Warning: I will not be responsible if you copy these brackets and are out of your NCAA Tournament pool by Sunday. However, if you do listen to my college basketball wisdom and win some money, I want 20% of the pot or at least a shout-out on your twitter or facebook page. Can anybody knock off top seeded Kentucky in the South Regional? Here is a bracket breakdown.
As expected, Kentucky earned the top overall seed and were placed in the South Regional which will play its Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in Atlanta. The road to the Final Four for Kentucky doesn’t seem too difficult although there is the potential of a re-match with Indiana, who beat the Wildcats in Bloomington thanks to a Christian Watford three-pointer at the buzzer. Duke and Baylor earned the second and third seeds respectively. Each team is capable of making a run but can they out-match a Kentucky and reach the Final Four?
I think Colorado was grossly over-seeded as the 11 seed in this regional and that VCU deserved to be higher than a 12, but other than that the seedings appear to fit the resume. If the ship hasn’t already sailed, UConn is a potentially dangerous nine seed as is a veteran Xavier team on the ten line.
Most Intriguing First Round Game: #5 Wichita State vs. #12 VCU
These teams are a combined 55-11 this season yet haven’t received a ton of publicity from a national standpoint. The Rams’ run to the Final Four last season is still very fresh in everybody’s mind although there are several new faces in larger roles for Shaka Smith this year. The Shockers are an experienced squad who won the NIT last season so they know something about winning in March as well. I think whoever wins this match-up has a very good chance of advancing to the Sweet 16. Also, it could be Smart’s final run with VCU since he will be a hot coaching commodity this off-season with Illinois rumors already popping up as a possible replacement for Bruce Weber.
Early Exit: #4 Indiana
If the Hoosiers were playing in Bloomington, I would say they are capable of making a run to the Final Four. That’s not the case though as IU was just 3-6 on the road in Big Ten play which is a concern considering they head out west to Portland for the opening weekend. Nobody on Indiana’s roster has ever played in the tourney and I think they are a year away from winning games at the Big Dance. They have upset potential in the first round against New Mexico State, and if they do survive, will be lucky to get past the Wichita State/VCU winner.
Sleeper: #9 UConn
Anytime you have two lottery picks (Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb) on your roster, the potential is there. The Huskies have been unable to fit all their talent together as they finished 8-10 in the Big East, but with Jim Calhoun back on the bench and the experience that several of these players gained from last year’s National Championship run, they could be a dangerous team. Which Shabbazz Napier shows up will play a huge part in what UConn does in the tourney. (By the way, I’m hoping for a UConn/Kentucky second round match-up to see Drummond and Anthony Davis go head-to-head.)
Five Impact Players to Watch:
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Duh, right? Davis CANNOT get into foul trouble for the Wildcats. That’s a killer recipe for UK possibly getting upset and not cutting down the nets. Davis is a game-changer in every sense of the phrase and makes an impact in every possible way.
Perry Jones III, Baylor
PJ Trey came alive in the Big 12 Tournament, averaging nearly 23 points and 10 boards in helping the Bears upset Kansas and reach the title game. Baylor is incredibly dangerous when Jones is playing at that level. The tournament could be vital for Jones’ draft stock as well since he tends to be such an up-and-down talent. If he can put together consistent efforts and help Baylor make a run, Jones will re-gain steam as a high lottery pick.
Royce White, Iowa State
White is the most important player for Transfer U. In his first season with the Cyclones, he led the team in scoring, rebounds, and assists. He is a difficult match-up because of his ability to initiate the offense from a point forward role since he can handle and distribute the ball like a guard. It will be interesting to see how UConn defends White in their opening round game. Andre Drummond is athletic enough to guard bigs on the perimeter but he hasn’t really faced a player like White this season.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
The Jackrabbit junior is ninth in the nation in scoring despite struggling with his three-point shot most of the season. Wolters has taken twice as many shots as any of his teammates so S.D. State relies heavily on him and if he has an off night, you can forget about the Jackrabbits pulling off a first round upset against Baylor and putting on Cinderella’s slipper.
Tu Holloway, Xavier
The Musketeers certainly have the talent and experience to pull off an upset or two in the tourney but for that to happen, Holloway’s leadership will be essential. X’s frontcourt has underachieved which has put added pressure on Holloway and Mark Lyons. It’s Holloway’s last go around as a college player and he will looking for redemption after a horrible performance in the tournament a year ago.
Regional Final: #1 Kentucky over #3 Baylor
I think whoever wins the Baylor/UNLV match-up in the second round (I know it’s technically called the third round now but I think that’s stupid and am sticking to the old school way) ends up beating Duke and gets Kentucky in the Elite 8. The Bears haven’t exactly lit up the college basketball world having lost five of their last eleven, but they have the talent, depth, and athleticism to cause problems for Duke especially if Ryan Kelly does not return at one-hundred percent.
Kentucky is a different beast though. UK starts five first round picks and brings an experienced, veteran, versatile player like Darius Miller off the bench. They can match up with Baylor’s length and athleticism, and to be honest, is just too good to get tripped up by Baylor. Plus, you know Atlanta will be Lexington south and the ‘Cats will have a major home court advantage…
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.
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