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John Feinstein's East Region Analysis

Despite some strange seeding in the East, it's Kentucky's region to lose

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Let's start with the matchup that disproves any selection committee's claims of even-handedness: Temple-Cornell. Both teams are under-seeded: Vanderbilt a fourth seed out of the SEC? Oh, please. And Cornell just a No. 12? Ridiculous. The Big Red played a tougher nonconference schedule than almost anyone in the country. Two of their four losses were at Syracuse and at Kansas. Whom exactly did California, a No. 8 seed, beat? The Bears couldn't even win their conference tournament in a miserable Pacific-10.

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The committee talks all about the "eye test." Clearly, these guys need a new optometrist. Oh, and when they tell you they don't pay attention to the TV value of a matchup, reach for your wallets. Temple Coach Fran Dunphy coached at Pennsylvania for 17 years. Guess who one of his assistants was for 10 years? Current Cornell Coach Steve Donahue. Can't wait to hear the committee boys say, "Gee, we had no idea."

Okay, on to the rest of the region.

Kentucky's the obvious favorite, but a region final against West Virginia on a Big East court (Syracuse) would almost be worth going to Syracuse to see.

Kentucky has a virtual walkover to the round of 16 with an opener against East Tennessee State and a second-round game against the winner of Texas vs. Wake Forest, who were about 3-50 combined the last month of the season. (Note: Do you think Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg might be privately pointing out to people right now that Wake Athletic Director Ron Wellman is on the committee for the first time this year?)

The Temple-Cornell winner will have a good shot to beat Wisconsin if the Badgers beat Wofford. That game is no lock, although it is difficult to pick against Bo Ryan given his tournament record. Kentucky's first test will come in the round of 16, especially if it plays Temple. Dunphy's team has tough guards, the kind that will get in John Wall's face given the chance.

West Virginia also should reach the round of 16 although its tougher game in Buffalo might be in the first round against Morgan State. Missouri limped to the finish, and Clemson was about the only team to lose to Wake Forest down the stretch.

Marquette will beat Washington in the first round because Washington would not have finished in the top 10 in the Big East. A New Mexico-Marquette second-round game (after New Mexico beats Montana) should be one of the best games of the first weekend.

West Virginia should beat the winner of that game to face Kentucky in the region final.

One thing to remember: John Calipari has had a deal-with-the-devil season. Witness the Wildcats' overtime win over Mississippi State on Sunday. He doesn't want to face West Virginia. Logic says he will. The devil says maybe not.


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