16 things to know about NCAA tournament's East region, plus who wins

[More regional breakdowns: South | West | Midwest]

 

EAST REGION

Rating the region: The East is the third most difficult of the four. Purdue is a stout No. 2 seed, but the Boilermakers haven’t beaten an NCAA tournament team since Jan. 25. Texas Tech as the No. 3 seed pales compared to Michigan and Michigan State in the West and Midwest. Villanova is, well, Villanova.

Contenders to cut down the nets: Villanova, West Virginia, Purdue and Texas Tech.

Pretenders who’ll be bounced early despite high seeds: No. 6 Florida has been scattershot all year and can’t be trusted to repeat its Elite Eight run from last year. No. 3 Texas Tech has sputtered down the stretch. Was that a byproduct of injuries and a rugged Big 12? Or have the Red Raiders run out of gas?

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Cinderellas: St. Bonaventure needs to get out of a tough game in Dayton against UCLA. But the dynamic backcourt of Jaylen Adams (19.8 ppg) and Matt Mobley (18.5) can carry the Bonnies on a run. Murray State is a tempting pick here after winning 13 in a row. The only issue is that WVU is a higher-octane version of the Racers. Is Collin Sexton superhuman enough to beat Villanova? Don’t count him out.

Team that doesn’t belong: UCLA sneaked in late over league rival USC. USC had a better record, both overall and in the league, and a higher KenPom. (The Bruins got in by virtue of head-to-head wins.) UCLA has lost three of five, including to Colorado and Utah. Expect the Bruins’ run to end in Dayton.

Chances of a 1-16 upset: Zero. Hard to imagine Villanova falling to either LIU-Brooklyn or Radford. If LIU advances, the hair product usage between Derek Kellogg and Jay Wright would be competitive. Not much else is.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright points with Villanova guard Jalen Brunson (1) next to him during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Villanova head coach Jay Wright points with Villanova guard Jalen Brunson (1) next to him during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Best potential round-of-32 game: The high-tempo matchup of West Virginia and Wichita State would be aesthetically delightful. Just don’t put a microphone near the sideline, as there will be some cursing from the coaches.

Best potential Sweet 16 game: Texas Tech-Purdue. These are two veteran, rugged teams. The game would play out like a heavyweight fight in a phone booth.

Best potential regional final game: Villanova-Purdue. This feels like a chalk bracket. Sign me up to watch Carsen Edwards slug it out with Jalen Brunson. For Matt Painter to break through to his first Final Four, this would be the ultimate test.

Best coach: If there’s any doubt, look back at the final play from the 2016 national title game. BANG, Jay Wright is your answer. (With Gregg Marshall, Bob Huggins, Painter and Buzz Williams in here, there’s no lack of sideline pop.)

Underrated coach: Murray State’s Matt McMahon is 59-36 in three seasons there, including a 26-5 mark this year. Appalachian State still regrets not hiring him in 2010, as Jason Capel turned into a bust.

Best player: We may get a chance to have the two best players match up in the second round, as Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson could square off with Alabama’s streaking Collin Sexton. For now, we’ll go with Brunson’s body of work over Sexton’s higher NBA upside.

Best player you haven’t heard of: Murray State’s Terrell Miller Jr. is a wide-bodied 6-foot-8 JUCO transfer who inhales rebounds and bulldozes space in the pain. He’s averaging 14.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and may have the best hair in the NCAA tournament.

X-Factor: Texas Tech star Keenan Evans went through a three-game stretch where he shot 3 for 19 in late February before sitting out a game against West Virginia. His turf toe has settled down and his shooting percentage recovered, but his health could well determine if this veteran Texas Tech team plays up to its potential. The 6-foot-3 guard was first-team All-Big 12 and averages 17.5 points per game. Texas Tech needs him healthy to make a run.

Welcome March sight: It’s always comforting to see Butler in the NCAA tournament, as the Bulldogs hopscotched from scrappy Horizon League underdogs to Big East stalwarts in the past decade. They have far more talent with Kelan Martin (20.8 ppg) and Kamar Baldwin (15.5) than their double-digit seed would indicate.

Best part of this bracket: The balance of coaching credentials in this region is something. Wright and Huggins will likely make the Hall of Fame and Gregg Marshall is on a trajectory there. Then there are some crafty foxes like Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and Alabama’s Avery Johnson. Then there’s an interesting young crew – Florida’s Mike White, Butler’s LaVall Jordan and McMahon. And don’t forget Bonaventure’s Mark Schmidt, who is doing the coaching equivalent of walking on water in Olean.

Pete’s pick: Purdue.

More NCAA tournament on Yahoo Sports:
Printable bracket: Start making your picks
Selection Sunday winners and losers: Kentucky, Duke get rough roads
Five biggest tournament snubs
Everything you need to know before filling out a bracket
Non-traditional ways to spice up your bracket pool

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