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NCAA tournament preview: East Region

A look at the NCAA tournament's East Regional:

THURSDAY :: PITTSBURGH

1 Villanova (32-2, Big East champion) vs.

16 Lafayette (20-12, Patriot champion)

Villanova, which won the Big East tournament for the first time since 1995, has six players averaging 9.2 points or more. Lafayette is making its first appearance since 2000.

8 North Carolina State (20-13, at-large)

vs. 9 Louisiana State (22-10, at-large)

North Carolina State is expected to have guard Anthony Barber (neck spasms) back for tournament. LSU’s best game may be a 71-69 loss to No. 1 Kentucky

FRIDAY :: COLUMBUS, OHIO

5 Northern Iowa (30-3, Missouri Valley champion)

vs. 12 Wyoming (25-9, Mountain West champion)

Last time Northern Iowa was in tournament, the Panthers beat No. 1-seeded Kansas and No. 8 Nevada Las Vegas in 2010. Larry Nance Jr., son of former Clemson star, leads Wyoming.

4 Louisville (24-8, at-large) vs.

13 UC Irvine (21-12, Big West champion)

Louisville guard Chris Jones was dismissed from team after being charged with rape. Irvine is making its first NCAA appearance in 38 years in¿ Division I.

FRIDAY :: SEATTLE

6 Providence (22-11, at-large)

11 Play-in winner (See matchup below)

Providence has quite a resume, with seven victories over teams in the NCAA tournament: Butler, St. John’s, Notre Dame, Albany, Xavier and Georgetown twice.

14 Albany (24-8, American East champion)

7 Michigan State (23-11, at-large)

Michigan State, which lost in the East regional final in 2014, had reached the Sweet 16 three consecutive years. Georgia is back in the tournament for the first time since 2011.

FRIDAY :: CHARLOTTE, N.C.

10 Georgia (21-11, at-large)

2 Virginia (29-3, at-large)

15 Belmont (22-10, at-large)

Virginia has never lost an NCAA tournament opener when seeded fourth or higher. Belmont nearly upset second-seeded Duke in 2008, but is 0-6 in tournament play.

3 Oklahoma (22-10, at-large)

Oklahoma has lost its first NCAA game in each of the last two seasons, including an upset loss to North Dakota State last year. Albany is 1-4 in NCAA games.

Play-in game for No. 11 :: WEDNESDAY :: DAYTON, Ohio

Boise State (25-8, at-large) vs.

Dayton (25-8, at-large)

Boise State won a Mountain West co-championship, but will face Dayton on its home court. This is the Flyers’ first NCAA appearance since 2010.

Sorting the seeds

1) Villanova: Villanova has depth, but has not made it out of the NCAA tournament’s first weekend since 2009, when the Wildcats reached the Final Four.

2) Virginia: A sound defensive team all season. Almost. Opponents shot 36% against the Cavaliers. But North Carolina shot 54% in defeating Virginia on Friday.

3) Oklahoma: Oklahoma lives and dies on three-pointers, which can be a dicey strategy playing in unfamiliar arenas in the NCAA tournament.

4) Louisville: The Cardinals are only two years removed from their last NCAA championship. They seem capable of another after beating Virginia two weeks ago.

Cinderella search

North Carolina State has lost 13 games, but eight have been by five points or fewer. Two of those were in overtime. The Wolfpack has wins over Duke, North Carolina and Louisville.

Top players

Seth Tuttle, center, Northern Iowa

A 6-foot-8 senior, he leads the Panthers with averages of 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds. He may not be high on NBA draft charts, but he’s a formidable player.

Buddy Hield, guard, Oklahoma

At 6 feet 4 with long arms, he makes the Sooners go, averaging 17.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. He’s projected as a late first-round NBA pick.

Montrezl Harrel, forward, Louisville

A 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior, he can dominate inside. He averages 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds. He is projected as a first-round pick in the NBA draft should he declare early.

Rim shots

Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr. has the right genes. His father played 13 seasons in the NBA and won the league’s first slam dunk contest. Nance, a 6-8 forward, averages 16.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.

Louisville has cut its ties with guard Chris Jones, one of its top scorers, after he was charged with rape in February. The case is pending.

UC Irvine’s Mamadou Ndiaye is the tallest player in the nation at 7 feet 6. Mamadou does more than fill out a uniform. He sat out 19 games with a foot injury, but was dominant in the Big West tournament.

Taylor Barnette, a transfer from Virginia, tossed in an off-balanced three-pointer to give Belmont a victory over Murray State in the Ohio Valley tournament final. His reward? Barnette gets a shot at his former school in the first round.

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