Get To Know The Sweet 16 Teams: East Region

Jalen Brunson, Jay Wright

We’ll be doing these for all four regions going forward starting with the Sweet 16. We’ll take a look at the rotations, how the teams got to the second weekend and why they will or won’t win their respective regions. As we move on in the tournament we’ll go more in depth with scouting reports, etc. 

No. 1 Villanova Wildcats
Record: 32-4
Rotation: Jalen Brunson (6’2″), Mikal Bridges (6’7″), Donte DiVincenzo (6’5″), Eric Paschall (6’7″), Omari Spellman (6’8″), Phil Booth (6’3″), Jermaine Samuels (6’6″), Collin Gillespie (6’2″), Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (6’8″)
How They Got Here: 1st round win over No. 16 Radford 87-61, Round of 32 win over No. 9 Alabama 81-58
Why They’ll Win The Region: This is the best offense in the country and for a good reason. When they get going shooting the ball like we saw in the second half against Alabama, there’s no one that can score with Villanova. They are scoring 127.6 points per 100 possessions, which is the second most efficient offense in the KenPom era. This team is also incredibly balanced. We saw Brunson get in foul trouble against Alabama in the first half. DiVincenzo stepped up and hit four threes that half and then the second half was dominated by Mikal Bridges. There’s not a good way to defend this team because of that balance.
Why They Won’t Win The Region: Everyone will talk live and die by the three, but I’m not buying into that as much as year’s past. Instead, I’m focused on the defense here. This hasn’t been a great defensive team and there are weaknesses. Brunson has been beaten off the dribble at times. DiVincenzo gambles a lot. Teams look to attack Gillespie when he comes into the game. They also give up a lot of looks from three, which is a state I really look at in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers
Rotation: Carsen Edwards (6’1″), Vincent Edwards (6’8″), Dakota Mathias (6’4″), Nojel Eastern (6’6″), Ryan Cline (6’5″), Matt Haarms (7’3″), PJ Thompson (5’10”), Grady Eifert (6’7″), Jacquil Taylor (6’10”)
How They Got Here:
 1st Round win over No. 15 Cal State Fullerton 74-48, Round of 32 win over No. 10 Butler 76-73
Why They’ll Win The Region: Carsen Edwards is one of the best lead guards in the country and there’s a ton of balance here across the roster. If a team is trying to take Carsen away, Vincent Edwards starts to hunt his own shot. Here’s the other thing. This team is the 2nd best 3-point shooting team in the country and that’s more than just Carsen Edwards. One of the most underrated players left is Dakota Mathias, who typically defends the best guard/wing and also is looked at to create offensively. Purdue likes to run him through an elevator screen up through the lane as he is one of the best at getting his feet set right off the screen. 
Why They Won’t Win The Region: 
The Isaac Haas injury is obviously significant. Part of what made Purdue so good is the fact they could dump the ball to him in the post and force defenses to make a decision on how to defend them. With Haarms in there, teams aren’t worried about doubling him and daring Purdue to feed Haarms and let him beat you. The other dirty secret here is that Purdue struggles rebounding the ball. They aren’t a good defensive rebounding team ranking 127th in the country.

No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Rotation: Keenan Evans (6’3″), Jarrett Culver (6’5″), Niem Stevenson (6’5″), Tommy Hamilton (6’11”), Zhaire Smith (6’5″), Brandone Francis (6’5″), Norense Odiase (6’8″), Zach Smith (6’8″), Davide Moretti (6’3″), Justin Gray (6’6″)
How They Got Here: 1st round win over No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 70-60, Round of 32 win over No. 6 Florida 69-66
Why They’ll Win The Region: Keenan Evans is a good starting point. This is a lead guard that can turn into a Shabazz Napier type. We’ve seen him close games in a variety of ways during the season. He can get to the free throw line late, he can finish at the rim, he can pull up or he can split the double and throw a lob like we saw against Florida. On top of that, Chris Beard is excellent at his defensive schemes. Texas Tech is matchup proof in the sense that they can sit back in the pack line, they can blitz you with a halfcourt trap or they can press you the entire game. It’s incredibly fun to watch how they mix their defenses throughout a game and based on who is on the floor.
Why They Won’t Win The Region: This team is inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball, especially when Evans isn’t out there. They rank 148th in turnover percentage and don’t really have a go-to shooter like most other teams have. Part of what Tech relies on is crashing the offensive glass for putbacks, especially from the guard position with a guy like Zhaire Smith. What happens if they go up against a strong defensive rebounding team? Can they find those free points elsewhere?

No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers
Rotation: Teddy Allen (6’5″), Jevon Carter (6’2″), Daxter Miles (6’3″), Sagaba Konate (6’8″), James Bolden (6’0″), Esa Ahmad (6’8″), Lamont West (6’8″), Wes Harris (6’8″)
How They Got Here: 1st Round win over No. 12 Murray State 85-68, Round of 32 win over No. 13 Marshall 94-71
Why They’ll Win The Region: Similar to what I said about Keenan Evans, Jevon Carter is good enough to go win you games. He put up just absurd numbers in the first two rounds and is starting to develop that give me the ball and get out of my way type personality late in games. Carter is good enough to break down defenses, finish or set up others. The other reason? That press can lead to so many free points. Teams aren’t used to seeing that high pressure and even the best teams can fold at times.
Why They Won’t Win The Region: While the full court press is talked about as an advantage, West Virginia is sneaky a pretty bad half court defensive team. They give up a ton of threes – not an ideal thing when you’re playing Villanova and they’ve shown to be susceptible to getting beat and broken down fairly easily. If teams handle the pressure, it typically leads to open looks or playing 2v1 vs Konate. Teams are shooting threes on 38.5% of all field goal attempts and making 37.5% of those.