The South region is loaded with NBA talent. Kentucky, Duke and Connecticut all have potential lottery picks on their rosters, but will this talent translate to victory in this year's NCAA basketball tournament? Here are my predictions for the South region:
Play-In Game on Tuesday, March 15, 2012 - 3:30 pm PT: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers beats Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
MVSU has lost one game in all of 2012, and I'm picking Western Kentucky to give them their second loss. The Hilltoppers have claimed victories against Middle Tennessee and Denver in the past month of play, while MVSU has been collecting wins in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the weakest conference in all of college basketball.
No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats beats No. 16 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Rivalry! A Wildcat would eat a hilltopper alive - there's my reasoning.
No. 9 UConn Huskies beats No. 8 Iowa State Cyclones
I'm taking UConn in a close one in this game. Sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb and freshman forward Andre Drummond will be the difference-makers for the Huskies. Iowa St. has proven itself with impressive wins over Texas, Kansas, Kansas St. and Baylor but the NBA talent of Drummond and Lamb along with Jim Calhoun's success in March tell me UConn will advance to the next round.
No. 5 Wichita State Shockers beats No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth Rams
VCU is a trendy pick after last year's run to the final four but Wichita State ranks in the top 20 of Ken Pomeroy's offensive and defensive efficiency rankings. The Shockers have experience - eight of the team's 10 players are upperclassmen. Senior guard Joe Ragland is shooting a lights out 50% for the Shockers - VCU will have a tough time stopping him.
No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers beats No. 13 New Mexico State Aggies
The Hoosiers will win this game rather comfortably. It will be a blowout if the Hoosiers can catch fire from three, they are shooting a lights-out 43.3 percent from beyond the arc this season.
No. 6 UNLV Rebels beats No. 11 Colorado Buffaloes
UNLV's Mike Moser is a treat to watch, but might not be a treat to watch for Colorado fans in this game. The sophomore forward is averaging 14.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Colorado will be depending on Andre Robinson to neutralize Moser in the post; Robinson is averaging 11.6 PPG and 11.1 RPG for the Buffaloes.
No. 3 Baylor Bears beats No. 14 South Dakota State Jackrabbits
The Jackrabbits enter this game riding an eight-game winning streak, but they'll run into a wall against Baylor. While Perry Jones III has the most name recognition on Baylor, college basketball fans need to watch junior guard Pierre Jackson. The 5'11" guard is distributing 5.8 assists per game and ranks second in scoring to Perry putting up 13.3 points per game.
No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish beats No. 10 Xavier Musketeers
Xavier's seven-footer Kenny Frease poses a concern for Notre Dame, but I expect the Fighting Irish's 6'9" Jack Cooley and 6'10" Tom Knight to neutralize Frease.
No. 2 Duke Blue Devils beats No. 15 Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Duke is too talented when compared to Lehigh for this game to be close. Not having Ryan Kelly hurts Duke, but I think Miles Plumlee will step up his performance in Kelly's absence.
No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats beats No. 9 UConn Huskies
Every NBA scout in America will be at this game, or at least watching it. Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are projected top ten picks along with UConn's Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb. I'm putting my money on Davis being able to shut down Drummond. Kentucky rolls on.
No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers beats No. 5 Wichita State Shockers
I advise people to flip a coin if this matchup happens. The player matchup to watch will be Indiana's Cody Zeller and Wichita State's Garrett Stutz, while Zeller is efficient at converting in the post, Stutz is a 256lb senior seven-footer, and won't let Zeller get easy buckets.
No. 3 Baylor Bears beats No. 5 UNLV Rebels
UNLV's Mike Moser will be contained by Perry Jones and Quincy Miller of Baylor. Baylor has lost four of its last ten games while UNLV has dropped five of their last ten games - the Bears were playing tougher opponents in their losses - that's my reasoning.
No. 2 Duke Blue Devils beats No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Boring, right? It's never fun picking all top four seeds to move on, but I like Duke's offensive firepower and I think Austin Rivers has the advantage on both ends of the floor against Notre Dame's Eric Atkins.
No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats beats No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers.
Kentucky has two losses this season, and one of them was a gift from Indiana back on December 10, 2011. It took Indiana home-court advantage along with a last-second shot to beat Kentucky - I think the Wildcats have learned their lesson and will avenge their loss in this game.
No. 3 Baylor Bears beats No. 2 Duke Blue Devils
With or without Ryan Kelly, Duke will fall to Baylor in this game. Duke's losses have come to teams with players that can match up with their big guys. Baylor's Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller are two quality big men that can stop the Mason and Miles Plumlee along with Kelly if he ends up being back from injury in this game.
No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats beats No. 3 Baylor Bears
Baylor will make Kentucky fight for this victory, but the underclassmen backcourt of Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb will be the difference-maker for the Wildcats. Jones and Miller will have fits against the nation's No. 1 shot-blocker Anthony Davis.
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