NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: South Region
Top Dog — Kentucky (1)
As expected, the Kentucky Wildcats dominated their first two opponents, averaging 84 points per game and a 15.5-point margin of victory en route to wins over in-state rival Western Kentucky (16) and Iowa State (8). National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 blocked shots and four assists in the first two NCAA Tournament games of his career, while sophomore Terrence Jones (22 points, 10 rebounds vs. WKU) and freshman Marquis Teaque (24 points, 7 assists vs. ISU) each had shining moments over the weekend. In the Sweet 16, coach John Calipari’s crew will have a chance to avenge its 73-72 loss at Indiana on Dec. 10, 2011 — one of only two losses UK has suffered this season.
Underdog – Xavier (10)
The Musketeers relied on center Kenny Frease (25 points, 12 rebounds) and point guard Tu Holloway (21 points) to advance past No. 15 seed Lehigh, 70-58, holding Duke-slayer C.J. McCollum to 14 points on just 5-of-22 shooting. One of four teams from the state of Ohio in the Sweet 16, Xavier will face Baylor in a 3-10 pairing of athletic clubs that push the pace and know how to put a highlight reel together. The Bears surely expected a showdown with Duke at this point; the X-Men from Cincy present a mutant matchup with upset written all over it.
Blue State, Red State Rematch – Kentucky (1) vs. Indiana (4)
Earlier this year, Big Blue Nation had illusions of grandeur, thoughts of the first undefeated season since Indiana went 32-0 to win the 1976 national title. That is, until IU's Christian Watford hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to hand the Wildcats their first of two losses this season. Coach Cal's team lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament title game three months after the Indiana defeat; but the Cats are 2-1 against the Dores, they are 0-1 vs. the Hoosiers. Kentucky fans are eager to face Indiana coach Tom Crean, since the former Marquette leader lacks 2003 Elite Eight Cat-killer Dwyane Wade this time around.
Opening Weekend Upset – Lehigh (15) over Duke (2)
The Patriot League champions from Lehigh shocked the traditional ACC powerhouse of Duke, as a No. 15 seed upset a No. 2 seed for the second time in the tournament — after No. 15 Norfolk State defeated No. 2 Missouri earlier in the evening — and for the first time since Hampton took down Iowa State on March 16, 2001. For at least one night, Mountain Hawks junior C.J. McCollum was every bit as good as any player residing on Tobacco Road — with 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in 39 minutes. Fitting, McCollum’s two made free throws clinched the 75–70 victory with 0.4 second remaining.
Fortune Favors the Bold
“They were very bold. They were very bold the entire game. We started the game tentative and at different times, we seemed very tentative on the offensive end and they were bold throughout.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, following a shocking upset to No. 15 seed Lehigh.