NCAA Preview - East Regional

Okay folks, I'm pretty sure that many of you will not care one lick about what happens Thursday and Friday during two of the craziest sports days of the year because a certain team in Orange is not part of the party.

Whether Syracuse is there or not, though, the NCAA Tournament remains a jewel, especially in the first round, when fans in arenas get behind the underdog, hoping for upsets that tear up brackets all across this great land of ours and make this Dance so special in the first place.

With that in mind, cnylink.com will offer some exclusive looks at the field, starting with the East Regional, where a familiar shade of blue sits atop the bracket.

Before this season even began, North Carolina was supposed to be in this position. Blessed with more talent than anyone else in this field, the Tar Heels used its depth and frantic style to get to the top of the rankings early.

Carolina also showed the curse of its youth by stumbling enough times to nearly throw the ACC regular-season title away. It got bailed out by Virginia's late loss to Wake Forest, but needed no fortune to prevail in a wild and wooly ACC Tournament.

Now, as the top seed, Carolina has the good fortune of playing in front of thousands of friendly folks in Winston-Salem. It should have no trouble getting through tough-minded Ohio Valley champion Eastern Kentucky, but the second round is another matter.

Marquette can scare Tobacco Road denizens if Jerel McNeal comes back from that thumb injury to join Dominic James and his band of intense guards. Michigan State is here mostly because of a stiff schedule, but in Drew Neitzel, it possesses the type of player that can take over any close contest, if need be. My hunch is that he does just that to take out the Golden Eagles, earning Sparty a fun date with Carolina.

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