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?
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.
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.</p>
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”