Loyola-Chicago and its game-planning nun are headed to the Elite Eight. So too are Kansas State, Florida State and Michigan in this maddest of Marches.
Day 2 of the Sweet 16 has Villanova’s Jalen Brunson vs. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, Duke’s athletes trying to solve Syracuse’s zone and the arm brace saga of Purdue’s Isaac Haas. Oh, and all those athletes between Kansas and Clemson.
No wonder sports fans love this time of the year so much.
The marquee matchup comes in the East Region Friday in Boston, where Villanova, one of two No. 1 seeds remaining, faces Press Virginia.
The Wildcats have been on a tear while everyone has been tearing up their brackets, making 31 combined 3-pointers in lopsided opening NCAA Tournament wins over Radford and Alabama. Villanova (32-4) has been even better on defense, holding its first two opponents to 37 percent shooting and less than 60 points per game.
West Virginia (26-10) is known for its defense, but rode its hot-shooting offense into the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years. The Mountaineers shot at least 50 percent in their NCAA opening wins over Murray State and Marshall, averaging 84 points per game. They also play that relentless, pressure-all-time defense that gives teams fits, especially this time of year.
“The matchup with West Virginia, it’s what you get at this point in the tournament,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Sweet 16, you’re going to play a great team that’s playing on all cylinders. You can’t get this far unless you’re really clicking right now.”