Earlier in the week, I broke down the early rounds in the Midwest, East, West and South Region analyses. Before the field was set, I mentioned some possible underdogs and upsets. All that is left is for me to breakdown who I think will still be there in the Elite Eight and the Final Four. Will a Cinderella team advance this far?
South Region Elite Eight: Kentucky & Baylor
I think this will be an epic match-up with many future NBA players in this contest. Baylor’s pre-tournament resumé is impressive, but at times, they have looked very beatable. The play of Perry Jones III will need to be consistent for Baylor to make the Elite Eight. If these teams meet, Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones will dominate and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a chance of being a standout in this tournament. Baylor won’t be able to match the talent on Kentucky and the Wildcats advance to the Final Four.
South Region Winner: Kentucky Wildcats
West Region Elite Eight: Louisville & Missouri
Rick Pitino has the Cardinals playing very well. They ended the season on a high note and winning the Big East tournament validates your team as being a contender in this tournament. Louisville should be able to beat Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen. I just think that they are a better “team,” since the Spartans rely heavily on Draymond Green. As far as Missouri is concerned, they will be tested against Florida, Marquette, and possibly Murray State, but the Tigers have elite talent. I love Marcus Denman and Ricardo Ratcliffe and Missouri will benefit from having a balanced inside/outside offensive attack. Louisville and Missouri play different styles and the Cardinals will play a lot of full-court press and trap. I’s take Louisville’s defense over Missouri’s offense.
West Region Winner: Louisville Cardinals
East Region Elite Eight: Syracuse and Ohio State
I think this region will be very “chalk.” I could see Southern Miss giving some teams some trouble early and possibly a team like West Virginia could get hot. Even without Fab Melo, Syracuse’s route to the Elite Eight is pretty light. I see them beating Southern Miss and Vandy/Wisconsin, those teams don’t match up well with the Orange. The bottom half of the bracket will also be as expected. I like Florida State a lot, but if they face the Buckeyes in the Sweet Sixteen, I don’t like them in that game. I expect a nice tournament from Jared Sullinger and William Buford. Syracuse and Ohio State are pretty similar teams, but without Melo, Sullinger will be able to work inside. This will be the first game that will hurt the Orange without Melo. I see the Buckeyes moving onto the Final Four in the East Region.
East Region Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes
Midwest Region Elite Eight: North Carolina and Kansas
This region will have a few upsets with Temple advancing over Michigan and I like San Diego State against Georgetown. After those upsets, it’ll be North Carolina versus Kansas in the Elite Eight. This is a game that I have been waiting for all season. I love a lot of players in this game. It will be fun to watch Harrison Barnes and Thomas Robinson in the same game. I’m not a huge fan of John Henson, he also comes into the tournament with injury problems. I think Kansas is a better team, even though the Tar Heels come into this contest with the most talent on paper. The Jayhawks should be the team that advances into the Final Four in the Midwest.
Midwest Region Winner: Kansas Jayhawks
Final Four Matchups
Kentucky vs Louisville & Ohio State vs. Kansas
These teams met earlier this season and it wasn’t very close. This is a different Louisville team than when the Wildacts faced them. They have learned to play in big games and they proven it by winning the Big East tournament. I don’t think they will beat Kentucky, but it will be a closer game. The freshmen on Kentucky will have to give their best to pull out the win, I believe they will step up and advance to the Championship Game.
Kansas and Ohio State will be an epic game as well. Tyshawn Taylor will probably cover William Buford, who had trouble scoring against other great talent. Ohio State will have to rely a lot on Sullinger, who has a hard time scoring against Robinson inside. He has a hard time playing “above the rim” and Robinson will take advantage of that. I see Kansas beating the Buckeyes in a close game.
Championship Game: Kentucky vs Kansas
This will be a rematch of the game that happened in November. Kentucky won that game 75-65 with Anthony Davis registering 7 blocks. Taylor lead the Jayhawks in scoring, but got most of his 22 points from the free-throw line. The Wildcats had a very balanced offensive attack with Jones, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Doron Lamb scoring in double-digits. I see the same kind of game happening the second time around. Kentucky just has too much talent on the team and they gelled as the season progressed. I see the loss against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament final as an aberration. The Wildcats excel in all aspects of the game and even hit their free-throws, which is odd for a John Calipari team. He will prove that a team can win the NCAA Tournament with mostly freshmen.
2012 NCAA Tournament Champion: Kentucky Wildcats