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Villanova’s Draw Presents a Case Study in Assessing What Makes a Region Strong

Should the Wildcats really be considered a Final Four lock?

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The 2018 NCAA tournament bracket is set. Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, and Xavier captured the four no. 1 seeds, setting the tone for the rest of this year’s field. So which region is strongest? Which top team could be at risk of going home early? Mark Titus and Tate Frazier broke it all down on the latest episode of One Shining Podcast.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Tate Frazier: [One potential] game that jumps out to me is Villanova, obviously the 1-seed [in the East region]. Talking chalk here, but the Wildcats go to the East, they get the 1-seed, everyone’s super pumped about them playing Radford/LIU [Brooklyn]. Everyone’s already saying that they are obviously the favorite to come out of the East, but you look at that 8/9 matchup that they drew, and it’s Alabama versus Virginia Tech.

Mark Titus: Yeah. Both of those.

Frazier: [Virginia Tech’s] Justin Robinson versus [Alabama’s] Collin Sexton—those are two guards that can take you deep in the tournament. And for Villanova to have to play them—Justin Robinson, if someone were to come to me and say, “Who is Justin Robinson at Virginia Tech?” I would say, “He’s the Jalen Brunson of Virginia Tech.” He’s exactly like Jalen Brunson, but he plays at Virginia Tech. And they could play them in the second round and could easily upset them.

And Villanova last year—we watched this with Wisconsin. We saw a team that came [into the NCAA tournament] that was maybe not so great but had some pieces, they played them down late to the stretch and then somehow Nigel Hayes made that baseline move and [got] a win. I could see the same thing happening again to Villanova. I think that’s a really bad draw for an 8/9 game.

Titus: Well, the East is apparently the region that everyone says is the easiest. I always think this is funny, how we assess the easiest and the hardest regions.

Frazier: We do it through 1 through 4. So it’s like, “Who are the top four seeds?”

Titus: And it never plays out that way. The greatest example to me … is when Ohio State was the no. 1 overall seed in 2011, and then we got Kentucky and North Carolina, and I forget who else was in the region as well. And Ohio State fans were losing their mind, like “How are we the no. 1 overall seed when we have all these teams?” And I thought, first of all, calm down. We’re not going to have to play all of them. Which is [the] point I would make, too—the example I would use this year is [no. 2 seed in the South] Cincinnati. Cincinnati has Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, Tennessee. They’re all in [that region]. If you’re a Cincinnati fan, you’re like, “Shit, that’s pretty tough.” You’re not going to have to play all those teams. You’ll play like one or two, maybe.

Frazier: You have to beat Tennessee. That’s how you have to look at it.

Titus: Yeah, you let them all beat up on each other. So these talks about the hardest region, from what perspective are we talking about when we talk about the hardest region? No one really knows. You just kind of move it around. Secondly, like you said, when you talk about the hardest regions and the easiest regions, you always look at [the] 1 through 4 [seeds]. And so everyone looks at Villanova, and they’re like well, [no. 2 seed in the East] Purdue has kind of fallen off a little bit at the end of the year.

Frazier: Yeah, they’re faltering. [No. 3 seed] Texas Tech is not a stalwart, not a team they’re really concerned about.

Titus: [No. 4 seed] Wichita State, they’ve been up and down all year.

Frazier: They’ve been up and down, we don’t really know who they are.

Titus: All that is fine and well, but you bring up a great point: When Villanova wins in the first round—

Frazier: If they beat LIU Brooklyn. We should say that. Or Radford.

Titus: That’s true. No disrespect. [Then] they have either Virginia Tech waiting on them, the only team to win in Charlottesville this year. One of the only two teams to beat Virginia all year.

Frazier: And a team that got screwed out of the ACC tournament. They could have actually made a run.

Titus: That’s true, too. Very good team. Or you have Collin Sexton pulling the Kemba [Walker], which, need I draw these parallels? … So that is also very interesting to me. I won’t disagree that the 2-3-4-5 in their region is a good draw for [Villanova], but you’ve gotta get there, folks. You’ve got to win the game in front of you.