|ESPN.com: NCAA Tourney 12||[Print without images]|
1. Kentucky is the favorite, but this is no easy road to the Final Four. The Wildcats are in a bracket with multiple dangerous teams, including Connecticut/Wichita State, even before they could possibly get to Baylor or Duke. Baylor has the length to match Kentucky more than any other team in this region.
2. Wichita State and VCU have the look of Sweet 16 teams. Only one of the two can get to the third round since they were pitted against each other. That's a shame. But it also ensures that one of the two will be playing in the third round.
|C.J. McCollum will face Duke's Austin Rivers in the second round.|
3. One of the best guard matchups will occur in the second round when No. 2 Duke plays No. 15 Lehigh. Everyone has heard of Duke's Austin Rivers. But pay attention to Lehigh's C.J. McCollum. He will be on plenty of NBA radar screens over the next few months. Lehigh doesn't have the size to beat Duke, but the guard play can be matched.
4. South Dakota State has the best nickname in the field -- the Jackrabbits -- and one of the hidden gems in guard Nate Wolters. The Jackrabbits are no joke. They won handily at Washington and while they don't have the length to match Baylor, they are a gritty squad that can cause the Bears some early-round problems.
5. The Notre Dame-Xavier game could be one of the lowest scoring in the South region. Mike Brey will want to limit possessions and the Musketeers have had their share of scoring droughts this season.
6. The Iowa State-Connecticut game may be the best 8-9 matchup in the field. Both teams are more than capable of being second weekend teams. The problem is that they'll have to face the top seed Kentucky in a possible third-round game. Two of the most important newcomers are playing in this game in Iowa State's Royce White and UConn's Andre Drummond. If Drummond can live up to preseason expectations, then having a banner showing here will be needed.
7. Indiana has arrived under Tom Crean. It looked dicey at times, but the Hoosiers had the best win of the nonconference by beating Kentucky at home. But the Hoosiers didn't get an easy draw. Indiana has to go west to Portland to play a dangerous New Mexico State in the second round. The Aggies have the athleticism to run past the Hoosiers and the absence of Verdell Jones hurts their depth.
8. Mississippi Valley plays Western Kentucky in the First Four 16-seed game. It's a shame that Middle Tennessee State got beat in the Sun Belt tournament. The Blue Raiders had a legit shot to win an NCAA tournament game. The Hilltoppers may beat MVSU but they won't get by in-state Kentucky.
9. Colorado is one of the hottest teams in the country after winning the Pac-12 tournament. But the Buffaloes probably don't have the rebounding to deal with UNLV. Still, this is a quality game for the Albuquerque regional. The selection committee did a fine job of putting regional teams at this site with CU, UNLV, Baylor and South Dakota State.
10. The most anticipated Elite Eight game isn't Kentucky-Duke. Sure, that would be a great ratings game. But Kentucky-Baylor would have a litter of NBA players with tremendous length and athleticism.
|Anthony Davis has been dominating on both ends of the court.|
1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky: No player in the tournament changes the game as much as Davis. He can dominate the game defensively and has become one of the toughest matchups offensively.
2. Austin Rivers, Duke: The Blue Devils will advance if Rivers can shoot them to a few wins. He has become Duke's go-to player. If the game is on the line then Rivers will have the ball in his hands.
3. Perry Jones III, Baylor: Jones has had his moments where he has disappeared. But when he is on and around the basket he can be a dominant presence. If Jones plays up to his potential he will be extremely difficult to stop.
4. Mike Moser, UNLV: If the Runnin' Rebels are a sleeper team in this region then Moser will be gobbling up boards throughout the tournament. Moser has been a tremendous get for UNLV. He has continued to diversify his game over the course of the season.
5. Royce White, Iowa State: Few players in the south stuff the state box as much as White. He can score in a number of ways and get to the backboard. If the Cyclones advance in the NCAA tournament, meaning get past UConn, it will be because White was the difference.
1. Wichita State-VCU: This is a tremendous 5-12 game. The Shockers have the size in Garrett Stutz and the overall experience. VCU is still an extremely young team but can defend and slow down the Shockers. This could turn out to be the best game in Portland.
2. Baylor-South Dakota State: This game reminds me of a Kansas-North Dakota State game a few years ago. The Bison didn't have the overall personnel to knock off Kansas, but they had the Jayhawks wobbling in the first half. The Jackrabbits have a big-time scorer in Nate Wolters. SDSU doesn't have the length to hang with Baylor, but can legitimately scare the Bears.
3. Iowa State-Connecticut: The Huskies have top-four-seed talent, but they haven't played to that potential. The Cyclones have a tough matchup for the Huskies in Royce White and a terrific shooter in Scott Christopherson. For the Huskies to win, they've got to manage the game better down the stretch and that means Shabazz Napier has to play smart.
1. Indiana's road to a possible game with Kentucky is littered with hurdles. But the possibility of a rematch between the Hoosiers and Wildcats is enticing. The problem is that the atmosphere can't be duplicated. The aura in Assembly Hall in Bloomington was off the charts in December. Playing this game in Atlanta wouldn't even come close.
2. Kentucky has a number of intriguing matchups in addition to the Indiana game. Kentucky vs. Connecticut and two longtime rivals who hardly coached against each other in John Calipari and Jim Calhoun would be a good watch. Of course, anytime Kentucky and Duke play against each other and Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski coach on opposite sidelines it is going to be a ratings hit.
3. The Baylor-Duke matchup would be a rematch of the 2010 Elite Eight game. Duke won that game but the Bears were right there to upset the Blue Devils in Houston. Baylor is the more talented team this season and knocking off Duke would do wonders for the Bears' psyche and the program's profile.
It's hard to call a No. 6 UNLV a Cinderella. But the Runnin' Rebels could make the Elite Eight. The matchups are favorable. Colorado may have run out of gas in the Pac-12 tournament. The Buffs may struggle to rebound with the Runnin' Rebels, too. Baylor has tremendous talent and length but UNLV already knocked off a similar team this season in North Carolina. So a UNLV run could occur. And beating Duke isn't out of the question, either, with La Vegas' aggressive nature. I'm not predicting this run, but it's more than plausible.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.