With Melo out, which team has the edge in the East now?

Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

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The biggest news in the NCAA Tournament thus far was the revelation that Syracuse center Fab Melo would miss the entire dance with an academic issue.

That development has many people re-thinking the East Region and with the Badgers on the same half of the region with the Orange, it was certainly a break for Wisconsin. CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm even went as far as to say Syracuse likely would have only been a No. 2 seed had the committee known Melo would be out.

So which team has the edge in the East now? To help answer that question, here's how I rank the top five teams in the East region in terms of their chances of making the Final Four.

1. (2) Ohio State Buckeyes - The Bucks were close to getting a No. 1 seed anyway. Despite the loss in the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State is playing well right now and is my favorite to represent the East region in the Final Four.

2. (3) Florida State Seminoles - The 'Noles won the ACC Tournament and went through Duke and North Carolina to do it. Now on a five-game win streak, Florida State seems destined for the Sweet 16, despite a somewhat tricky matchup against A-10 Tournament champion St. Bonaventure in the first round.

3. (1) Syracuse Orange - Before anyone tries to make the argument that the Badgers have a better shot at the Final Four than Syracuse now, let's keep in mind that the Orange still only has two losses this season. It lost at Notre Dame without Melo earlier this year, but the Irish were playing well and it was a road game, not a neutral game. This is still a really good team.

4. (4) Wisconsin Badgers - The door is certainly open for the Badgers with Melo out. If UW can make threes against Syracuse's zone, they'll win. But getting to the Sweet 16 won't be easy. Vanderbilt is playing well and we saw what happened when Wisconsin met an Ivy team (Cornell) in the second round two years ago. And Harvard is even better.

5. (5) Vanderbilt Commodores - Vandy seems to be everyone's sleeper just because they won the SEC Tournament. Meanwhile, everyone is ignoring how bad the SEC is and the fact that Kentucky clearly wasn't all that motivated in the championship game. Don't be surprised if an under-seeded Harvard team takes the 'Dores out Thursday.

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