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NCAA tournament preview: East Region

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1 Virginia (28-6, ACC champion) vs.

16 Coastal Carolina (21-12, Big South champion)

Virginia must prove it deserves a No. 1 seed, even after beating Duke in the ACC tournament Sunday. Winning big over the Chanticleers would be a good start.

8 Memphis (23-9, at-large) vs.

9 George Washington (24-8, at-large)

Memphis has been inconsistent this season and now faces a George Washington team that has won five of its last seven games.

5 Cincinnati (27-6, at-large) vs.

12 Harvard (26-4, Ivy League champion)

Cincinnati's high-scoring Justin Jackson complements Kilpatrick on a team that also plays tough defense. Harvard is making its third straight trip to the tournament.

4 Michigan State (26-8, Big Ten champion) vs.

13 Delaware (25-9, CAA champion)

Gary Harris stars at both ends of the court for Michigan State. Delaware made the tournament with a come-from-behind win in its conference tournament.

6 North Carolina (23-9, at-large) vs.

11 Providence (23-11, Big East champion)

The unpredictable Tar Heels have impressive wins — and surprising losses — on their record. The Friars' conference title was just plain surprising.

3 Iowa State (26-7, Big 12 champion) vs.

14 N. Carolina Central (28-5, MEAC champion)

The Cyclones defeated Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor to win the Big 12 tournament. Jeremy Ingram's 20.6 points lead the Eagles.

7 Connecticut (26-8, at-large) vs.

10 St. Joseph's (24-9, Atlantic 10 champion)

James Bell leads Villanova with 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Milwaukee went 7-9 in league play before winning its tournament.

2 Villanova (28-4, at-large) vs.

15 Milwaukee (21-13, Horizon champion)

St. Joseph's was a bubble team until a late-season surge. Connecticut's Napier gets help from DeAndre Daniels, who averages 12.5 points.

Inspecting the top seeds

1 VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers swept the ACC regular season and tournament but must persuade skeptics. Their lock-down defense and methodical offense lead the way.

2 VILLANOVA: Last week's surprising loss to Seton Hall hurt, but the Wildcats have made a habit of winning tough games this season.

3 IOWA STATE: Coach Fred Hoiberg's three stars — DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang — run a potent up-tempo offense.

4 MICHIGAN STATE: Probably the best No. 4 seed in the nation. The Spartans are getting healthy — and finding their rhythm — at just the right time.

Cinderella search

No. 12-seeded Harvard, the Ivy League champion, features a veteran group with seniors Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey, who returned from academic suspension. The Crimson upset third-seeded New Mexico last year.

Top players

DeAndre Kane, guard, Iowa State

Kane stands out from the Cyclones' talented trio by averaging 17 points and 6.7 rebounds. He also dishes out 5.8 assists compared with only 2.8 turnovers.

Sean Kilpatrick, guard, Cincinnati

The senior has been deadly from long range with 90 three-pointers this season. That accuracy had translated into 20.7 points a game for the Bearcats.

Shabazz Napier, guard, Connecticut

This AAC player of the year does it all. He leads the Huskies with 17.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He also made a team-best 67 three-pointers while running the offense.

Rim shots

No. 16-seeded Coastal Carolina might be a longshot, but Coach Cliff Ellis knows something about March Madness. This is the fourth team — following South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn — he has led to the tournament.

This has been a historic season for North Carolina Central. The Eagles will make their tournament debut after winning 20 consecutive games and earning their first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title in more than six decades.

Maurice Creek might be the feel-good story of this region. After suffering a string of injuries at Indiana, he transferred to George Washington and now leads the Colonials with 14.3 points.

If Villanova and St. Joseph's can get past their opening games, they will meet in an all-Philadelphia showdown. Think this rivalry is intense? It's called "The Holy War."

david.wharton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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