Most likely 11+ seed to win a game: You can make a good argument for Portland State knocking out Xavier, but the pick here has to be Wisconsin. This Wisconsin/FSU game reminds me so much of the Drake/WKU game last season. Intuitively, FSU seems like the heavy favorite for the same reason that Drake seemed like a great pick last year, because they just seem like they're a horrible match-up for their opponent. Drake looked so experienced and savvy last year, and they were so well-coached, that they seemed like a great Cinderella pick. And similarly, FSU seems like an awful match-up for Wisconsin. Wisconsin has the most trouble with long, athletic teams that press defensively, and they're also weak at defensive rebounding while FSU is wonderful at offensive rebounding. And as much as the idiot analysts on ESPN are calling this a match-up between Wisconsin's defense and Florida State's offense, it's actually Wisconsin with the better offense, and Florida State with the better defense. I don't see how Wisconsin stops Toney Douglas without fouling Trevon Hughes out of the game. But all of that said, the numbers scream that this is an obvious upset. First of all, the best 12 seeds to pick are the ones from major conferences, and Wisconsin was already the best 11 seed before the Selection Committee dropped them to a 12 for scheduling purposes. And both Pomery and the Sagarin PREDICTOR have Wisconsin as the better team. Last year I went with Drake because I trusted my intuition over the numbers. I learned my lesson. This year I'm going with the numbers, and as silly as it seems to me I'm picking Wisconsin.
Most likely 6+ seed to make the Sweet 16: This region is so good that there are a number of great choices. The winner of Texas/Minnesota will have a great chance against Duke. And even the winner of Oklahoma State/Texas will have an excellent shot knocking out Pitt in the second round. Even Wisconsin will have a great shot against Xavier (whoever you pick to win the Wisconsin/FSU game, I'd pick them in the second round over an overrated Xavier team). But I'm going with UCLA, for the same reason I picked Wisconsin: the numbers. They are rated the 9th best team in the nation by both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR, and their big problem all season long has simply been motivation. If seems like they've spent all season long spotting their opponents 15 points to start the game, and if they can ever get out to a quick start they're going to be extremely dangerous. Villanova is a good 3 seed that has been very good away from home, but UCLA is an absurdly dangerous 6 seed (even more dangerous than West Virginia) that will have a great shot to pull the upset.
Most likely 3+ seed to win the region: I'm going with UCLA here again, for the reasons above. I don't see Xavier or Florida State having any shot at winning this region (just look at their terrible computer numbers), and in fact the next most likely 3+ seed to win the region might be 7th seed Texas. Both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR rate UCLA as the third best team in this region, and there's a chance that both the 1 & 2 seeds might be taken out early in this region, for reasons that I'll get to in a moment. Don't count UCLA out of not only making the Sweet 16, but making it back to the Final Four for a remarkable fourth straight season.
Conclusions: The East region is by far the toughest region. You've got a very good 1, 2 and 3 seed, as well as what I would argue is the best 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15 and 16 seed. The depth in this region is astounding, and there's no way that the Selection Committee should have a region this good with another region that is so bad (the south region). There's no question in my mind that this was an artifact of the Selection Committee needing to play mental gymnastics to keep teams from the same conference from playing before the Elite 8, which is why I'm calling for them to allow teams from the same conference to play in the Sweet 16.
I see five teams that have a legitimate chance to win the region: Pitt, Duke, Villanova, UCLA and Texas. One thing to keep in mind is that as good as Pitt and Duke are, they are also highly flawed. Pitt is a deceptively thin team, and they will have trouble even getting out of the second round if Levance Fields isn't completely healthy, or if DeJuan Blair fouls out. They really, really struggle when either of those two players are out. Meanwhile, as much Tournament success as Coach K has had, and as good as they've looked since Gerald Henderson made himself the star and Elliot Williams joined the starting lineup, they still have struggled in the Tournament over the last two years. They are vulnerable to large, athletic teams. And even with the emergence of Henderson, they are still dependent on three-pointers that have had a tendency to fall less often away from Cameron Indoor. Now throw in the fact that you've got a really dangerous 7 seed in Texas, and two outstanding teams in the 8/9 game, and both the 1 and 2 seed will have a problem in the second round. If Pitt survives the second round, they should actually have an easier opponent in the third round, but they will struggle against whoever comes out of the bottom half, be it Duke, Villanova, UCLA or Texas.
In addition to being the toughest overall region, this is the toughest region to pick. I see a remarkable 11 teams that have a great shot to go to the Sweet 16 (all of the top 12 seeds other than VCU), and of course five teams with a great shot to win the whole region (Pitt, Duke, Villanova, UCLA and Texas). If you can nail this region you're in great shape.