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East Region preview: How vulnerable are John Wall and Kentucky?

The Dagger

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The Dagger previews the East Region of the 2010 NCAA tournament. Read our previews of the South, Midwest and West.

Three who can carry their teams:

* John Wall, G, Kentucky

* Da'Sean Butler, F/G, West Virginia

* Ryan Wittman, G, Cornell

Most intriguing first-round matchup: No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 Cornell

Of all the teams in the country, Temple should have the biggest beef with the selection committee. The Owls's resume -- 29-5 record, Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles, 10 straight wins -- is that of a No. 3 seed. And for its trouble, Temple will face under-seeded Cornell, a team which took Kansas to the wire in Lawrence back in January. The Big Red were everyone's dark-horse before the brackets came out. Now that they're basically playing a 3/10 game instead of a 5/12, the enthusiasm has died down a bit. Still, this has all the trappings of a possible first-round thriller.

Best potential second-round game: No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Temple

Both Wisconsin and Temple are in the top-seven in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. As a result, the score of the game might struggle to get out of the 90's (combined), but it will be pleasing to all of the basketball purists out there who appreciate crisp man-to-man defense and fundamental offense. Maybe tournament organizers should consider breaking out the peach baskets for this one.

Ripe for an upset: No. 1 Kentucky

John Calipari should be thankful that his team will face either underachieving Texas or underachieving Wake Forest in the second round of the tournament. If the Wildcats were matched up with another 8/9 seed like UNLV, Northern Iowa, Gonzaga or Florida State, they'd be prime fodder for a first weekend upset. Kentucky plays a lot of close games and loses focus easily, particularly when DeMarcus Cousins goes through one of his funks. John Wall and company are so talented that they can make up for it on ability alone, but you know what they say about playing with fire.

Bound for the Final Four: No. 2 West Virginia

There are plenty of reasons not to pick WVU to advance to Indianapolis: 1. Only once in the last decade did a team that cut down the nets at the Big East tournament advance to the Final Four (Georgetown, 2007). 2. The Mountaineers won its three tourney games by a combined seven points. 3. Three weeks ago the team got rocked by Connecticut. 4. Bob Huggins-coached teams are known for March letdowns. Still, WVU has a favorable road and seems poised to capitalize on any missteps by No. 1 seed Kentucky.

Possible Dark Horse: No. 3 New Mexico

If you're one of those fans who only follows college basketball for the tournament, you're doubtlessly surprised to see New Mexico with a No. 3 seed. Heck, even if you watch ESPN's college basketball coverage all the time you may be surprised too. New Mexico has flown under the radar since hitting No. 15 in the polls at the start of the new year and then promptly losing two straight games and falling out of the rankings. Since then: wins in 15 of its last 16. Former Indiana star Steve Alford has the Lobos playing some of the best basketball in the country. People may finally start realizing it it this week.

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