into the tournament with defeat of Loyola-Chicago in the semifinal and a comeback defeat of Northern Iowa in the MVC tournament. Defense is the team’s strong suit as the Braves allow just 65.0 points per game and opponents shoot 41.1% from the field. However, the offense can go cold. They rank near the bottom in the nation in scoring (66.6). Nate Kennell (9.4 ppg) comes off the bench as this team’s X-factor.
Projected starters: G Darrell Brown, 5-10, Jr. (14.9 ppg, 3.1 apg, 43.9 3FG%); G Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye, 6-4, Sr. (8.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg); G Luqman Lundy, 6-3, Sr. (3.7 ppg, 49.4 FG%); F Elijah Childs, 6-7, So. (12.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg); F Luuk van Bree, 6-9, Sr. (5.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
16. N.C. Central
Nickname: Eagles. Location: Durham.
Record: 18-15, 10-6 Bid: MEAC champ.
Last appearance: 2018, lost to Texas Southern in the First Four.
Coach: Kevin Keatts (0-1 in 1 appearance).
Overview: They defeated the No. 1 Norfolk State to clinch their third appearance in program history. The Eagles missed every three-point shot against Texas Southern last year in the tournament and should rely on their defense, which scores 16 points from turnovers.
Projected starters: G Randy Miller, Jr., 6-2, Jr. (13.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 80.3 FT%); C Raasean Davis, 6-9, Sr. (14.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 0.5 apg); G Larry McKnight Jr., 6-4, Sr. (9.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 43.7 FG%, 28.1 3FG%); F Zacarry Douglas, 6-8, Sr. (8.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.2 apg); G Jordan Perkins, 6-1, So. (3.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.1 apg, 33.3 FG%, 26.9 3FG%).
16. North Dakota State
Nickname: Bison. Location: Fargo.
Record: 18-15, 9-7. Bid: Summit champ.
Last appearance: 2015, lost to Gonzaga in first round.
Coach: Dave Richman (0-1 in one appearance).
Overview: Known for its dominant FCS football program, NDSU won its way in after finishing the Summit regular season tied for third. To advance, they will have to rely on shooting. NDSU averages 9.5 three-point field goals a game and hits 77.4% of its free throws, which helps in close games. The Bison, however, will have to overcome defensive inefficiency. Opponents make more than 46% of their field-goal attempts.
Projected starters: G Vinnie Shahid, 5-11, Jr. (12.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 83.9 FG%); G Tyson Ward, 6-6, Jr. (12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg); G Jared Samuelson, 6-3, Jr. (7.2 ppg, 46.4 3FG%, 90.0 FT%); F Rocky Kreuser, 6-10, So. (9.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 83.6 FT%); G/F Sam Griesel, 6-6, Fr. (6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 83.6 FT%).
Contributing: Jace Evans, Ben Soffer, Jay Cannon, Gabriella Novello, Erick Smith, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Scott Gleeson, Eddie Timanus.