NCAA tournament preview: East Regional

A look at the NCAA tournament’s East Regional:


1 Villanova (30-4, Big East champion)

vs. 16 Play-in winner


(See matchup below)

Enjoy high-scoring games? The Wildcats have the nation’s top-ranked offense at 87.1 points per game — though their defense can be problematic.


8 Virginia Tech (21-11, at-large)


vs. 9 Alabama (19-15, at-large)

The Hokies have dropped three of four games, including blowing a 21-point lead to Notre Dame in a second-round loss at the ACC tournament.



5 West Virginia (24-10, at-large)

vs. 12 Murray State (26-5, Ohio Valley champion)

The Mountaineers have lost in the Big 12 title game three straight years. The Racers have won 13 in a row, but lost to Jacksonville State in January.



4 Wichita State (25-7, at-large)

vs. 13 Marshall (24-10, Conference USA champion)

The Shockers have won 25 or more games for nine consecutive seasons. Marshall has never won a tournament game in five appearances.



6 Florida (20-12, at-large)

vs. 11 Play-in winner

(See matchup below)


The guard-oriented Gators are 5-5 over their last 10 games. They do take care of the basketball, however, averaging only 9.8 turnovers.


3 Texas Tech (24-9, at-large)

vs. 14 Stephen F. Austin (28-6, Southland champion)

Standout guard Keaton Evans’ health has been a question mark for the Red Raiders. If he’s not 100%, that could create an upset opportunity for the high-scoring Lumberjacks.



7 Arkansas (23-11, at-large)

vs. 10 Butler (20-13, at-large)

The Razorbacks don’t have much size, but still average 81.1 points per game. The Bulldogs are in their 10th NCAA tournament in the last 12 years.


2 Purdue (28-6, at-large)

15 Cal State Fullerton (20-11, Big West champion)

After surprising early-season losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky, the Boilermakers used a powerful offense to win 19 straight games.



16 LIU Brooklyn (18-16, Northeast champion)

vs. 16 Radford (22-12, Big South champion)

This is the first tournament appearance for the Blackbirds since 2013; they’re 0-6 in the tournament. The Highlanders allow 64.4 points a game.



11 St. Bonaventure (25-7, at-large)

vs. 11 UCLA (21-11, at-large)

Aaron Holiday looked fatigued in the Bruins’ semifinal loss to Arizona at the Pac-12 tournament; he should be at full strength against the Bonnies.


Top seeds

[ 1 VILLANOVA] The tournament’s No. 2 overall seed captured the national title in 2016 and, this season, Jay Wright’s group won its second straight Big East Conference championship.

[ 2 PURDUE] Are the Boilermakers the team that lost consecutive games to Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin to lose the Big Ten? Or the team that won six of its last seven?

[ 3 TEXAS TECH] The Red Raiders are 5-5 in their last 10, not the point in the season when you want to be flirting with mediocrity after the team’s most regular-season wins since 1995-96.

[ 4 WICHITA STATE]: In their first season in the American Athletic Conference, the Shockers won 25 games. They hope for a better showing than last year’s second-round loss to Kentucky.


Cinderella search

Why not Cal State Fullerton? The Titans haven’t advanced to the tournament since 2008. But they beat UC Davis three times and won the Big West tournament.


Top players

Jalen Brunson, guard, Villanova

Twice a first-team Big East selection, the unflappable point guard guides the Wildcats’ potent offense. He’s the son of Rick Brunson, who played for the Clippers.

Aaron Holiday, guard, UCLA

Somehow not a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard, the Pac-12’s leading scorer (20.3 points per game) rarely, if ever, leaves the court.

Collin Sexton, guard, Alabama

There were stretches this season when Sexton, projected as a top-10 pick in this year’s NBA draft, was impossible to guard. He scored 31 points against Auburn in the Southeastern Conference tournament.


Rim shots

Though Purdue has advanced to the tournament 30 times in school history, the Boilermakers have reached the Final Four only twice. The last appearance came in 1980.

Marshall hasn’t played in the tournament since 1987, when it lost to Texas Christian in the first round.

Alabama suspended Sexton for one game at the start of the season because of his link to the college basketball bribery and corruption probe. A school investigation cleared him of wrongdoing.

Avery Johnson of Alabama is making his first NCAA tournament appearance as a coach after spending 16 years as a player in the NBA and coaching the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets.

Twitter: @nathanfenno