Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:05 PM
Sweet 16 - East Regional
Games played at TD Garden from Boston, Massachusetts
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia (TBS, 7:25 p.m. ET)
Opening Odds: Wildcats -5 ½, Total 153
In a NCAA Tournament filled with upsets and featuring two #1 seeds already sent home, Villanova has been one of the few favorites to cruise through two games with wins by 26 and 23 over Radford and Alabama. Friday’s matchup with West Virginia figures to provide a much greater challenge in the first meeting between these former Big East rivals since December of 2011.
Despite being one of the top ranked teams in the nation all season Villanova has been one of the nation’s best ATS performers as well at 24-12 ATS on the season. 26 of the team’s 32 wins have come by 10 or more points including all five postseason games, although the 10-point win over Providence in the Big East final did require overtime.
Villanova has the nation’s best offensive efficiency and elite shooting numbers across the board. The Wildcats are rather reliant on 3-point shooting but they have hit over 40 percent on 3-point shots this season while connecting at a 45 percent clip on 68 3-point attempts in the two NCAA Tournament wins in Pittsburgh.
Moving to Boston won’t be as favorable of a venue for Villanova and weather in the northeast could impact travel and preparation schedules for the teams in this region this week. Villanova is 32-4 on the season but three losses and two overtime wins have come in the last 13 games as there have been some recent signs of vulnerability.
Villanova has a very low turnover rate which is always important when matching up against a Bob Huggins team and Jay Wright has shaken off past tournament failures with the 2016 NCAA Championship and another Sweet 16 bid this year to erase last season’s early upset defeat against Wisconsin in the Round of 32.
West Virginia being in the Sweet 16 isn’t a shock looking at the early season results as the Mountaineers started the season 15-1 and were the only team to beat Virginia in regulation until UMBC’s mammoth upset on Friday. The Mountaineers lost five of six games at one point in January but wound up 11-7 in a tough Big XII and made it to the Big XII tournament final where they lost to Kansas for a third time on the season.
West Virginia has won convincingly in both NCAA Tournament games as well and now draw the region’s top seed in the lone region that has mostly gone to form with West Virginia as the #5 seed the only minor outlier. West Virginia didn’t have to face #4 seed Wichita State as they faced an in-state battle with Marshall on Sunday night, winning with ease in a 94-71 result.
West Virginia has forced 34 turnovers in the two tournament wins while scoring 179 points with efficient inside scoring. Unlike a few recent Mountaineers outfits, this year’s team is an excellent free throw shooting team at over 76 percent on the season, actually hitting nearly 81 percent from the line in Big XII play. Offensive rebounding is always a strong suit as well and the Mountaineers produced 29 offensive boards in the wins in San Diego.
Both of these teams have lesser defensive numbers than in the past three seasons for each program but both has a profile that suggests a Final Four run or a championship is possible. Villanova is the current tournament favorite while West Virginia has a realistic number at 12/1 to sit as the eighth lowest price of the remaining teams.
West Virginia was only an underdog three times this season (2-1 ATS) while Villanova was only favored by fewer than 7 points six times this season (2-4 ATS) as despite the great profile the Wildcats didn’t play an amazing schedule and they are the only Big East team remaining standing. With a quarter of the Sweet 16 teams coming from the Big XII the top rated conference has proven itself and Friday’s game is one of the most intriguing games of the round with a pair of heavyweights that are credible threats to cut down the nets in San Antonio.
No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (TBS, 9:55 p.m. ET)
Opening Odds: Boilermakers -1 ½, Total 138 ½
This matchup in the late Friday time slot is the only 2/3 pairing of the tournament with only two #2 seeds and two #3 seeds in the field making it this far. Both teams have been tested in the tournament and Purdue and Texas Tech both held on with three-point victories over the weekend to move on to the Sweet 16.
Purdue wound up with a 74-48 victory over Cal-State Fullerton but coming off a long layoff after the Big Ten tournament the Boilermakers fell behind early and looked out of sync. The result proved costly as 7’2” senior Isaac Haas fractured his elbow and seems likely to be out for the rest of the tournament. There remains a long shot hope he could be fitted with a brace to see some action but Purdue was able to hold off Butler in the round of 32 without him.
Butler led by nine early in that game but Purdue took a slight lead by halftime and didn’t surrender it despite the tight three-point final margin. Purdue shot 50 percent in that game including 46 percent from 3-point range and the long range shooting is the key for the Boilermakers with four regulars shooting over 40 percent on the season, led by senior Dakota Mathias at over 46 percent.
The strength of the Big Ten was questioned all season and with the conference featuring only two teams remaining those doubts have been valid. Purdue’s wins over Arizona and Louisville early in the season have lost some weight and against Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State the Boilermakers went just 1-3 with a four-point home win over Michigan being the only top 20 caliber win of the season.
Purdue had elite defensive numbers in the paint this season but the absence of Haas likely changes that equation and Butler shot 60 percent on 2-point looks on Sunday with Kelan Martin putting up 29 points. 7’3” freshman Matt Haarms can match the size of Haas but he isn’t nearly as polished of a player and he had only a minor impact on Sunday’s result with seven points and two blocks.
In what looked like a great opportunity for a breakthrough season for Purdue and Matt Painter the injury is a disappointment but the Boilermakers are still a threat to move on if they can continue the great outside shooting that has carried the team all season. Painter has never reached the Elite 8, losing in three previous Sweet 16 tries as this is a huge game for his legacy and the Purdue program, though with a built-in excuse of the Haas injury.
Texas Tech is an intriguing team with a high ceiling as in two years Chris Beard has transformed the program into a serious Big XII and national threat. Beard ironically got this job in a big part thanks to beating Painter and Purdue in the Round of 64 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament in a 5/12 upset for Arkansas-Little Rock.
Texas Tech was 22-4 and leading the Big XII at 10-3 in mid-February before the team suffered four straight losses amidst some injuries. The Red Raiders are just 4-5 in the past nine games and both NCAA Tournament wins were close calls.
Playing in a favorable Dallas venue, Texas Tech trailed by eight in the second half against Stephen F. Austin in a clash of Texas schools but wound up pulling out the victory with a misleading 70-60 final. On Saturday against Florida Texas Tech fell behind early as well and rallied in the final 12 minutes to pull ahead and seal the victory. The Red Raiders haven’t shot exceptionally well or had significant edges in rebounding or turnovers but the program’s first Elite 8 trip is just one step away.
Turnovers are a concern for the Texas Tech offense as they were ninth in the Big XII on offense in turnover rate. The Red Raiders also won’t want to get into a 3-point shooting contest in this matchup, hitting at just below 35 percent in the Big XII season but the Red Raiders are much less reliant on outside shooting compared with Purdue.
Texas Tech ranks fourth nationally in defensive efficiency and Keenan Evans has the ability to take over games to lead the offense. A wild card for the Red Raiders is senior Zach Smith who missed most of the Big XII season while injured. His minutes continue to go up while scoring 15 points with only one missed field goal in the tournament and could be the biggest beneficiary to the absence of Haas for Purdue.
Both of these teams are on a 2-7-1 ATS runs in the past 10 games ending the season with some suspect results and with slight losing ATS records overall for the season. Both teams also had lesser results away from home venues where both teams were nearly perfect on the season. After playing in favorable nearby venues in the opening rounds the Boston draw isn’t overly helpful to either fan base as the TD Garden is likely to be filled with West Virginia and Villanova fans but the late game is just as intriguing for two programs looking to get over the Sweet 16 hump that has been elusive in recent years.