2023 NCAA Tournament East Region: 3 Sleepers to Win
Overall, the East region is a pretty fun region. The two top seeds are very strong and capable of winning the 2023 NCAA Tournament. This region has multiple tough middle seeds such as Kentucky and Duke. Also, it has two highly competitive first-round matches in Michigan State vs USC and Memphis vs FAU. However, besides fun matchups, people want to know what sleepers they can find in this region.
I think Purdue and Marquette are great teams with Marquette having a solid chance to make the Final Four. However, Marquette is a two-seed the teams I pick will all be higher seeds and therefore true sleepers. Here, are my three sleepers in the South region in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
Sleeper to Win: Duke Blue Devils
Duke is a sleeper to win the South region as a five seed because they are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. The Blue Devils went 26-8 and won the ACC Conference Tournament. This team has had some up and downs as they have suffered bad losses against Wake Forest, NC State, and Clemson. However, they are playing their best basketball right now and that is what one wants to see from a sleeper team entering the tournament.
Duke is fully healthy now and their team is starting to fire on all cylinders. Freshman center Kyle Fliipowski is averaging 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals. He has been a huge reason for Duke’s recent success as he has a double-double in four of his last five games. Junior guard Jeremy Roach is the leader of this Duke squad. He is averaging 13.3 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.5 rebounds. Also, Roach has been doing a good job at getting teammates Tyrese Proctor and Dariq Whitehead open looks. Whitehead is an impressive freshman forward who is averaging 8.1 points while shooting 41.1% from three.
Duke has a tough first matchup against Oral Roberts but they should be able to win this game. Next, they have a second-round matchup against a struggling Tennessee that is without their star point guard. The Blue Devils will then possibly face number one seed Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen. Duke would be on fire if they made it to the second weekend so I can see them pulling off the upset against Purdue. The Blue Devils are a skilled team with a mix of veterans and young players. Their offense is good but they really stand out on the defensive end and I can see them making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Sleeper to Win: Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is a sixth seed that I believe can make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. First, let’s get the bad things out of the way. Kentucky was playing well towards the end of the season but they were upset by Vanderbilt in their first game of the SEC Conference Tournament. Also, they are dealing with some health issues as freshman guard Cason Wallace is not 100% healthy. However, they have a talented starting five that can score with the best of college basketball.
The Wildcats’ best player is senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe who averages 16.5 points and 13.1 rebounds. He is an absolute animal on the boards as he is one of the best rebounders I have ever seen. He can take over a game by drawing a lot of fouls and keep possessions alive by getting second-chance points. They get good play from talented forward Jacob Toppin who averages 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds and guard Wallace who averages 11.6 points and a team-high 4.2 assists. Finally, their second-best scorer is senior guard Antonio Reeves who is averaging 14.4 points while shooting 40.7% from three.
Kentucky can put up points with no problem as they average 75.1 points per game but their defense does need to improve. They have a tough matchup against Providence in the first round before most likely meeting up with one of the weaker three seeds in Kansas St in the second round. The Wildcats would then possibly face a great Marquette team in the Sweet Sixteen. Ultimately, Kentucky does not have the toughest path to the Final Four but they will have to play phenomenally to make a deep run. The Wildcats also need a deep run after their disappointing first-round exit last year as a two-seed.
Sleeper to Win: Memphis Tigers
This is a pretty big sleeper and this would be a magical NCAA Tournament run. The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the nation as they just beat Houston to win the AAC Tournament. They finished the season 26-8 with three of those losses coming to the likes of Houston twice and Alabama once. Unfortunately, Memphis got no help from the committee as they received an eighth seed and have one of the toughest paths in the tournament.
However, the Tigers can be competitive with anyone due to the talent of their two stars. Senior guard Kendric Davis, who transferred from SMU, is an absolute bucket as he averages a huge 22.1 points. He has solid shooting percentage numbers and he adds 5.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. The Tigers’ other main star is forward Deandre Miller who averages 17.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. He is incredibly efficient shooting 53.9% from the field, 42.6% from behind the arc, and 72.7% from the free throw line. The other main contributors on the team are guards Keonte Kennedy and Elijah McCadden who average 9.2 points and 7.6 points respectively.
They have a first-round matchup against FAU, who I also believe can make a deep run if they win this game and a second-round matchup against number-one seed Purdue. After this, they would have to face teams like Duke and Marquette which is a scary sight. I think Memphis is a great sleeper since they are solid on both sides of the ball, they have two stars that can score at will, and they have a lot of momentum going into the tournament. Unfortunately, they just have one of the roughest draws of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
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