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EAST REGION ANALYSIS By John Feinstein

The Ties That Bind Will Bring Favorites Together

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Monday, March 12, 2007

You could almost hear Dean Smith and John Thompson screaming when this bracket was unveiled. The two Hall of Fame coaches and friends hated playing one another, and now Smith faces the possibility of his (surrogate) son, Roy Williams, taking on Thompson's actual son (John Thompson III) in the region final.

Of course, both have some work to get there.

North Carolina could have some difficulty with a second-round game against Marquette, which will beat Michigan State in the first round. The Golden Eagles have the kind of guards who can handle Carolina's pressure and up-tempo game, although in the end Brandan Wright and Tyler Hansbrough probably will wear them down inside.

The real potential threat en route to the final for the Tar Heels probably is Texas just because Kevin Durant is so good. USC-Arkansas is a good first-round game, but the Longhorns should beat the winner of that game to reach a round-of-16 matchup with the Tar Heels. That would be a fun game to watch. Roy Williams might run eight guys at Durant before it is all over -- and might need to.

In the bottom half, if there was some way to get George Washington to a round-of-16 matchup with Georgetown, it might be proof that there's a basketball god. The Hoyas have refused to play the Colonials for almost 30 years, and GW would be a tough out for them just because of the emotion that would surround the game.

Alas, it won't happen. Karl Hobbs and company have done great work getting back to the tournament for a third straight season, but will have a lot of trouble getting out of the first round against a good-shooting, experienced Vanderbilt team. Any team good enough to beat Florida will be a tough matchup for GW.

In fact, Vandy might upset Washington State in the second round. A lot of people are picking Oral Roberts to do that in the first round based on ORU's early win over Kansas, but it won't happen. Don't underestimate Washington State. Tony Bennett, son of former Wisconsin and WSU Coach Dick Bennett and no relation to the singer, might be the national coach of the year.

We pause here for a moment to pay homage to Syracuse. The Orange got a raw deal. Not only did it win 10 games in the Big East, a much tougher conference than the Big Ten, but it won more games against top 25 teams (three) than Illinois and Purdue combined -- and even won one of them (Marquette) on the road. Drexel and Syracuse should be in; Purdue and Illinois should play each other in the NIT. Case closed.

Moving on.

Georgetown probably will play Boston College after it beats Belmont in the first round. The Eagles did not play especially well down the stretch, but Jared Dudley and Tyrese Rice should be enough to get by Texas Tech and Bob Knight.

The Hoyas should handle BC and should get to a round-of-eight matchup with North Carolina. That's when Smith and Thompson the elder will start averting their eyes. The rest of us can just sit back and enjoy.


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