NCAA Tournament East Region preview: Marquette or Tennessee in line to get past No. 1 Purdue?

Marquette's Kam Jones (1) celebrates after scoring with Stevie Mitchell during the championship game of the Big East men's tournament on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in New York.

For those who like chaos and drama all wrapped up into one bracket, that certainly could be what we have in the East Bracket, and a certain team from Louisiana would like to throw a wrench in the plans of some chalky teams.

The Cajuns (26-7) are the 13 seed and open up against fourth-seeded Tennessee on Thursday night in Orlando as 11-point underdogs, but they are winners of five in a row, including a Sun Belt Conference tournament championship against South Alabama on March 6.

But overall, who are the biggest sleepers and who might be the best values?

The top seed is Purdue, who at 29-5, have played much of the season as one of the best teams in the country, but at others have looked sort of pedestrian – as in back-to-back losses in mid-February – 64-58 at Northwestern and 68-56 to Maryland. In all, they lost three out of four during that same stretch, which included a 79-71 defeat to Indiana, but they also walloped Ohio State, 82-55, on Feb. 19.

Since then, they have been tough, including a two-point victory in the Big Ten tournament. What does that mean for the rest of the field?

In the second round, the Boilermakers will get either red-hot Florida Atlantic (31-3) or red-hot Memphis, which just beat No. 1 Houston in the AAC tourney championship last weekend. If they can survive that, they most likely get Tennessee, and would have to expect to later face either third-seeded Kansas State or second-seeded Marquette.

In other words, expect some interesting things to happen in this bracket, as it would not be a shock if Purdue is done dancing before the end of the first weekend.

NOTE: All odds are courtesy of FanDuel.

Best regional values: Marquette at -140 to reach the Sweet 16 and +400 to win the East (+2000 to win a national title); Providence at +3000 to win the East.

Biggest first-round upset: (11) Providence over (6) Kentucky.

Regional final: (4) Tennessee vs. (2) Marquette.

Headed to Houston: Marquette.


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