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NCAA Tournament: East is balanced at the top

The top four seeds are all solid bets to make Final Four.

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No. 4 Michigan State (26-8) vs. No. 13 Delaware (25-9)

At a glance

Top player

Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, right, has a nose for the net, hitting a handful of 3s every game, but also driving inside for his points for the Bearcats.

Top team

Michigan State has what pundits love in March teams: The Spartans own the paint, rebound well, shoot 3s efficiently and are coming into their own, winning the Big Ten tournament. Adrien Payne can take over, but their guards will determine how far they can go.

Best player you don’t know

It may be a short tournament for North Carolina Central, but keep an eye out for top-shelf scorer Jeremy Ingram, who averages 20 points for the Eagles.

Sleeper team

How about No. 9 seed George Washington as a team to watch? It has an injury-prone yet bona fide star player in Maurice Creek, who started his career at Indiana. Look for him and Isaiah Armwood to possibly challenge local rival and top seed Virginia if the Colonials can make it past Memphis.

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At Spokane, Wash. | Thursday, 2:40 p.m., TNT

Outlook » Gary Harris and Adreian Payne look ready to lead Sparty back to prominence. While the Blue Hens have an experienced group that takes care of the ball, it will be tough to mix it up with one of the best frontcourts in the nation and quick-footed guards.

No. 5 Cincinnati (27-6) vs. No. 12 Harvard (26-4)

At Spokane, Wash. | Thursday, 12:10 p.m., TNT

Outlook » The Bearcats like physical, slow-paced basketball, and have imposed their will on the defensive end. Look for Sean Kilpatrick and his team to try to avoid an upset, like the memorable one the Crimson authored last year with their 3-point assault on New Mexico.

No. 6 North Carolina (23-9) vs. No. 11 Providence (23-11)

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At San Antonio, Texas | Friday, 5:20 p.m., TNT

Outlook » Once judged to be in contention for a top-four seed, the Tar Heels are the mercurial team in this region that could potentially make lots of noise. But first, Marcus Paige and crew will have to challenge the winners of the Big East tournament behind Bryce Cotton.

No. 7 Connecticut (26-8) vs. No. 10 St. Joseph (24-9)

At Buffalo, N.Y. | Thursday, 4:55 p.m., TBS

Outlook » Shabazz Napier and the Huskies are glad to be back in the fold for the Big Dance. The Hawks’ Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts aim to spoil that return with their defensive focus for Saint Joseph after beating VCU for the A-10 title.

No. 8 Memphis (23-9) vs. No. 9 George Washington (24-8)

At Raleigh, N.C | Friday, 4:55 p.m., TBS

Outlook » A bit of a toss-up, with Memphis boasting some of the country’s best athletes, and GW having had some success against tournament teams this year. Isaiah Armwood and Shaq Goodwin should be in for a battle in the paint aside from the great guard matchups.

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