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Who are the dark horses and sleepers in East Region of 2023 March Madness?

We take a look at who might emerge from the lower part of the bracket in the East Region on the way to the Final Four.

Mar 7, 2023; Sioux Falls, SD, USA; The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles starters celebrate late game action against the North Dakota State Bison in the second half at Denny Sanford Premier Center. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 March Madness bracket has been officially unveiled, with the East Region boasting the No. 1 seed Purdue Boilermakers. But in reality, when has everything gone according to plan when it comes to college basketball? Upsets happen every year in the NCAA Tournament, and we have the rundown on some key sleepers and dark horses to keep your eyes peeled for out in the East region.

March Madness 2023: East Region

Sleeper: No. 5 Duke

The Blue Devils earned the No. 5 seed after coming off its 22nd ACC Championship, though their path toward a conference title was a bumpy one, to say the least. Led by the top-ranked freshman class of recruits in the country, injuries to the likes of Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively held this team back to start the season. But the Blue Devils put together a late-season surge and are riding a nine-game winning streak heading into the big dance, putting them on sleeper watch.

This is undoubtedly a young team led by five freshmen, but make no mistake that this squad is far and off more improved now versus back in December. Watch out for the Blue Devils, who made it to the Final Four last season and the Elite Eight in 2019 and 2018.

Darkhorse: No. 12 Oral Roberts

If the Blue Devils are sent home early it will come by the hand of the Golden Eagles, who are out to prove that their cinderella run two years ago was by no means a fluke. Simply put, Oral Roberts has been here before and pulled off the unthinkable. Back in 2021, they went on a run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed behind the heroics of undersized point guard Max Abmas, who scored 29 points in the first round against Ohio State and 26 against Florida.

Now Abmas is back to lead the charge again, so why can’t they slay the dragon that is the Duke Blue Devils? The Golden Eagles won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year, but they have built perhaps the nation’s best mid-major team with continuity as an advantage in their back pocket. That just may give them the leg up over a young, inexperienced Blue Devils squad in the opening round.