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Anonymously Through The Brackets: 2019 East Region Preview

DUKE ZION COACH K DUKE DUKE ZION COACH K ZION ZION

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2019 NCAA Tournament? Up to your eyeballs in expert picks chock-full of astute takes on players to watch and budding upsets?

Fear not, friends: your pals at Anonymous Eagle are here to inject some half-baked, homespun “insight” into the proceedings, with our annual region-by-region tour, as we go Anonymously Through the Brackets.

For each region, we’ll give you our patented Anonymous Eagle Half-Arsed Analysis with: a gutless pick to win the region; a sleeper regional champ; a CRUSH YOUR MAN upset special; a player/team we’d pay to watch; a player most likely to carry his team singlehandedly to the Sweet 16; and the best player in the region that you’ve never heard of before.

Without further ado, here’s Ben on the East Region.......


I love this region. It’s just dripping with intriguing matchups to pay attention to. Obviously the top story of the region is Duke being almost at full strength with Zion Williamson returning from his injury. Center Marques Bolden still makes them a wild card, though. He suffered a leg injury and missed the ACC Tournament. As of this writing I have no idea if he’ll play in the tournament. He’s an important part of their defense and made tremendous improvements over the course of the year in that area. They’re still the best team in the region without him, but it might make me hesitate to put them in the Final Four.

Speaking of wild card injury updates, there’s also Virginia Tech. No one has a goddamn clue about whether or not Justin Robinson, one of the best scoring guards in the country, will be fully able to contribute after VaTech announced he’d return after missing the last 12 games. They did already beat Duke without him, but Duke also didn’t have Zion either. I think each player’s importance to their team is a wash, so I’d expect a tight game in what will likely be Buzz Williams’ last game in Blacksburg (get bent, Buzz) if VA Tech and Duke make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

And here’s another wild card: LSU. Their team is fantastic and was massively underrated for much of the year. Tremont Waters is one of the smartest point guards in the country and Naz Reid, though he can disappear at times, can dominate a game when he’s on. Coach Will Wade is also under some heavy scrutiny for possibly paying recruits like Reid and did not coach in the SEC Tournament, while Reid sat out for their first game. I doubt Naz sits for any of it, but Wade being out with the Cloud of Distraction hanging over the team could have an effect.

Maryland is a weird team. They have one of the more talented rosters in the country anchored by Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, who make up the best 4/5 combo in the country. They also don’t have too many eye popping wins for playing in the Big Ten and also have some puzzling losses. As a Wichita State fan I’m a fan of Mark Turgeon, but he has under-performed with the talent that he’s found. They don’t get great shots on offense already and they top it off by being the worst team in the country at forcing turnovers. They can’t create enough extra possessions to pull ahead of opponents. Your view on talent vs. coaching when it comes to picking teams will go a long way here.

The Liberty/Mississippi State game will be a real treat to watch. MSU is actually a similar-ish team as Marquette. Ben Howland runs a good offense like always and guys like Aric Holman and Abdul Ado reject shots on the block like Bob Huggins’ stomach reacting to a vegetable. Watching them match up against Liberty’s Scottie James will be super interesting and fun.

I have no thoughts on Louisville or Minnesota as teams, but I expect Maximum Chaos in the Pitino Bowl.

GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region

Duke. Zion. Blah blah blah. Go listen to Seth Greenberg if you want to hear about Duke or how to make an NCAA Tournament one time in 11 years of coaching.

CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX Bold Pick To Win

Man I really think Belmont can make some noise. Rick Byrd is sneakily one of the best coaches in the country. His offense is just pure motion. There’s a high chance that he’s threatened to strangle puppies if his players stand still for 3 seconds. That crisp sweater vest doesn’t fool me. They did struggle against Murray State this year in large part because the Racers funnel players into the paint where their best defenders are, but there’s no one in their side of the region that creates a similar issue. I think they cakewalk past Temple and have a real shot at an Elite Eight run. The one thing working against them, however, is that their defense is just abysmal so pick at your own risk.

CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special

I was not impressed at all the first time I watched Liberty, but they’re a fun team to watch when they’re clicking. I just don’t think Mississippi State will be able to handle Scottie James, who has footwork in the same ballpark as Ethan Happ. Plus they have three guys that knock down threes at any time. He really doesn’t have much of a role on the team, nor is he that good, but Darius McGhee will push them over the top solely because he’s 5’9”. Shoutout to short basketball players.

Player I’d Pay To Watch

I mean it’s Zion but that’s not fun. Let’s talk Quinndary Weatherspoon on Mississippi State. The SEC was so deeply talented and fun that teams like Mississippi State and Ole Miss fell under the radar. The Bulldogs boast an excellent scoring guard in Weatherspoon. He and point guard Lamar Peters (who shouldn’t be overlooked either. He and Devon Dotson of Kansas are the two quickest players in the country) have fantastic chemistry. Quinndary isn’t the best at creating his own shot, but that’s not his role in the offense. He’s a smart player who knows where to be and is a great spot up shooter. For working off the ball he turns it over a little more than I’m comfortable with, but he really is a special talent.

FREE BONUS: Matchup I’d Like To Watch

If you pound enough beers you could convince yourself that UCF has a real shot at beating Duke. The Golden Knights suffocate teams in the paint, which is where Duke needs to score in order to be successful. They have no outside shooting, so if Tacko Fall can stay out of foul trouble there’s a real shot for them to stifle the Blue Devil offense. The problem is that one of the teams that protects the paint better than UCF is Virginia, and Duke beat them twice.

I’m beating around the bush here. Seeing 7’6” Tacko Fall and Zion Williamson on the same court is something I will cherish forever.

The Chiropractor Special aka: Who Can Put The Team On His Back

Let’s talk about Miye Oni on Yale. He and Alex Copeland are their two main sources of offense, but Oni shoulders the majority of the load. His usage is in the 96.3 percentile for the entire country and he’s earned it. He’s the type of player that really doesn’t need anyone else for him to score and works best when he’s creating his own shot. The only way to contain him is to force him to pull up in the midrange, Other than that he also happens to be a great defender and rebounder. If Yale beats LSU he’ll be reasons number 1, 2, and 3 for it.

Best Guy You’ve Never Heard Of

Dylan Windler of Belmont is the best possible version of Sam Hauser. If it weren’t for Ja Morant, Windler would be the mid major name to watch for the tournament. But since it is legally binding that only 1 mid major player can be talked about in March, Dylan is pushed to the side. He has real draft buzz that will only increase with a second weekend entry. At 6’8” he is one of, if not the best shooters in the country. He’s only taken 75 fewer threes than Markus Howard, but hits at a 43% clip to Markus’ 40%. He will not post you up, because Rick Byrd knows that those aren’t efficient shots, but he keeps defenders honest with the way that he can dribble the the basket and finish strong. All of this with minimal turnover numbers and strong defensive abilities. He’s incredible and I really hope that he is given the opportunity to shine on the national stage.