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Sweet 16 Picks: East Region, Midwest Region

Jevon Carter, West Virginia
East Region

1 Villanova Wildcats vs. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers
With two No. 1 seeds already out of the field, Villanova has taken over as many people's favorite to win it all out of the remaining 16. However, the Wildcats face quite a stiff test in this battle against fifth-seeded West Virginia, a team playing terrific basketball. The two sides both have different strengths: Villanova is an offensive juggernaut that shoots threes at an insane clip, while the Mountaineers still are led by their aggressive press defense and excellent rim protection from center Sagaba Konate. WVU star point guard Jevon Carter has had an illustrious career in Morgantown, and his constant ball pressure is enough to make even the most poised guards uncomfortable. Villanova is led by their star point guard of their own, Jalen Brunson, whose shown amazing poise and confidence all season long, ensuring it should be a fun matchup to watch. The Mountaineers will stay in every game because of their defense, but they are going to score if they have any shot at unseating the top seed in the region. Guard Daxter Miles and swingman Esa Ahmad have shown they can be major offensive contributors at times, and will have to continue to prove that. Even if they do, it is hard to pick against this 'Nova team, who is playing wonderful basketball. Brunson leads a sweet-shooting offense that can get big games from nearly everybody on the roster, including key playmakers Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo. Konate may be able to hold the Wildcats off from getting much success down low, but the Mountaineers may just not have enough offense to hang with Villanova, keeping the No. 1 seed chugging along.
Villanova by seven

2 Purdue Boilermakers vs. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders
The last time Chris Beard faced off against Purdue in the NCAA Tournament, his Little Rock team came back from a huge deficit to complete a thriller against the Boilermakers, that still haunts Matt Painter today. Now, Beard will hope to lead his Texas Tech squad over Purdue once more, although this Boilermakers team is significantly better than the 2016 edition that lost in the first round. Missing center Isaac Haas, who fractured his elbow and is unlikely to return again in a Purdue uniform, hurts significantly but the Boilermakers got solid production in the second round from Netherlands product Matt Haarms. If forward Vince Edwards can stay out of foul trouble, Purdue should still maintain an advantage in the frontcourt and still be able to get some easy buckets. The backcourt battle in this one should be super fun to watch. Texas Tech point guard Keenan Evans is one of the most underrated players in the country, and is known for hitting big shots and playing physical defense. However, while the Red Raiders have one great guard, Purdue brings so much more to the table. Sophomore Carsen Edwards has balled out all season long, veteran P.J. Thompson is a steady presence and sharpshooter Dakota Mathias is a tough guard for anybody. One thing is certain in this one: don't expect a very pretty game of basketball to happen in Boston. Both teams play great, sound defense and love to slow the game down and grind it out. Not having their centerpiece, Haas, makes me very nervous about Purdue going forward but my National Runner-Up pick still has more than enough scoring and depth to overcome a stingy Red Raiders squad.
Purdue by eight

Midwest Region

1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. 5 Clemson Tigers
Clemson is never going to be known as a basketball school, but there is no denying the talent on this Tigers roster. Clemson sits at 25-9 after surviving the brutal ACC and showed just how dominant they have the potential to be, thrashing fourth-seeded Auburn in the second round. Beating Kansas is obviously a tall task, but I won't put it out of the realm of possibility with the way this Clemson team is playing. Versatile guards Marcquise Reed and Gabe DeVoe fuel the athletic Tigers' offense, and it will be interesting to see how they choose to attack a rock-solid Kansas defense. Expect Clemson to try to attack the post early and often here; KU has been extremely thin in the frontcourt all year long, and their stud center, Udoka Azuikbe, is still recovering from an MCL injury. On the other end, Kansas hopes this is a team that can meet lofty expectations, after past Bill Self teams have notoriously come up short. Having Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte Graham at point guard is a huge luxury. The senior has made a ton of big shots in his time with the Jayhawks, and has won a lot of games in March. He will have to be the guiding force for Kansas to continue any March run, as will Azuikbe and Ukrainian sharpshooter Svi Mykhailiuk. In order to hold off the Tigers, Kansas will have to have a big day from Graham and the vets, but also play loose basketball. In past NCAA Tournaments, KU teams have had a tendency to play tight and too conservative, which has really hurt them. If they can play smart and loose basketball, I like them to hold off this flaming hot Clemson team, although it should be tight.
Kansas by five

2 Duke Blue Devils vs. 11 Syracuse Orange
Despite being the final team that made it into the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse has managed to win three games and make it to the Sweet 16, where they get a shot at their ACC rival, Duke. Syracuse plays a very interesting brand of basketball. They still play their patented 2-3 zone defense, and look to out-grind the other team to win. This means slowing down the game to a snail's pace and crashing the glass early and often. It isn't very pretty, but it is clearly effective, as the Orange proved by crashing third-seeded Michigan State's party. Duke was able to overcome Syracuse earlier this season, so they should still be the favorite. Grayson Allen has looked good early this March, and big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter should be able to handle Syracuse's frontcourt physicality. The Blue Devils would also love more production from guard Gary Trent Jr., whose impressive shooting can really open things up for this offense, and should be able to stretch the zone. For 'Cuse, offensively, they will need their athletic guards to make plays. Frank Howard, Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett are not the most efficient guards in the country but they are fabulous at attacking the rim and finishing in creative ways. They will really need to hit their shots, stay out of foul trouble (Howard fouled out against MSU) and force Duke's big men into foul trouble. This Syracuse team is looking eerily similar to the one that made a Final Four berth out of nowhere in '16, but I think the magic has to end sometime. They have been outplayed in at least two out of their three games this Tournament, and I don't think they will be able to overcome the rich amount of depth and talent that Duke possesses.
Duke by ten

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