NCAA Tournament East Region breakdown starts with No. 1 Purdue, but there's lots of competition

Purdue is the No. 1 seed in the East Region after defeating Penn State 67-65 to claim the Big Ten championship.

Looking to advance to the Final Four for the first time under coach Matt Painter and the first time as a program since 1980, the Boilermakers are built around 7-foot-4 junior center Zach Edey, the favorite for national player of the year.

The region doesn't lack for star power: Purdue is joined by No. 2 Marquette, No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Tennessee, followed by No. 5 Duke and No. 6 Kentucky.

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the men's NCAA Tournament East Region:

Best first-round matchup: Duke vs. Oral Roberts

Duke has a gripe about landing on the No. 5 line after closing the regular season with a flourish under first-year coach Jon Scheyer, culminating with an ACC tournament championship win against Virginia. However, the Blue Devils are pitted against perhaps the best mid-major team in the country in No. 12 Oral Roberts, owners of the nation's longest active winning streak at 17 games. Two years after reaching the Sweet 16, the Golden Eagles will test Duke's stout defense with one of the top offensive attacks in Division I. ORU ranks third nationally in scoring (84.2 points per game) and 25th in field-goal percentage (47.9%) while the Blue Devils sit 32nd in scoring defense (63.9 points per game).

REGIONAL BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West

NCAA TOURNAMENT LIVE UPDATES:Let the bracket busting begin as men's March Madness tips off

Possible upset: Providence over Kentucky

No. 11 Providence has what it takes to knock off No. 6 Kentucky — if the Friars play like the team that had a dominant midseason run instead of the squad that collapsed late. Once 17-5 at near the top of the Big East, Providence lost four of five to end the regular season and limps into the tournament. But it's not as if Kentucky's been easy to predict; the Wildcats played better in March but had a hit-or-miss season. The game may be won on the offensive glass: Kentucky ranks fourth in Division I with 13.6 offensive rebounds per game and could fend off the Friars with second-chance points.

BRACKET TIPS:How to fill out your tournament projections and win your pool

BRACKETS ARE BACK: The USA TODAY Sports Bracket Challenge is back. $1 MILLION grand prize for a perfect bracket. 

The sleeper: Memphis

Duke might be overlooked as a Final Four threat but can clearly advance to the national semifinals for the second year in a row — and besides, it's been decades since the Blue Devils wore the "sleeper" label. A more fitting dark horse is No. 8 Memphis, which proved itself ready for tournament play by topping Houston 75-65 to win the American Athletic tournament. The Tigers are 16-3 since Jan. 15 with two losses to the Cougars and have one of the top scoring duos in the country in guard Kendric Davis (21.8 points per game) and forward DeAndre Williams (17.9 points per game).

The winner: Duke

There will continue to be questions about how Purdue's style plays in the tournament until the Boilermakers break through and reach the Final Four. Purdue has reached the Sweet 16 in four of the past five tournaments but topped out in the Elite Eight. Based on how they have looked in recent weeks and the strides they've taken in Scheyer's first year, Duke has what it takes navigate through a deep but not necessarily top-heavy region and get back into the Final Four.

NCAA Tournament East Region schedule

Wednesday, March 15

In Dayton, Ohio

No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson (19-15) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern (14-20), 6:40 p.m,, truTV

Thursday, March 16

In Orlando, Fla.

No. 5 Duke (26-8) vs. No. 12 Oral Roberts (30-4), 7:10 p.m.

No. 4 Tennessee (22-10) vs. No. 13. Louisiana-Lafayette (26-7), 9:40 p.m.

Friday, March 17

In Columbus, Ohio

No. 1 Purdue (26-5) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern-Fairleigh Dickinson, 6:50 p.m., TNT

No. 8 Memphis (26-8) vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic (31-3), 9:20 p.m., TNT

In Greensboro, N.C.

No. 6 Kentucky (21-11) vs. No. 11 Providence (21-11), 7:10 p.m., CBS

No. 3 Kansas State (23-9) vs. No. 14 Montana State (25-9), 9:40 p.m., CBS

In Columbus, Ohio

No. 7 Michigan State (19-12) vs. No. 10 Southern California (22-10), 12:15 p.m., CBS

No. 2 Marquette (28-6) vs. No. 15 Vermont (23-10), 2:45 p.m. CBS