New Mexico State and Ian Baker, the WAC Player of the Year, will need to bring their A-game against Baylor. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Hawkes)
New Mexico State and Ian Baker, the WAC Player of the Year, will need to bring their A-game against Baylor. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Hawkes)

MARK MADNESS | Mark Adams breaks down the East Region

In bracket order, scouting the NCAA Tournament's East Region for upsets and previewing the games, which start Tuesday with No. 16 seeds Mount St. Mary's and New Orleans in a First Four matchup:

Ranking System | Chances for an upset

  • UPSET ALERT! Think "Hoosiers" — 60% or higher
  • I’ll take that bet! — Higher than 50%
  • Flip a coin! — 50%
  • Like marrying a Kardashian — 25%
  • So you’re saying there’s a chance (Lloyd Christmas optimism from "Dumb and Dumber" — 1 in a million

Mount St. Mary's vs. New Orleans |
Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. ET

16 | MOUNT ST. MARY'S

  • Record: 19-15, 14-4 Northeast
  • Go-to guys: 6-0 SO Elijah Long (15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 42% FG shooting, 40% 3PT shooting); 5-5 JR Junior Robinson (14.1 points, 2.9 assists, 42% FG shooting, 40% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: This team hangs their defensive hat on blocking shots. Elijah Long is long on talent and can score, rebound and pass. He is also a 40% 3-point threat. He makes the Mountaineers dangerous
  • Weaknesses: A poor rebounding team and below average on defense.

16 | NEW ORLEANS

  • Game: 20-11, 13-5 Southland
  • Go-to guy: 6-5 SR Erik Thomas (19.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 59% FG shooting).
  • Strengths: Erik Thomas has resurrected the New Orleans Privateers to the top of the Southland heap in one of the great comeback stories in college basketball. UNO was devastated after Katrina and the road back has not been easy. Coach Mark Slessinger should get national coach of the year consideration for the masterful job he has done.
  • Weaknesses: The Privateers can be woeful from behind the arc and tend to turn the ball much. This is in all probability a one and done team but I will root for these guys!

» UPSET PREDICTION: Flip a coin! (50%)

Villanova vs. Mount St. Mary's/New Orleans |
Thursday, 7:10 p.m. ET

1 | VILLANOVA

  • Record: 31-3, 15-3 Big East.
  • Go-to guys: 6-5 SR Josh Hart (18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 51% FG shooting, 41% 3PT shooting); 6-3 SOJalen Brunson (14.8 points, 4.2 assists, 54% FG shooting, 40% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges all shoot between 38%-40% from three. Good luck finding four defenders on one team that can shut these guys down. This team is well-rounded as the Wildcats are ranked in the top 90 in every NCAA stat category except blocked shots. Jay Wright has built a balanced team and now he is positioned to go for a national championship repeat!
  • Weaknesses: Villanova is not an intimidating team inside but good enough.

» UPSET PREDICTION: So you’re saying there’s a chance (1 in a million)

Wisconsin vs. Virginia Tech |
Thursday, 9:40 p.m. ET

8 | WISCONSIN

  • Record: 25-9, 12-6 Big Ten.
  • Go-to guys: 6-4 SR Bronson Koenig (14.1 points, 42% FG shooting, 39% 3PT shooting): 6-8 SO Ethan Happ (13.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 58% FG shooting).
  • Strengths: The Badgers defend as usual and pound the glass. Ethan Happ is efficient and Bronson Koenig has a PhD in shooting.
  • Weaknesses: Wisconsin can’t defend the three or throw it in the ocean from the free-throw line. Nigel Hays has been a disappointment. This Badgers team is vulnerable.

9 | VIRGINIA TECH

  • Record: 22-10, 10-8 ACC.
  • Go-to guy: 6-7 SR Zach LeDay (16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 53% FG shooting).
  • Strengths: The Hokies can really shoot the ball and are top 10 in FG% at nearly 50% and 3PT% at over 40%. LeDay is an efficient two-point scorer from two-point range and he has four teammates who bang the three ball at a high rate.
  • Weaknesses: And now for the bad news, the Hokies are a poor defensive team especially by NCAA tournament team standards.

» UPSET PREDICTION: Flip a coin (50%)

Virginia vs. UNC Wilmington |
Thursday, 12:40 p.m. ET

5 | VIRGINIA

  • Record: 22-10, 11-7 ACC.
  • Go-to guy: 6-2 SR London Perrantes (12.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 41% FG shooting, 38% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: Perrantes is the leading scorer on a team without any true dynamic scorer but they do bring just enough diverse offense to win. Defense is always the obvious strength but it also related to pace of play. The Cavaliers can bore an opponent to death and I mean that positively. Tony Bennett is a genius strategist and his teams but in 100%. Virginia holds opponents to under 55PPG and they turn it over as often as the huge rock in my front garden.
  • Weaknesses: If Virginia gets behind they are not built for big comebacks. If it is a chess match advantage Virginia. If it is checkers, advantage opponents.

12 | UNC WILMINGTON

  • Record: 29-5, 15-3 CAA
  • Go-to guys: 6-5 SO CJ Bryce (17.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 49% FG shooting, 34% 3PT shooting); 6-5 SR Chris Flemmings (15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 47% FG shooting, 36% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: UNC Wilmington is arguably the best overall offensive team below the P5 and Big East to enter the tournament. Their numbers are impressive! The Seahawks are #6 in assist/TO ratio (1.55/1). They shoot nearly 50% and drain 20 three pointers per game and yes, they shoot a ton of 3’s. They do force turnovers but it is at a cost.
  • Weaknesses: The Seahawks foul a lot! Typically, opponents can plan on some charity from UNCW who commits 20 personal fouls/game. While their pressure defense forces turnovers it is at a price. Their high risk, high reward defense yields 48%FG% by opponents. That can spell disaster on the upset meter unless they meet an opponent that can’t take care of the ball.

» UPSET PREDICTION: Like marrying a Kardashian (25%)

Florida vs. East Tennessee St. |
Thursday, 3:10 p.m. ET

4 | FLORIDA

  • Record: 24-8, 14-4 SEC.
  • Go-to guy: 6-2 SO KeVaughn Allen (13.9 points, 46% FG shooting, 40% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: You can’t spell Florida without a D and this team has plenty of D and especially defensive from the 3PT line holding teams to 30%. The other D is depth which comes in handy during the second game of any weekend. Offensively, the Gators are good but not great. They are balanced but not dynamic on O.
  • Weaknesses: The more I watch, the more vulnerable I see this team. I believe they can be guarded and lack a true go-to guy in late-game situations. It shows in close games. This tournament will provide opportunities for the Gators to prove me wrong.

13 | EAST TENNESSEE STATE

  • Record: 27-7, 14-4 Southern.
  • Go-to guy: 6-3 SR T.J. Cromer (19.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 45% FG shooting, 40% 3PT shooting, 82% FT shooting).
  • Strength: The Buccaneers are a highly efficient offensive team and just good enough defensively to cause problems in their first round game. TJ Cromer is a guard not many may know much about but this kid can slice and dice a defense and lob bombs from beyond the arc. ETSU has a shipload of depth, experience and toughness to compete with the right match up.
  • Weaknesses: ETSU has one big Achilles heel and that is turnovers. If Coach Steve Forbes can find a way for his Buccaneers to protect their booty then ETSU could pull an upset. Forbes is one of those guys who isn’t scared and this rebuilding job has been one of the best in the nation over the last several years. The Bucs also tend to run afoul of the rules which seems to make sense. In other words, they tend to foul too much. They play with an edge you might expect from Forbes’ swashbuckling style!

» UPSET PREDICTION: Flip a coin (50%)

Providence vs. USC |
Wednesday, 9:10 ET

11 | PROVIDENCE

  • Record: 20-12, 10-8 Big East.
  • Go-to guy: 6-8 JR Rodney Bullock (15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 43% FG shooting, 30% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: Providence is basically average in most areas without a true strength. Four double figure scorers are led by Rodney Bullock at 16PPG. Kyron Cartwright fuels the Friar’s offense as the #6 dish distributor in the country with nearly 7 dimes per game.
  • Weaknesses: Let’s see, Providence is average at best defensively and a poor rebounding team. Those two weaknesses usually indicate an early exit.

11 | USC

  • Record: 24-9, 10-8 Pac-12.
  • Go-to guys: 6-10 SO Bennie Boatwright (14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 40% FG shooting, 36% 3PT shooting); 6-11 SO Chimezie Metu (14.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots, 55% FG shooting).
  • Strengths: Bennie Boatwright is back and that is great news for the Trojans. He brings long range shooting skills and is a 90%+ free throw shooter. Chimezie Metu is a 6-11 sophomore who gives the Trojans an ever improving target inside and he and the Trojans are one of the nation’s leading shot blocking teams so the intimidation factor will be critical for this basically good but not great defensive team.
  • Weaknesses: You can expose USC from the arc. Keep an eye on that!

» UPSET PREDICTION: Flip a coin (50%)

SMU vs. Providence/USC |
Friday, 3:10 p.m. ET

6 | SMU

  • Record: 30-4, 17-1 AAC.
  • Go-to guys: 6-7 JR Semi Ojeleye (18.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 49% FG shooting, 43% 3PT shooting); 6-6 SO Shake Milton (13.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 44% FG shooting, 43% 3PT shooting); 6-8 SR Ben Moore (11.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 56% FG shooting); 6-6 SR Sterling Brown (when he does the little things, big things happen for SMU!).
  • Strengths: The Mustangs bring length at every position and can switch every screen which is a defensive differentiator. Semi Ojeleye is a matchup issue for any defense to game plan against. This is a unique team that is hard to expose defensively. On offense their size, strength and skill level impose offensive mismatches on their opponents with Ben Moore, Sterling Brown and Shake Milton.
  • Weakness: One thing we know about the NCAA tournament is that you have to win close games to survive and advance. This is a sub 70% free throw shooting team and that fact with the added tournament pressure could derail the Mustangs. Remember, this team was not eligible for the tournament last season. How Tim Jankovich’s team reacts to that reality is a huge key!

» UPSET PREDICTION: Like marrying a Kardashian (25%)

Baylor vs. New Mexico St. |
Friday, 12:40 p.m. ET

3 | BAYLOR

  • Record: 25-7, 12-6 Big 12.
  • Go-to guy: 6-10 JR Johnathan Motley (17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 52% FG shooting, 26% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: Baylor is physically imposing led by Motley. He and his crew applies their physical traits with a trademark defense that is both intimidating with Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. leading a team that rejects 5 blocks/game and holds opponents to 39.5% FG shooting. The Bears hammer the offensive glass and limit their foe’s second-chance opportunities with an 8.8 rebound margin, which is top 10 in the country.
  • Weaknesses: Baylor can be careless with the ball and while they intimidate on the defensive end, they do not cause a lot of turnovers. Baylor also can struggle from the arc at times. As good as Baylor is, they are vulnerable to a tough rebounding opponent who can force them to shoot from behind the arc in their half-court offense.

14 | NEW MEXICO STATE

  • Record: 28-5, 11-3 WAC.
  • Go-to guys: 6-0 SR Ian Baker (16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 39% FG shooting, 31% 3PT shooting); 6-5 JR Braxton Huggins (13.6 points, 44% FG shooting, 42% 3PT shooting).
  • Strength: The Aggies defend the heck out of the arc (29% 3PTD) and can turn long misses into points on the opposite end. They flat out board it at +7RPG which is #15 NCAA. Braxton Huggins and Ian Baker combine for over 30PPG and Huggins is a deadly shooter at over 42% from deep. Eli Chuha is a double-double dude so this team has weapons.
  • Weaknesses: While the Aggies defend the arc well they are not proficient shooters with the exception of Huggins as they themselves shoot just over 33% from the three-point line. They are solid defensively but do not force turnovers. This is a pretty solid team.

» UPSET PREDICTION: Like marrying a Kardashian (25%)

South Carolina vs. Marquette |
Friday, 9:50 p.m. ET

7 | SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Record: 22-10, 12-6 SEC.
  • Go-to guy: 6-5 SR Sindarius Thornwell (20.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 44% FG shooting, 39% 3PT shooting); 6-7 SO P.J. Dozier (13.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 39% FG shooting, 31% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: Thornwell and Dozier are both skilled and smart basketball players. Thornwell is good enough on his own to carry a team to the Sweet 16. The Gamecocks are Frank Martin tough on defense. These are nasty birds that fight on defense.
  • Weaknesses: This team suffers offensive droughts and can be overly aggressive on defense and give up free throws from too many fouls.

10 | MARQUETTE

  • Record: 19-12, 10-8 Big East.
  • Go-to guy: 5-11 FR Markus Howard (13.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 51% FG shooting, 55% 3PT shooting.
  • Strengths: Marquette is so balanced and they shoot the heck out of the trey as the #1 long rangers on this college basketball court. That is why they beat Villanova when they shot a blistering 47% from 3PT range.
  • Weaknesses: Here is where it gets dicey. Marquette struggles to defend the arc maybe because they spend so much time shooting from it. They also can be soft on the glass. I’m just not sure if this team is physically tough enough to advance and make a run.

» UPSET PREDICTION: Flip a coin (50%)

Duke vs. Troy |
Friday, 7:20 p.m. ET

2 | DUKE

  • Record: 27-8, 11-7 ACC.
  • Go-to guys: 6-8 FR Jayson Tatum (16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 45% FG shooting); 6-5 SO Luke Kennard (20.1 points, 50% FG shooting, 44% 3PT shooting).
  • Strengths: They graduate their guys and spend $16M on men’s basketball. Kennard deserves more props for being a guy who just plays and never complains or causes drama. I love that young man!
  • Weaknesses: Drama!

15 | TROY

  • Record: 22-14, 10-8 Sun Belt.
  • Go-to guys: 6-6 SO Jordan Varnado (16.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 54% FG shooting, 38% 3PT shooting); 6-3 JR Wesley Person (14.8 points, 43% FG shooting, 40% 3PT shooting, 82% FT shooting).
  • Strengths: After 6 straight losing seasons Troy is now the Sun Belt champions. They lean on three solid offensive talents in Jordon Varnado, Wesley Person and Jeremy Hollimon who drive a top 50 offense. The Trojans shoot over 46% on the season and the above trio has been hot of late winning 4 games in 5 days to earn the bid.
  • Weaknesses: Turnovers can be an issue for a team without a true point guard. Troy is undersized but overall a solid team.

» UPSET PREDICTION: So you’re saying there’s a chance (1 in a million)

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