Busting Brackets

Ranking the top 8 backcourts in the East Region who could carry their team to the second round

Guards decide the big games in March Madness, so I'm here to tell you who has the best ones in the East Region.

Connecticut Huskies guard Tristen Newton (2)
Connecticut Huskies guard Tristen Newton (2) / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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The regular season in college basketball can be for the big men or the wing-scorers, but when we get to tournament time, it’s all about the players who will have the ball in their hands the most, the guards. March Madness is won by the players who can stay calm through the chaos and that always seems to be the veteran guards.

Almost every national championship team you can think of had a great backcourt. As did the great Cinderella teams that have shocked the tournament favorites. The best historical example is the top team in the East. Twice this century, the UConn Huskies hopped on the back of a dominant guard and he carried them to a national title, Kemba Walker in 2011, and Shabazz Napier in 2014.

When I’m filling out my bracket, the first thing I look at, before head coach history, conference tournament performance, or even Kenpom, is the backcourts. The East region isn’t the most loaded in the backcourt, but it may have the best one in the entire country, and those guards will decide which team gets out of the region with the reigning champs and into the Final Four. 

San Diego sTate. 8. team. 508. . . SG: Lamont Butler. . PG: Darian Trammell.

The Aztecs certainly have plenty of tournament experience after last season’s run to the national championship. Both Trammell and Butler were integral to SDSU’s success in March, and though Trammell has only started 15 of 32 games, he’s one of Brian Dutcher’s closers. 

With all that experience, you might expect the Aztecs to rank more highly, but Jaedon LeDee is the real driving force on this team, not its guards. Butler is only fourth on the team in scoring at 9.2 points per game and as a 57.1% free throw shooter, he could be a liability late in games. 

However, Butler's defense is what makes the Aztecs so terrifying. Butler was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year despite averaging just 1.5 steals per game. Getting that type of respect without the numbers to back it up is almost unhead of, but he’s such a terror as an on-ball defender that he can prevent the opposition from ever even getting into an offensive set. 

Trammell leads the Aztecs with 3.3 assists per game and averaged over 30 minutes a game in the Mountain West Tournament. The ball will be in his hands on crucial possessions, but at 5-foot-10 with limited athleticism, he can struggle to get his own shot. San Diego State will have the backcourt advantage in the Round of 64 against UAB, but this game could become a popular 5/12 upset pick.