(1) Villanova vs. (5) West Virginia — Both the Wildcats and Mountaineers have had an easy time of it through the first two rounds.
The Wildcats (32-4) clobbered Radford by 26 points in the opener and then blasted Alabama by 23 in the second. All the starters scored in double digits against the Highlanders, while Mikal Bridges led the way against the Crimson Tide with 23 points.
The Mountaineers (26-10) bounced Murray State by 17 points in the first round and dominated Marshall by 23 in the second. Jevon Carter scored 21 points to lead West Virginia against the Racers, while Teddy Allen added 16 off the bench. Carter stepped up his game against the Thundering Herd with 28 points, including five baskets from the three-point line.
West Virginia has an excellent defense and outscores its opponents by an average of 11 points a game. The key in this matchup is to limit Villanova from the three-point line where the Wildcats are the 12th best in the country.
Before the tournament began, the Mountaineers had lost twice this month — to Kansas and Texas. The Wildcats have won seven straight. Their last defeat was Feb. 24 to Creighton in Nebraska.
In the first two tournament games, Villanova is 2-0 against the spread (ATS). So is West Virginia. Don’t expect a blowout in this one.
(2) Purdue vs. (3) Texas Tech — The Red Raiders (26-9) are in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2005. And they owe a lot of that to their big play man Keenan Evans.
The senior guard hit the winning basket to eliminate Florida in the second round. Evans took control of the game with 23 points to lead Texas Tech past Stephen F. Austin in the opener.
The Red Raiders, who came into the tournament having lost five of their last seven, now meet a Big Ten opponent that has been to the Sweet Sixteen 11 times. The Boilermakers (30-6) lost to Kansas at this point in the championship last year.
Purdue started the tournament with two big wins and one loss. The Boilermakers defeated Cal-State Fullerton and Butler, but they lost seven-foot-two senior Isaac Haas to a fractured elbow in the opener.
His status for Friday’s game looks very much in doubt, and that will put a ton of pressure on freshman Matt Haarms in the biggest game of his life.
Vincent Edwards led Purdue with 20 points against Butler. Haarms had seven points, six rebounds and played 29 minutes of the game.
Purdue, which has won seven of its last eight games, is 1-1 ATS in the championship. Texas Tech is also 1-1.