The East is a beast
The beasts of the East this year will be the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels the only team as talent-laden as the Arizona Wildcats of the West.
Boasting the best player in the nation in Antawn Jamison and arguably the best starting five, the Tar Heels are looking to make their 24th straight tournament appearance a successful one and for this team, that means the championship.
Jamison leads this dynamic squad as the ACC leader in points (24.3 ppg), field goal percentage (61.1) and rebounding (10.6 rpg) and will be looking to add the championship to his outstanding year. Helping the Tar Heels in their quest will be the back court duo of Ed Cota and Shammond Williams. Williams, a candidate for most improved player nationally, leads the Tar heels in three point percentage at 47.1 per cent and has a free throw percentage of 91.4 per cent. The lack of depth is of concern for the Tar Heels as the tournament moves on, but look for the starters to play tireless defense as they held opponents to 38.9 per cent from the floor during the season.
The Huskies from Connecticut, seeded second, also pose a threat to the Tar Heels, as they put the second-best guard tandem on the floor in freshman point guard Khalid El-Amin and junior Ricky Moore. The Huskies play up-tempo and like to use full-court presses to wear out opponents, something that could make a difference if they meet North Carolina. The Huskies also have a proven scorer in Richard Hamilton who was second in Big East scoring and provides a nice compliment to his back- court mates.
The third seeded South Carolina Gamecocks are an upset waiting to happen. Without a solid front court the Gamecocks rely heavily on the duo of BJ McKie and Melvin Watson. If these two players do not step their games up a couple of notches it could be a very early exit for them.
The most dangerous dark-horse team in the East could be the fourth seeded Michigan State Spartans, who surprisingly won the Big 10 regular season title. The Spartans field a team of young, versatile forwards and sport the best player in the Big 10, Martin Cleaves leading in assists (7.5 apg). Cleaves could provide the upset of the tournament and beat a fatigued North Carolina.
Don't count out Princeton from the Ivy League, which had an outstanding 26-1 record.