The East Bracket is led by #1 Villanova. Here is the preview of the first round.
First Round Matchups
2 Purdue (28-6) vs. 15 CSU Fullerton (20-11)
11:40 PM, Thursday – TRUtv
Purdue didn’t start out strong, going 1-2 in the Battle for Atlantis. But they turned their season around and winning 19 consecutive games. Purdue is experienced, have and extremely tall front court and their bench goes deep. The Boilermakers have the 2nd best offense in the country and are held down on defense by their imposing front court. Purdue will have a run this tournament which will push them to (spoiler) the Final Four.
1 Villanova(30-4) vs. 16 LIU – Brooklyn/Radford
5:50 PM, Thursday – TNT
You can catch my LIU/Radford game prediction here. Villanova has been there, done that after winning the national title in 2016. Jay Wright has coached this teams well and has made it a basketball powerhouse in the last couple years. Villanova has the nation’s best offense and the nations 22nd ranked defense. Villanova will be a force to be reckoned with and won’t see any upsets this weekend.
3 Texas Tech (24-9) vs. 14 Steven F. Austin (28-6)
7:27 PM, Thursday – TNT
SFA is coming off a Southland Conference Title game. The Lumberjacks are one of the nation’s most ferocious teams defensively. They lead the national in steals and have the 67th best defense in the country. Texas Tech however has the 3rd best defense and has gone 6-4 against Top 25 teams. Tech is a very good team, but it is March and records don’t matter. The Red Raiders go home on the first night of the tournament. Blame the inexperienced guards in the Raider’s back court.
6 Florida vs. 11 St. Bonaventure/UCLA
8:57 PM, Thursday – TBS
Read my UCLA/St. Bonaventure prediction here. Florida had great wins to start to start the season, but peaked too early. This will definitely be a match up game. Check back Wednesday for an update based on the outcome St. Bonaventure/UCLA game. UCLA has a chance if it wins.
8 Virginia Tech (21-11) vs. 9 Alabama (19-15)
9:20 PM, Thursday – TNT
As much as I hate Alabama football, I am in love with this Alabama team. They came out of nowhere and surprised the nation, eventually getting ranked. The Tide are the 13th best defensive team in the nation and have had the 10th toughest SOS. Pair that with a 6-2 record over top 25 teams and you have a solid tournament team. Alabama did lose 5 of their last 6 regular season games, but they beat #1 seed Auburn in the SEC quarter finals and almost made it to the final game, don’t let the 86-63 loss to a HOT Kentucky team fool you. Virginia Tech is balanced and have had a better defense of late. This is the best 8/9 game this year and my heart says Alabama, so it best to take the Virginia Tech Hokies.
4 Wichita State (24-7) vs. 13 Marshall (24-10)
1:30 PM, Friday – TNT
The shockers did have a down year this year, but they do have experience. Wichita State has made it to the tournament 7 years in a row and to second round in the last 5. The 6 seniors on the roster know what it takes to win at this level and they will get it done Friday afternoon. Marshall comes into this game after winning the Conference USA title, upsetting a Q1 team in Middle Tennessee. Marshall has the 6th fastest tempo in the nation, and will need that to stop Wichita State. But experience helps in March, something that Marshall just doesn’t have. It will be a must watch game early on Friday. Shockers win.
7 Arkansas (23-11) vs. 10 Butler (20-13)
3 PM, Friday – TRUtv
Butler is 1-7 against top 25 teams, but play in the Big East and went 1-2 vs Villanova, 1-2 vs Seton Hall 1-1 vs Providence and 0-2 vs Xavier. But the Bulldogs also have wins against Ohio State and Utah. The Big East was very tough this year, and produced 2 #1 seeds in the tournament. The Bulldogs have been tested all season but have been very very streaky, beating #1 Villanova, but losing to DePaul. Arkansas has also been streaky beating Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas A&M and late season Auburn. But they also lost to Kentucky, Auburn, Mizzou, Texas A&M and UNC. Arkansas has the 19th best offense in the country, and Butler has the 17th toughest SOS. Arkansas is on a roll however, winning 8 of their last 11. The Razorbacks win a tough one.
5 West Virginia (24-10) vs. 12 Murray St. (26-5)
4 PM, Friday – TNT
I’m just going to go ahead and call this an upset. Murray State has fantastic shooters, and has the difference maker in Johnathan Stark who has scored 25 points in 11 games and 30 or more in 3 of the last 6. The Racers are a very good shooting team, making 50% of shots and 40% from beyond the arc. They have 8 players that average more than 14 minutes a game, half of which score nearly 10 points a game. This is a very, very, very good ball club. Murray State last played two weeks ago on March third which brings rest vs. rust to the question. If the Racers can get past Bob Huggin’s 39th ranked defense, they will win.