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Seeds Have Been Planted for Early Upset Possibilities in East Region

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By John Feinstein
Monday, March 16, 2009

This region is full of upset possibilities as far down as the No. 15 seed. Pittsburgh isn't going to have trouble with East Tennessee State if only because the Buccaneers might not get any rebounds at all while the game is in doubt. The Panthers are that strong inside.

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That said, Pitt could face a tough second-round game if Tennessee decides this is a weekend it wants to play. The Volunteers could lose in the first round to Oklahoma State or they could beat Pitt in the second round. There's just no telling.

If Pitt gets to the round of 16 -- and it should -- the best bet for an opponent there is Florida State. The Seminoles may have the best guard in the tournament in Toney Douglas and their win over North Carolina in the ACC tournament should give them confidence. Wisconsin's Bo Ryan has been a very good tournament coach through the years, but Florida State should beat his Badgers and should also beat Xavier, which may be over-seeded at No. 4.

A Pittsburgh-Florida State game would be a war because the Seminoles have the kind of size inside needed to challenge Pitt. Still, the feeling here is that this is Jamie Dixon's year to shake the Sweet 16 jinx.

If he does that, he's going to the Final Four. There's no one in the bottom half of the bracket who is going to beat Pitt in the round of eight. Duke is better than the past two seasons when it flamed out the first weekend but not that much better. The Blue Devils should beat Tony Kornheiser's Binghamton Bearcats (the man was in tears when his school made the tournament Saturday) but historically Duke has struggled in first-round games coming off ACC tournament titles. If the Blue Devils do survive, they should beat Texas.

The other two first-round games should be great fun to watch. UCLA will show up in Philadelphia knowing nothing about Virginia Commonwealth although Ben Howland will tell his team that the Rams have a guard who is good. Eric Maynor is really good, and if he can get his team into its offense and if Larry Sanders can play with the Bruins' big men, an upset is entirely possible. UCLA's been to three straight Final Fours. They could have trouble making the round of 32 this year.

The committee certainly didn't do American any favors sending them to Philadelphia to play Villanova. Still, the Eagles are all seniors and they've played tough road games during the year. In all likelihood Villanova will come out of Philadelphia to play Duke in the round of 16. That's a toss-up game. Both teams have good guards, good coaches and lots of experience. Neither one is beating Pittsburgh. At least Villanova would know what it was getting into. Duke won't. Mike Krzyzewski is very, very good in region finals (10-1) but he's not good enough to win this one.

First-round upset: VCU over UCLA. Dark horse likely to go deep: Florida State. Best story (who else): American.


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