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Bracket won’t be a cakewalk for Duke, Zion

Duke has the overall top seed and should breeze into the Sweet 16, but this region isn’t as easy as some think. Virginia Tech, the fourth seed, is dangerous, and already has knocked off the Blue Devils, albeit when they were without National Player of the Year front-runner Zion Williamson. Michigan State, which owned 19 Quadrant 1 and 2 victories, should have been a No. 1 seed rather than a No. 2, and No. 3 LSU won the SEC regular-season crown. Here’s hoping Central Florida gets past VCU in the 8-9 game, just so we can see Williamson attempt to dunk over 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall. The back end of this region is strong, too, with quality mid-majors Belmont, Liberty and Yale lurking.

Best player: Cassius Winston (Michigan State). Yes, this is the same bracket that includes Williamson, but don’t forget about Winston. He is the best player at the point-guard position, a leader who is third in the nation in assists (7.5) and just led the Spartans to a Big Ten Tournament title with a 14-point, 11-assist gem in a win over bitter rival Michigan.

Unsung player: Justin Robinson (Virginia Tech). Out since Jan. 30 with an injured foot, the well-rounded 6-foot-2 senior guard will return for the Big Dance, giving the Hokies a major boost for a potential run.

Best First-round matchup: No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 Minnesota. The selection committee certainly has a wicked sense of humor, pitting Minnesota and coach Richard Pitino against Louisville, the school that fired his father, Rick. Now that’s a storyline.

First-Round upset watch: No. 14 Yale over No. 3 LSU. LSU is without coach Will Wade, suspended indefinitely while under investigation for his connection to college basketball’s recruiting scandal that launched an FBI probe, and is coming off an early exit from the SEC Tournament. Yale wing Miye Oni, an NBA prospect averaging 17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists, will give the Tigers fits.

Bracket buster: No. 11 Belmont. The Bruins, the one mid-major on the bubble to receive an at-large bid, first have to get past Temple in the First Four, but a first-round upset of No. 6 Maryland would not be shocking. Belmont, led by dynamic inside-out forward Dylan Windler, is elite offensively, averaging 19.9 assists, shooting 37.4 percent from 3-point range and scoring 87.4 points per game.

The Post’s pick: Duke. Virginia Tech could be tricky in the Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight meeting with Michigan State will be no cakewalk. The Blue Devils will get pushed by both teams, testing their one-and-done freshmen. But as long as Williamson’s right knee doesn’t act up, they’re going to Minneapolis.


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