East Bracket-01

2018 NCAA tournament regional preview: East



Each day leading up to the first round of the NCAA tournament, The Chronicle will preview one of the four regions in the bracket, touching on the true contenders in the region and potential bracket-busting Cinderellas. After starting with the South, we looked at the Midwest and now, we look at the East: 

The No. 1 seed: Villanova Wildcats

Another year, another 30 wins. 

The Wildcats finished first in the Big East and racked up at least 30 wins for the fourth straight year, and hope to push that to 36 with their second NCAA title in three years. Villanova is incredibly dangerous on offense, ranking first in the nation in efficiency according to basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy’s metrics, and hope to ride that wave deep in the tournament. 

Led by juniors sharpshooters Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, both on the 2016 championship squad, the Wildcats have made the second-most 3-pointers in the country on a guard-heavy squad. 

But Villanova is not invincible. Despite all of its offensive prowess, it has been vulnerable at times on defense. In their four losses this season, the Wildcats gave up nearly 87 points per game and lost rebounding battle in all but one game, when it outrebounded Creighton just 38-36.  

The other contenders: all with clear flaws

Villanova might have the easiest path to the Final Four—all of the top teams in the East all have clear flaws. 

No. 2 seed Purdue has an elite offense like the Wildcats, but has not been quite the same on defense. Led by sophomore guard Carsen Edwards, the Boilermakers have the second-highest 3-point percentage in the country, but rank No. 279 in the nation in keeping opponents off the offensive glass, something that has hurt them at times. 

No. 3 seed Texas Tech might not have the scoring to keep up with the Wildcats. Outside of those two teams, it’s hard to see anyone else making a run. Wichita State’s defense is very porous, West Virginia could be upset-prone and Florida has been remarkably inconsistent. It’s hard to see anyone but Villanova and Purdue duking it out in the Elite Eight for a chance to move on. 

The potential Cinderella: Murray State

The Racers are hot and seem like prime Cinderella candidates in a weak region. 

Murray State hasn’t lost since Jan. 18 and has the shooters to keep up with West Virginia’s high-flying offense. Guards Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller Jr. both shoot around 40 percent from downtown, while freshman Ja Morant has been lethal as well. 

It also helps that the Racers slow the game way down—they rank No. 216 in Pomeroy’s tempo metric. This will limit the number of possessions the fifth-seeded Mountaineers can get, helping increase the odds that Murray State can pull off an upset. 

Assuming Wichita State can get to the second round, the Racers could potentially take advantage of the Shockers’ weak defense and win in another shootout, shocking the college basketball world with a run to the Sweet 16. 

The regional narrative: It's Villanova's to lose

The Wildcats are the best team in this region, and should not face any real threats until a potential matchup against second-seeded Purdue in the Elite Eight in a matchup of similarly offensive-minded teams. 

Outside of that, they should face little competition in a bracket that has a decent amount of upset potential, especially with third-seeded Texas Tech as ice-cold as it is right now. 


Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Chronicle.