NCAA Brackets: Breaking Down The South

So, now we know where and when. We do not yet know who, however, that will have to wait until Western Kentucky decides how badly they want to continue in this dance. Up to this point, their feats have been something of legend considering how auspiciously their season started. Until then, let's break down the matchups that we do know about, and I will give my usually less than stellar predictions.

#8 Iowa State vs. #9 UCONN We have all paid some attention to UCONN and their trials and tribulations this season. What began as a season with promises of titles and broken records has melted into a last chance shot at getting into the tournament and a whopping 13 losses on the season. At one point, there was some speculation that UCONN would not make it at all. As foir Iowa State? Head Coach Fred Hoiberg has managed to maneuver the Cyclones into a third place finish behind Missouri and Kansas in the Big 12. Iowa State's signature win came at home against Kansas in January, two weeks after dropping a road game to the Jayhawks. To cap the regular season, Iowa State may have sealed its NCAA Tournament bid with a win over Baylor at home. Make no mistake, the Cyclones have the tools to beat UCONN. The huskies, however, are not going to go quietly. I am picking Iowa State in a close one.

#5 Wichita State vs. #12 VCU The Shockers of Wichita State. They may very well be just that folks. Wichita State is a legitimate #5 seed based on their body of work and the losses they have taken, all of which have been close contests. The Shockers have a balanced scoring attack, with six players averaging between eight and 14 points per game. They've got a 7'1 center (Garrett Stutz) who can score out of the low post and stretch the floor, a 6'5 shooting guard who can create his own shot off the bounce (Toure' Murry) as well as a PG who can run the break and penetrate in the half-court (Joe Ragland). VCU, the one of last year's Final Four teams, lost 4 starters from their charmed run. They are still playing that "havoc" defense from last season, and they also won 17 of their last 19, including the CAA Tournament.I think that this one may be too much for VCU as they are about a year away from being able to hang with bigger teams this season. So, Wichita State here.

#4 Indiana vs. #13 New Mexico St. Indiana we know all too well. They play like madmen at home, but you take them out of Assembly Hall, and they look more like the high school team from the movie Hoosiers than the Indiana Hoosiers. For the life of me though, I do not know how that will translate in a neutral court environment. Add to that the fact that the "neutral" court is Louisville, just a hop, skip, and a jump down the road, and you get my drift. NM State finished second in the WAC in the regular season and with a 26-9 overall record. Their best wins came against New Mexico and Drake, but they also lost to Hawaii, which finished .500 on the year. Save for that loss to the Warriors, the Aggies have avoided any slip-ups, losing only to talented teams. New Mexico St is for real, but I think there will too much Indiana, unlike Doug Gottlieb who is picking the Aggies to win. Maybe subconsciously I just want another game with Indiana so we can blast them back to the stone age, I don't know. But whatever the reason. Indiana in a good game.

#6 UNLV vs. #11 Colorado Anyone know how Colorado got into the NCAA Tournament? Pretty simple actually, they won the PAC-12 Tourney. Otherwise, the once mighty and proud icons of the West would be a 1 team conference in this tournament. Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Buffaloes have an excellent inside post player in Forward Andre Robertson, who averages close to a bouble-double and throws in 1.9 blocks a game as well. That however, will not be enough to overcome UNLV. The rebels have not lost all season in their home court, or on neutral sites. Add to that the fact that they are still trying to make an impression on a certain #1 recruit for next season, and I see the Rebels taking this one and running with it.

#3 Baylor vs. #14 S. Dakota St. For some teams just getting to the dance is their season. Making it to the dance for the first time in the history of their institution is an even bigger accomplishment. Enter the S.Dakota St. Jackrabbits. They appear courtesy of that most revered of all traditions, winning their conference tournament. Unfortunately for them, Baylor does not care. and Baylor is going to make sure that the last good memory for SD St. is their win in that Summit League Tournament. This one will not be close. Baylor by double digits.

#7 Notre Dame vs. #10 Xavier When Xavier got into their bench-clearing brawl with Cincinnati earlier in the year, some wanted their season forfeited. An unprecedented amount of talent on their roster should have brought much more success than it did, but when it failed to deliver, hopes for Xavier went down the tubes. They have, however, been better then necessary to get into the tournament all year long. Their wins include one over Vanderbilt, who whipped us just last night. Notre Dame has chugged along well all season, in spite of losing their best player earlier in the year to a torn ACL. When Tim Abromaitis went down, most thought Notre dame would as well. But they have managed to beat Syracuse, then Louisville and UCONN on the road, and they managed to work their way into a 3rd place finish in the Big East. Xavier will cause problems for N.D. however. And Xavier gets my nod for this one. Not really an upset, as these 7-10 games are really evenly matched squads for the most part.

#2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh What do I say? The Lehigh Mountain Hawks are a typical #15 seed, being thrown to the wolves against a #2 Seed that will make their lives miserable. This is not a game, this is a killing, sanctioned for your viewing and personal pleasure, and a part of Duke's really easy path to a Sweet Sixteen.

*Play In Matchup*

Wow. This may end up being the only play-in game I ever get mixed feelings about in my life. Mississippi Valley State gets the honor of facing Western Kentucky, for the right to play Kentucky in the first round. It's like pitting the Gladiators against each other before you feed them to the Lions. Sean Woods, UK Alum and really, really great guy, has taken lowly Miss. Valley St. and turned them into winners. He started out with no facilities to speak of, and even less budget, taking on road game after road game early in the season racking up frequent flyer miles in search of big paydays for his school. But along the way Woods made them winners. They face Western Kentucky, who less than two months ago was written off for the season so that they could find a new head coach and get some direction back since their former leader headed off to South Carolina a few years back. I hate to see either of these teams lose, almost as much as I hate the winner being fed to Coach Calipari's young Cats as an appetizer for their next game. I can't pick one. Sorry. I can not do it. I want to see them both win.

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