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March Madness East Region: UConn Faces Rough Road

With the potential of playing the first two games in New York and the next two games in the East Region in Boston, it could be hard to derail defending national champion UConn’s bid to return to the Final Four. Even before the bracket was announced, the Huskies led the way in the March Madness odds.

Fresh off a run to the program’s first Big East tournament title since 2011, UConn is one of 11 conference tournament champions in the East Region.

March Madness East Region: UConn Faces Rough Road
Jordan Hawkins #24 of the UConn Huskies- Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images/AFP

With no First Four games in the East Region, things get underway when Duquesne meets BYU on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. ET. No. 2 seed Iowa State and No. 3 seed Illinois also play their openers on Thursday. The regional field will be finalized when the matchup between Yale and Auburn wraps up on Friday.

When looking at our odds of winning March Madness, UConn (+400) is the favorite in the odds of winning the national title.


UConn Will Be A Tough Out

With veteran point guard Tristen Newton, plenty of 3-point threats and a rising star in 7-foot-2 sophomore Donovan Clingan, UConn has proven that it can win in a variety of ways and that is key when March Madness rolls around.

The Huskies open with a Stetson team making its NCAA Division I tournament debut with the Huskies listed by our sportsbook as a 26½-point favorite.

Next up would be either Florida Atlantic or Northwestern. FAU is coming off a run to the Final Four while Northwestern has beaten Purdue in each of the last two seasons, so the Wildcats shouldn’t be in awe of the defending champions if that matchup materializes.


Champions Unite

With all the chaos that transpired in the conference tournaments, just four tournament champions earned top 16 seeds in the March Madness bracket and all of them happen to be in the East Region.

Along with Big East champion UConn, Big 12 champ Iowa State is seeded second, Big Ten winner Illinois is the No. 3 seed while SEC tourney champion Auburn is the No. 4 seed. That could make things difficult for the Huskies.

Keep in mind that Big Ten champion Purdue and Pac-12 champion Arizona both fell in the first round in the 2023 tournament.


Injuries to Monitor

There isn’t much in the way of ailing players to consider when making March Madness bets in this portion of the bracket.

Duquesne’s Tre Williams is dealing with a shoulder injury and is questionable to face BYU.

Aly Khalifa, who is second on BYU in assists, is expected to play.

Washington State guard Joseph Yesufu hasn’t played since late November due to a hip injury.


Who is on Upset Alert?

Other than Jaedon LeDee, only one other San Diego State player is averaging more than 10 points per game and it can be dangerous to lean on just one or two players to carry the offensive load at this time of the year. So keep an eye on UAB, aNo. 12 seed that is coming off a run to the American Athletic Conference tournament title.


Five Players to Watch

1. Boo Buie, Northwestern: He has one of the best names in the tournament and the game to match as he is coming off a 29-point effort in a loss in the Big Ten tournament.

2. Johni Broome, Auburn: Broome has scored in double figures in 25 games in a row with nine double-doubles during that time.

3. Milan Momcilovic, Iowa State: Freshmen aren’t supposed to drop 18 points in a win over the top-ranked team in the country in the Big 12 title game but that is exactly what happened.

4. Tristen Newton, UConn: It is tough to win at this time of the year without strong guard play and Newton is one of the nation’s top point guards.

5. Terrence Shannon Jr., Illinois: Shannon is third among Division I players with an average of 23 points per game. He put up 28, 40, and 34 points in the Big Ten tournament.


A Look at the Schedule

No. 6 seed Brigham Young is a 6½-point favorite according to the Las Vegas odds against Duquesne in a game being played on Thursday at 12:40 p.m. ET in Omaha, Neb. That will

be followed by No. 3 seed Illinois being listed as an 11½-point favorite against Morehead State at 3:10 p.m. ET.

The Thursday night session in Omaha begins with No. 2 seed Iowa State meeting up with South Dakota State as a 16½-point favorite. The best could be saved for last as No. 10 seed Drake is the 1½-point favorite against Washington State.

Friday’s action begins with No. 9 seed Northwestern and No. 8 Florida Atlantic playing at 12:15 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. San Diego State (-6½) takes on UAB in Spokane, Washington at 1:45 p.m.

UConn hits the court against Stetson as a 26½-point favorite followed by the final first-round game in the East when Yale (+12½) looks to upset Auburn.



Questions Of The Day


Which team had the best odds to win the East Region title?

Defending national champion UConn is currently at even odds to win the regional title followed by Iowa State at +400 and Illinois at +450.

Are any lower-seeded teams favored in the first round in the East Regional?

No. 10 Drake is a slight favorite against No. 7 Washington State in the first round.

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