Men's Basketball 2018 NCAA Tournament East Region Round of 32 Game Breakdowns

East Region Round of 32 Game Breakdowns
#1 Villanova vs. #9 Alabama
The top seed Villanova Wildcats easily dispatched Radford in round one. Villanova shot 59.6 percent from the floor; Radford shot 33.9 percent. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Alabama had a much tougher time with its opening game of the tournament. After a horrid first half from Collin Sexton, nothing but a lucky shooting night from freshman John Petty kept the Crimson Tide in the game. Petty - who shot below 40 percent from the floor this season - went 6-of-8 from three and poured in 20 points. If he isn’t unconscious from the outside in this game, Alabama does not advance.
This doesn’t bode well for the Tide against Nova. Virginia Tech was able to contain Sexton for the most part. The freshman star hit a number of tough and terrible shots and got to the line. Bama cannot rely on that type of performance against Villanova. Nor can it expect Petty to do anything approaching what he did in round one. Both teams were comfortable playing in the 80s on Thursday, though a repeat would again favor the Wildcats.
The West Virginia Mountaineers’ control of their opener was perfectly encapsulated by the point guard matchup between Jevon Carter and Jonathan Stark. Though the two didn’t match up on every possession, Carter went for 21 points, while Stark was held to an ugly 1-of-12 from the field. As for Marshall, the Thundering Herd played the game everyone thought they would and simply executed better than Wichita State. The up-tempo attack showed off the prowess of Jon Elmore and the fluidity of Ajdin Penava. It was an impressive showing.
To repeat such a performance, Marshall will have to find fresh legs quickly. The Herd played just seven guys in round one, with four starters logging at least 35 minutes apiece. That figure would probably have been higher had Penava not encountered foul trouble and ultimately fouled out. Even still, the five starters played 173 of a possible 200 minutes against the Shockers. That will be a tough pace to keep against the pressure of Carter and the Mountaineers. If the senior leader is able to slow down or suffocate Elmore on the outside, Marshall will need to find another outlet for its offense. C.J. Burks didn’t shoot it well in round one; an outcome the Thundering Herd won’t be able to overcome twice.
Texas Tech needed a huge second half from Keenan Evans to hold seed and advance. Evans scored 19 after halftime, including going 10-of-10 from the foul line for the game. The Stephen F. Austin starters were able to gobble up 10 steals, but the Lumberjacks got overpowered. As for Florida, a 50-point second half of its own pushed it past St. Bonaventure. As is their forte, the Gators took excellent care of the basketball, winning the turnover battle 9 to 18. And as they did in their play-in game win over UCLA, the Bonnies shot horribly from the floor. That was all Florida needed.
The Gators will be in trouble, though, if they think the Red Raiders will similarly gift them a victory. UF will need to do more than simply take care of the ball and allow the opponent to shoot itself out of the game. With a healthy Evans and Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech is back to looking like the squad that was 22-4 through the middle of February.
#2 Purdue vs. #10 Butler
Purdue took care of business and then had its postseason outlook change dramatically. The Boilermakers will be without senior center Isaac Haas for the rest of the tournament due to a broken elbow. Without him for most of round one, Purdue still crushed CS Fullerton on the glass and held the Titans to 36 percent shooting for the game, but a rather large adjustment will need to be made moving forward.
This opens the door for Butler, who did just enough to ease past Arkansas in its opening contest. The key for the Bulldogs going in was to take care of the ball against pressure and hope the Razorbacks shot themselves out of the game. Butler didn’t beat the pressure very well, but Arkansas certainly missed enough shots for it not to matter, going 4-of-18 from three. Add to that domination on the boards, and Butler moved on.
The question in round two will be whether a Haas-less Purdue can keep the Bulldogs off the glass. Even at full strength, the Boilermakers allow a lot of offensive rebounds. They will have to push the game toward the outside. Purdue is capable of beating teams with its outside shooting, but without one of its horses in the middle, there is less to fear from hard closeouts.