South rises as toughest region

Updated: March 14, 2012, 10:47 AM ET
By Dick Vitale |

In breaking down the brackets, I really feel one region stands out as the most difficult.

I look at the South as the toughest. Top-seed Kentucky doesn't have a cakewalk to New Orleans. The selection committee did the Wildcats no favor by putting Connecticut as a potential second game in the big dance.

Jim Calhoun's defending national champions have experience and could give the 'Cats all they can handle. Jeremy Lamb is an explosive scorer and Andre Drummond could be a challenge inside.

The idea of a John Calipari vs. Calhoun match-up on the sidelines is intriguing since they have a long history of being rivals.

[+] EnlargeChristian Watford
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireA potential rematch with Christian Watford and Indiana is just one of the many challenges for Kentucky in the South Region.

Kentucky could meet Indiana in the Sweet 16 in a rematch of an earlier contest won by the Hoosiers. If it is not Indiana in the Sweet 16, it could be Wichita State, a very dangerous mid-major. Gregg Marshall's club gained valuable tournament experience by winning the NIT last year.

Duke and Baylor headline the lower portion of that bracket. If the Blue Devils can hit the trifecta, watch out. Ryan Kelly hopes to return from a foot injury, making Coach K's team much tougher. Kelly provides another scoring threat.

The Bears upset Kansas in the Big 12 tournament and Perry Jones III, Pierre Jackson and company have Final Four potential.

Notre Dame has been very tough this season. UNLV already knocked off North Carolina early on. Colorado has been hot, beating Oregon, California and Arizona to win the Pac-12 title. Xavier made a run in the A-10 tournament and has Tu Holloway.

I give the South the edge over the West in the battle for toughest bracket. Michigan State, Missouri, Marquette, Louisville ... wow, that is not easy either.

You have to win, baby win to survive and advance in the tournament. It takes six Ws (in some cases seven) to cut down the nets in New Orleans. I feel the road in the South region is the most challenging.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to