The South region contains a few of my underdog predictions that I picked before the field was set. Kentucky is the huge favorite to come out of this region, but will they stumble on the way to the Final Four? Will an underdog shine and make a few upsets? VCU was one of the tournament darlings last year, can they repeat and make a long run in 2012?
#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Mississippi Valley St./Western Kentucky – Even though Vanderbilt knocked off Kentucky in the SEC Championship game, I don’t see this game will be close. Not only does Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky need to compete in the play-in game, but Kentucky gets to rest. This game will be the normal #1 vs. #16 blowout.
Predicted Winner: #1 Kentucky Wildcats
#8 Iowa State (22-10) vs. #9 Connecticut (20-13) Iowa State has been a surprise team this year and deserved better than a #8 seed. Connecticut started off the year sluggish, but the defending champs had a strong Big East regular season. Even thought UConn will be a popular upset pick, due to experience, I love Royce White and the rest of the Iowa State Cyclones. It’s a shame that they will have to play Kentucky in the 2nd round, because I really like them.
Predicted Winner: #8 Iowa State Cyclones
#5 Wichita State (27-5) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth (28-6) VCU will be a popular upset pick. The Rams are a known entity and have the experience from the run they made last year. The Wichita State Shockers have been inching their way into the Top 25 for most of the year. They were my underdog favorite going into the tournament. VCU is coming off a conference tournament win and Wichita State didn’t win the Missouri Valley conference tournament. WSU’s Garrett Stutz will need a great game to keep VCU’s backcourt from taking over the game. I like the Shockers to win a close game.
Predicted Winner – #5 Wichita State Shockers
#4 Indiana (25-8) vs. #13 New Mexico State (26-9) – Indiana lost Verdell Jones III with an ACL injury, but they shouldn’t miss him against New Mexico State. The Aggies haven’t played anyone at Indiana’s level all season. Their lone marquee win came against New Mexico, only to lose to them later in the season. Cody Zeller should dominate the game and the Hoosiers will win this contest.
Predicted Winner – #4 Indiana Hoosiers
#6 UNLV (26-8) vs. #11 Colorado (23-11) – Colorado is coming into the NCAA Tournament hot from the PAC-12 tournament win. The Buffaloes will be a popular upset pick, but don’t sleep on UNLV. They knocked off, then #1 North Carolina team earlier this season. Mike Moser has been dominating the paint all year and they have played a very tough schedule. This game will be more lopsided than most people think. I like UNLV to be a sleeper underdog pick for the later rounds.
Predicted Winner: #6 UNLV Rebels
#3 Baylor (27-7) vs. #14 South Dakota State (27-7) – Which Baylor team will show up in Albuquerque? They shouldn’t have that much trouble against The Summit League champions. If Baylor wants to advance, they need big games from Perry Jones III, Pierre Jackson, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. All four of these players need to be consistent, because consistency has been lacking for Baylor all year.
Predicted Winner: #3 Baylor Bears
#7 Notre Dame (22-11) vs. #10 Xavier (21-12) – This game is going to be a close one. Xavier’s Tu Holloway is one of the most-talented players in the entire tournament. He has a poor first-half of the year, but has turned it up as the season progressed. Notre Dame was supposed to have an off-year, but they ended as the Big East regular season champions. A lot of people point out that the Fighting Irish knocked off, then #1 ranked, Syracuse. I will remind you that the Orange were without Fab Melo for that game. Notre Dame needs excellent guard-play to beat Xavier. I am picking Holloway and the Musketeers to upset Notre Dame.
Predicted Winner: #10 Xavier Musketeers
#2 Duke (27-6) vs. #15 Lehigh (26-7) – As much as I would love to pick against Duke, I can’t. Lehigh’s C.J. McCollom is a scoring machine, but Duke will double-team him and Lehigh lacks scoring depth. For a small school, Lehigh has done some impressive things this year. The Plumlee boys shouldn’t have any trouble with the under-sized Moutain Hawks.
Predicted Winner: #2 Duke Blue Devils
White Boy’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Coverage
2012 NCAA Tournament: West Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: East Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: 13 Possible Upsets
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