By Jack Ryan

So, now we’re down to the Sweet 16.

And Villanova, Purdue, Texas Tech, and West Virginia will be in Boston for the NCAA tournament East Region this Friday and Sunday.

The first matchups are Villanova-West Virginia and Purdue-Texas Tech, and this has promise to be three great games, with the survivor advancing to the Final Four in San Antonio.

Jay Wright is in charge of a team that has glided into the Sweet 16 with two easy victories over Radford and Alabama.

The Wildcats are talented, deep, and have had a sensational season (32-4) led by two All-America-caliber players in point guard Jalen Brunson and forward Mikal Bridges.

The Wildcats lead the nation in scoring at 86.9 points per game and have six players who average double figures. You usually see that only in the NBA.

Basketball is still the most important sport in Indiana, especially in West Lafayette where Purdue is located, but gone are the days when the Boilermakers’ roster was filled by sharp-eyed shooters from rural areas like the legendary Rick Mount.

There are only four players from Indiana on Purdue’s roster, which includes a player from Texas (Carsen Edwards) and even Cambridge (Jacquil Taylor).

The Boilermakers will be missing an important player, center Isaac Haas, who fractured an elbow in the first round, but there are still quality players starting with Carsen Edwards, a slick point guard, and smooth forward Vin Edwards.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard was the coach at Nevada Las Vegas for about two hours (OK, it was three weeks). When a sequence of events left Tech with an opening, Beard deserted the desert for West Texas. Ah, the tumbling tumbleweed. The Red Raiders are known for football, and even Basketball Hall of Famer Bobby Knight couldn’t bring the school any sustained success. The fans routinely don’t show up for games.

That hasn’t deterred Beard. He took the players left over from coach Tubby Smith, did some under-the-radar recruiting, and turned the Raiders into a Big 12 contender.

The Raiders’ best player is senior guard Keenan Evans but the most interesting player is high-flying freshman guard Zhaire Smith, who had a spectacular 180-degree dunk in the first-round game.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins’s team plays with a relentless defensive style, pressing full-court, hunting for steals or forcing opponents into bad plays. The leading pest is muscular guard Jevon Carter, who looks like he could be somebody’s bodyguard, and he’s backed up by one of the best shot blockers in the country, Sagaba Konate.

The key issues will be how the Villanova offensive machine will handle West Virginia’s smothering defense, and whether Texas Tech is deep enough to overcome the talent on Purdue’s roster.

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