Madison Square Garden, which hasn’t hosted NCAA Tournament games since 1961, is the site of this year’s East Regional semifinals and final. Ahead of the Big Dance’s opening weekend, amNewYork gauges the chances of the teams — from Nos. 1 through 16 — vying to play in New York beginning March 28.
The ACC champs have, essentially, a gimme in their opener, and they’re a superior team to Memphis and George Washington. The Cavaliers ought to make it to MSG.
Getting past No. 15 Milwaukee shouldn’t be too troublesome for the Big East power, but the Wildcats will have their hands full with former conference rival Connecticut. If Saint Joseph’s beats UConn, ‘Nova should have an easier road.
Iowa State (26-7)
The Cyclones should be considered a sleeper to emerge victorious at the Garden on March 30. Their efficient offense will be troublesome for potential third-round opponents North Carolina and Providence.
Michigan State (26-8)
Led by potential NBA lottery pick Gary Harris, the Spartans can ride the wave after winning the Big Ten Tournament. If they make it to Saturday, they should be favored in potential matchups against Cincinnati or Harvard.
A sturdy defense could lift the Bearcats past Harvard and, maybe, Michigan State. More likely, the Spartans solve them in Round 3.
North Carolina (23-9)
These Tar Heels are inconsistent. They could just as easily reach the Sweet 16 as bow out to Providence with a whimper.
The Huskies have beaten the nation’s top team, Florida, so they won’t fear Saint Joe’s or Villanova. UConn would relish a chance to play in the Garden again.
The Tigers haven’t played well away from home lately. GWU might be too tough for them, and Virginia almost certainly would be.
George Washington (24-8)
The Colonials’ balanced offense should see them through to the weekend. An upset of the Cavaliers would be a long-shot, though.
Saint Joseph’s (24-9)
A tough draw against UConn doesn’t bode well. The Hawks’ path won’t be any easier against ‘Nova. Don’t hold your breath for them playing at MSG.
Coming off a Big East Tournament championship gives the Friars plenty of momentum against a middling Tar Heels team, yet their run likely will end before they reach Manhattan.
The Ivy League winner advanced last year, but will hit a wall against the Bearcats.
The Blue Hens can score with the best of them, making the CAA champs a live underdog to advance. Believe it or not, they might be better off facing Cincinnati than Harvard in Round 3.
N.C. Central (28-5)
Upsetting Iowa State and either UNC or Providence would be a long shot in the Eagles’ first tournament. But don’t shut the door entirely on the MEAC champs and high-scoring Jeremy Ingram.
A prior 78-52 loss to in-state juggernaut Wisconsin indicates how things will go for the Horizon League champion Panthers.
Coastal Carolina (21-12)
Let’s face it, the Big South champion Chanticleers aren’t going anywhere.