Photo Credit: KATU
With the NCAA Tournament set to tip-off in full swing tomorrow, SeaTown Sports is here to provide you with a comprehensive preview of all the action.
South Region Preview
Kentucky: John Calipari is famous for bringing in talented freshman and trying to win with the most talent instead of the most experience. This season, his experiment has paid off. Freshmen Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist lead the the two-loss Wildcats in all facets. Davis, the probable national player of the year, can score from anywhere, out rebound anyone, and change any shot with a challenge or a vicious block. His unmatched shot blocking ability makes it nearly impossible to score inside against UK. Throw in three solid players with final four experience in Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller, and Coach Cal could very well have his first national title in a few weeks.
Duke: Coach K has four national titles under his belt, and this team might be better than the one that won it all in 2010. With freshman sensation Austin Rivers at the point and great shooters like Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Ryan Kelly around him, Duke has the potential to play in New Orleans. But they do not play good defense, and uncharacteristically lost three games in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, so they certainly have vulnerabilities. If the Plumlee brothers can play intelligently with consistency, then Duke can go far in the South. If not, Duke could bow out in the round of 32.
Baylor: Scott Drew coaches an uber-talented squad that have redefined inconsistency in college hoops this year. Perry Jones III, a future lottery pick, leads the Bears with his ability to do anything at anytime. He can shoot the outside jumper, post up, lock down a guard or a big man defensively, and drive to the hoop. His versatility is unquestionable, but he also can do none of those things sometimes. Jones has a tendency to disappear and that could cost the Bears, who get help from guards Pierre Jackson and AJ Walton, shooter Brady Heslip, and interior forces Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. Baylor's length alone could propel them to the Elite Eight and maybe even beyond.
Games to watch:
Connecticut vs. Iowa State: This might be the most intriguing matchup in the entire field in the round of 64. Connecticut was picked preseason top five by most outlets and has seriously underperformed. They have loads of talent though and Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Andre Drummond are all difference makers. They also won the tournament last year, in case people forgot already. Iowa State pretty much comes from the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Transfer Royce White leads the Cyclones who haven't made the tournament since losing in the first round as a two seed to Hampton back in 2001. White not only scores 13 points per game, but also averages nine rebounds and five assists. His versatility, complemented by the sharpshooting of Scott Christopherson, has led the Cyclones to big wins over Baylor and Kansas this season. This game basically is a coin flip, with each team having a great chance to win and to challenge Kentucky in the second round.
Wichita State vs. VCU: Last year's final four darlings, the Rams matchup against the sheik pick to resume their role this season, the wheat shockers of Wichita State. Every analyst seems to have tabbed the Shockers as this year's mid-major to make a run until they saw that VCU would be their first round opponent. Bradford Burgess, the leader of VCU's final four team in 2011, continues to lead the Rams, and coach Shaka Smart won't go down easy in the first round. But Wichita State has Garrett Stutz, a dominating seven footer who can also step out and shoot a jumper. They also have a never say die point guard in Joe Ragland who will not let the Shockers go down easy. I could see this one ending on a last second shot, and the winner could easily get to the Sweet Sixteen.
Players to watch:
Anthony Davis: You can't not watch this guy. He's seven feet tall, seven and a half feet long, and plays everywhere. He'll score on the low block, in the lane, with the mid-range jumper, and even from beyond-the-arc occasionally. He is even better defensively, and will most likely win defensive player of the year nationally, as well as freshman of the year and player of the year. He could even win final four MOP too if UK gets that far. Hands down, Davis has the most potential to influence the NCAA tourney and lead his team to a title.
Austin Rivers: The Duke freshman hit perhaps the most iconic shot of the season when he sunk UNC on the road back in February. Rivers will need to continue heroics like that if Duke is to make a deep run in the tournament. Rivers needs to play smart and unselfish and attack the rim instead of settling for forced threes. He has plenty of help around him, and he needs to use that help in order for Duke to win on the second weekend.
Mike Moser: UNLV's star player has dazzled since transferring from UCLA. He starred in the Rebels' signature victory against North Carolina earlier this season, and he can be a double-double machine when he is on his game. UNLV has stumbled a bit down the stretch, and so for them to beat Colorado and even Baylor and Duke, Moser will need to score and rebound at a high level.
Three upset possibilities:
VCU over Wichita State
Colorado over UNLV
Baylor over Duke (sweet sixteen)
Can anyone beat Kentucky in this region? Baylor's length could test them, and Duke's three point shooting could do it too. However, betting against Kentucky is a bad plan this year. They have been the best team in basketball since November, and could easily cut down the nets in April. At the least, they should be expected to reach New Orleans. The Wildcats will win the South region and head to New Orleans with a great chance to cut down the nets.