Unlike other areas of this year’s NCAA brackets, the East region has been one with few upsets or surprises thus far. With that being said, these storylines from Round 2 of the East Region prove why this portion of the bracket will still provide excitement throughout the month of March.
NCAA Tournament: Storylines from Round 2 of the East Region
Villanova is No Joke
Aside from Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo putting up a clinic from behind the arc in the first half, there was not much to ride home about for the Wildcats as both Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson were practically nonexistent.
Nevertheless, Jay Wright’s team opened up the second half with a 9-0 run and never looked back from there. Bridges also woke up and scored 22 second-half points, finishing 5-8 from three-point range. Collin Sexton’s 17 points were not enough to help the Crimson Tide pull of the upset in what was likely his final collegiate game before he enters the NBA Draft.
Thanks to their 17 3-pointers against the Tide, the Wildcats of Villanova will be heading back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
The Mountaineers still own the State of West Virginia
Although the Marshall Thundering Herd looked as if they might be able to compete with the in-state rivals, West Virginia shattered those thoughts early as they led by 17 points at the half. Behind 28 points from senior Jevon Carter and forward Lamont West notching his first career double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds), the Mountaineers were able to knock off Marshall for the sixth straight time.
For the second consecutive season, Bob Huggins has his West Virginia squad in the Sweet 16 as they will be forced to take on the top-seeded Villanova Wildcats.
Texas Tech holds on Against the Gators
The Red Raiders avoided heartbreak in their second-round matchup after the Gators missed multiple open looks from three in the closing seconds of the game. The performance of Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith proved to be a difference maker as he finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
This means that for the first time since 2005, Texas Tech is headed to the Sweet 16 for a date with the 2-seed Purdue Boilermakers.
Purdue Gets the Job Done without Haas
Although he had been ruled out for the remainder of the season less than 24 hours prior, reports surfaced early Sunday morning that Purdue center Isaac Haas may actually be able to play despite a broken elbow. Nevertheless, the elbow brace for Haas was not cleared by the NCAA and ultimately meant that Purdue would be forced to keep their dreams alive without the 7-foot center.
Even with Butler’s Kelan Martin putting up a game-high 29 points, the Boilermakers were able to hold on for the 76-73 victory thanks to Vincent Edwards’s 20 points. This marks the first time in program history that Purdue has reached 30 wins in a season, with multiple games still potentially left to be played.