The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defeated the Mississippi Valley St. Delta Devils last night to earn the right to face the #1 Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday in the KFC Yum! Center.
Tomorrow, the Kentucky Wildcats host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (my alma mater) at the
Chicken Ranch KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. Now that we know that, let's preview the entire South bracket:
#1 seed: Kentucky Wildcats.
We all know this team, and what it is capable of. This is the #1 team in the country for a reason. They are the odds-on favorite to win this region and get to the Big Easy for a Final Four showdown
UConn has the talent to pull off the upset if they make it to the second round, but they are not a cohesive team. Wichita St. is a very dangerous sweet sixteen opponent, and Indiana could also be a threat, but it would take a lot to go wrong for UK and a lot to go right for them.
UNLV in the Elite Eight would be a tough matchup. Duke, less so.
Log5 odds of Kentucky as South Region Champion: 48%, highest in the entire field.
#2 seed: Duke Blue Devils:
Duke has a major player, Ryan Kelly, with an injured foot, but he should be able to play. How effective he can be will determine how far Duke goes.
Right out of the gate, Lehigh is a major challenge for Duke. They are a very dangerous from the perimeter, make their free throws, and are capable of the upset.
Duke is likely to win out over Xavier or Notre Dame, although Xavier's backcourt and decent size could give Duke problems. UNLV looks like a bridge too far, but if they get past them to the regional final, Kentucky will likely be far too much.
Log5 odds of Duke as South Region Champion: 9.5%
#3 seed: Baylor Bears
Baylor is extremely adept at beating itself. When they are good, they are a top 5 team. When they are bad, they can lose to nobody - and have.
Baylor should get past their first opponent, South Dakota St. After that, they likely face UNLV, which is a much tougher prospect. If they manage the Runnin' Rebels, they have a good shot at whoever their next opponent is and could get to the regional final against UK.
Log5 odds of Baylor as South Region Champion: 10.9%
#4 seed: Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana has been a monster team at home this year, but they won only 5 road games all year. They have been better on neutral sites though, but lost a semi-home game in the Big 10 tournament to Wisconsin. Starting guard Verdell Jones III has recently been lost to injury, which also reduces the Hoosiers' chances.
The Hoosiers have a very tough out in New Mexico St. in their very first contest. If they get past that, they will most likely face Wichita St. and then Kentucky. The Hoosier's road figures to end in the first two rounds, though.
Log5 odds of Indiana as South Region Champion: 9.2%
#5 seed: Wichita St. Shockers
Wichita St. is an extremely potent, experienced, and dangerous basketball team that is many people's favorite for a Cinderella Final Four pick, and with good reason.
Last year's NIT champs get a tough first round opponent in VCU, but they should get by Shaka Smart's team, which isn't as good as last year's version. Indiana or New Mexico are not likely to stop them, but Kentucky is in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Shockers could pull off that upset, they could easily get to the Final Four over UNLV, Baylor or Duke.
Log5 odds of Wichita St. as South Region Champion: 11.8%
#6 seed: UNLV Runnin' Rebels
Perhaps the most dangerous team in this bracket outside of Wichita St. and Kentucky, UNLV could possibly show up as Kentucky regional final opponent.
Any team can suffer an upset, but Colorado is not likely to pull a shocker on UNLV, and they are capable of pulling the upset over Baylor and even Duke, but those worthies will be favored. Kentucky, of course, presents a much more intractable problem.
Log5 odds of UNLV as South Region Champion: 3%
#7 seed: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame is a strange team this year. Far from the run and gun Irish we remember from last year, this year's version controls tempo and plays tough, half-court defense.
Notre Dame is likely to lose against the dynamic back court of Xavier, but if they get past the first round, they are likely to run into Duke, and after that, UNLV, both likely to be too tough for the Irish. Notre Dame is not likely to make it out of the first weekend.
Log5 odds of Notre Dame as South Region Champion: 1.9%
#8 seed: Iowa St. Cyclones
Royce White is a dynamic, if somewhat troubled, player who has really prospered under Fred Hoiberg. He has a triple-double this year and is the reason the Cyclones are even in the tournament
The Cyclones are pretty much one great player surrounded by some complimentary players. UConn is a difficult first-round opponent, but Iowa St. is capable of defeating them. But after that, they face UK. If they pull off that massive upset, they are likely to have to defeat either Wichita St. or Indiana, both very bad matchups for Iowa St.
Log5 odds of Iowa St. as South Region Champion: 1.7%
#9 seed: Connecticut Huskies
Next to the Kentucky Wildcats, this is the most talented team in the South. They are not, however, a cohesive unit at all, and they have consistently underachieved all year. They have given Syracuse trouble, but their 8-10 conference record speaks volumes.
If the Huskies get past Iowa St., they run smack into the #1 seed Kentucky Wildcats. They are unlikely to repeat their Final Four performance against this Kentucky team, which is vastly more talented, cohesive, and experienced than even last year's team, while the Huskies are decidedly inferior to their predecessors. If they do get past the Wildcats somehow, Wichita or Indiana are both better.
Log5 odds of Connecticut as South Region Champion: 0.9%
#10-16 seeds: Xavier Musketeers, Colorado Buffaloes, Va. Commonwealth Rams, New Mexico St. Aggies, South Dakota St. Jackrabbits, Lehigh Mountain Hawks, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
These seven seeds all have very small chances of advancing to the Final Four, 0.9% or less. Xavier is the most likely to move on, and if they get past their first round game, they have decent matchups all the way to the Sweet Sixteen, although they are likely to have to go through Duke to get that far. UNLV or Kentucky is likely to be their demise.
Colorado stole the autobid from the Pac 12 field, but despite the fact they are a good defensive team, they are a poor offensive one. It would be a shock if they got past UNLV, and it's almost unthinkable that they could somehow get past UNLV and Baylor in the same weekend.
VCU is a good, solid team, but they were the second-best team in their own conference next to the Drexel Dragons. They have no wins inside Ken Pomeroy's top 50 other than Drexel, whom they stole the CAA bid from. I can't see them upsetting the much better Wichita St. Shockers, but if they do, Kentucky blocks their path to the regional final.
New Mexico St. is very solid team, good enough to get past #4 Indiana and earn a right to face the Shockers or UK. Hard to figure them beating either of the latter two, however.
South Dakota St. features a very dangerous guard in Nate Wolters, a do-everything player who is an outstanding passer and midrange shooter. The Jackrabbits are likely to give Baylor a stiff challenge early, but it's hard to see them getting out of the first round, and if they do, UNLV or Colorado is probably too much for them.
The Lehigh Mountain Hawks are a genuine threat to upset the #2 seed at 22%, a remarkably high percentage for a 2-15 matchup. If they do get past the Blue Devils, they have a decent chance to knock off Notre Dame or Xavier and get all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. Dangerous team with a fortunate draw.
Western Kentucky is a young team with an new coach that has inspired them to reach what they never imagined they could. Unfortunately, my alma mater is vastly overmatched against the Kentucky Wildcats. Their chances of winning this game are so microscopic, they cannot be discerned with modern technology. I love the 'Tops, but they are "two and done." At least they got a win.
This brings me to the end of a long, laborious article which I hope you find useful. Be sure and fill out your brackets for the A Sea of Blue Bracket Challenge, and while you're at it, you can enter your brackets in the Yahoo! Bracket Challenge, which takes only an additional click of the mouse, your name, and your phone number.
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