Men's Basketball 2018 NCAA Tournament East Regional Overview

East Regional Overview
After winning the National Championship in 2016, the Villanova Wildcats are looking to get back there this year as the East Region’s top seed. Powerful offenses, shifting defenses, and experienced opponents stand in their way. With first- and second-round games in Pittsburgh, PA, though, Villanova will hope some home court advantage carries it through.
Who Can Win?
This region is Villanova’s to lose. The Wildcats enter with the best offense in the country and a defense that can hold its own. They have tournament experience and know what it takes to win it all. Purdue, the two seed, lacks the latter but has everything else. Unlike everyone else in this region, the top two teams have no clear faults that will submarine them. That said, thanks to elite defensive ceilings, Texas Tech and West Virginia cannot be counted out.
Who Can Surprise?
If West Virginia gets going on both ends of the floor, it could be a five seed that pulls a number of upsets. The East doesn’t feel like it has any higher seeds that can make a similar claim. Potential first-round upsets abound, but that is only because everyone outside of the top two teams feels vulnerable for one reason or another. If Butler had different matchups, perhaps it would be worth monitoring as a double-digit seed, but even one upset won’t maneuver the Bulldogs out of Purdue’s way.
Who’s Hot?
The Murray State Racers cruised through most of their season in the Ohio Valley conference. Though they lost twice in-conference, both losses came back in January. The Racers have won 13 straight games heading into their contest against West Virginia.
Who’s Cold?
Florida’s up-and-down season can best be represented in how it enters the NCAA Tournament. The Gators took down Auburn, Kentucky, and Alabama back-to-back-to-back to close out their season, and then promptly lost right away in the SEC tournament. All told, Florida has lost eight of its last 16 ballgames. At least it had Kentucky’s number this year.
Texas Tech is similarly cold at the worst time. Thanks to an injury from Keenan Evans that precipitated a four-game losing streak, the Red Raiders enter round one having lost five of their last seven, with a dangerous opponent on deck.
Upset Alert!
No one can be taken for granted outside of the 15 and 16s. Stephen F. Austin has to be a terrifying opponent for third-ranked Texas Tech. SFA leads the nation in steals and is catching TT at the right time. St. Bonaventure is also a double-digit seed to monitor. Thanks to their three-point shooting, the Bonnies can topple anyone on any given night. Should they advance past UCLA, they could give a sputtering Florida all it can handle. The same goes for Butler in its matchup against Arkansas. All the Bulldogs will need is an off-shooting night from deep for the Razorbacks.
What Possible Matchup is Interesting?
There would be no better matchup than seeing Villanova face Purdue in the regional final. Outside of that, Wichita State facing off against Nova would be interesting. Wichita State is kind of the poor man’s Villanova. Its offense is great, just not quite as great. It has a deep and experienced roster, just not quite what the Wildcats can deliver. And before the move to the AAC, few people took the Shockers seriously. Many still don’t as a national power. Villanova, similarly, was never taken seriously as a title contender until it won the whole thing.
Which Player Will Dominate?
The team that needs the most from one player is West Virginia. Jevon Carter will need to deliver on both sides of the floor, and he certainly can. He was named to the All-Big 12 first-team and was awarded Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. Collin Sexton would seem to be a logical pick as well, though he has some bad matchups. Virginia Tech smothers guard play with a seemingly endless rotation of wings, and if Sexton gets past the Hokies, Villanova is there waiting.
Which System is Tough to Prepare For?
Though Press Virginia draws headlines – mostly because it’s an amazingly catchy turn of phrase – SFA is actually the superior defensive unit this season. Stephen F. Austin plays a high-pressure, attacking defense that feasts on uncertain ball handlers. The Lumberjacks led the nation in steals and total forced turnovers. This style can lead to run-outs and easy looks from their opponents, but Southland teams shot just 41.9 percent from the floor against Stephen F. Austin this season.
The fast pace and endless attack of Marshall is also something to watch. It likely won’t be enough to throw off Wichita State’s game in round one; the Shockers will surely enjoy the offensive freedom. But the Thundering Herd make for entertaining games nonetheless.