If there was ever a region Kentucky fans would like to see fall off the edge of the bracket, it's the Southwest Region. If not for Morehead State and Derrick Jasper at UNLV, we'd all pray for a catastrophe to prevent any team from advancing through the tournament. There's Kansas, our evil twin program to the west. There's Texas A&M, the team that shipped us Billy Clyde Gillispie. There's Notre Dame, a team Kentucky beat this season but still hates. There's Vanderbilt, our conference rival. And then there's Louisville, a rival team that needs no introduction on these technologically handicapped pages of KSR. It's amazing how so much hate is piled into just eight games of postseason basketball. Think about how awesome it'd be if Kentucky could've taken that 3-seed from Purdue and had to run a gauntlet through this region. What a March that would be. But, anyway, on to that NCAA preview stuff...
(1) Kansas vs. (16) Boston
I don't know why this game is on TBS and not TruTV because Kansas is going to kill Boston. Let's not even waste our time talking about it. Instead, I'll give you the "Top 5 Reasons Why Playing For Boston University is Better Than Being Samantha Ryan"... Just kidding. Love you, Sammy. Call me.
(8) UNLV vs. (9) Illinois
There might not be a more inconsistent team in the entire tournament than Illinois. The Fighting Illini finished the season with 10 losses in its final 16 games after a hot 13-3 start to the year. On the other side, UNLV lost only seven games on the season, with only one of those losses coming to an unranked opponent. This game will all come down to which Illinois team shows up. If Illinois is knocking down threes and slowing down UNLV's deep rotation of penetrating guards with zone defense, the Illini can advance. If Illinois fails to do either of the two, it'll be an easy win for the Runnin' Rebels. Watch the guards.
Winner: Illinois by coin flip
(5) Vanderbilt vs. (12) Richmond
Richmond could've been a scary 12-seed but the Spiders missed out on a chance of an upset by drawing Vanderbilt. The Commodores have it all: shooters, scorers, wingmen, and big men. I think Vanderbilt is a team that can make a run in the tournament and the 'Dores shouldn't have any problems in the first round. Richmond's Justin Harper is a solid player but Kevin Stallings has an arsenal of defenders to put on him. Go SEC.
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Morehead State
It's not very often that a much higher seed has to worry about rebounding and winning the frontcourt, but that's certainly the case in this battle between two of Kentucky's little brothers. Morehead's Kenneth Faried will have to dominate the paint with his team on his back if the Eagles hope to pull off the upset. Louisville's Terrence Jennings and Gorgui Dieng have the grueling job of trying to contain him - a job I don't think either is ready for. Louisville's three-point shooting will also be a major factor in this game but, in the end, I believe Louisville's full court press will be too much for Morehead State's turnover-prone guards.
(6) Georgetown vs. (11) Round 1 #3
Georgetown hasn't been the same since losing Chris Wright to a broken hand in late February. The Hoyas lost four straight without its point guard, including a 17-point loss to Connecticut in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Wright returned to practice Monday and will play in the tournament but it's unclear how healthy he really is. Georgetown's veteran players like eighth-year senior Austin Freeman will be enough to get past Round 1 #3 but don't look for the Hoyas to go too far into the tournament unless Wright is 100%. On a side note, be prepared to see the John Thompson III Dove commercial during every other commercial break throughout the tournament.
(3) Purdue vs. (14) St. Peter's
As much as basketball fans would love to see a team nicknamed the Peacocks advance in the tourney, it ain't happening. Purdue will win this one easily. St. Peter's unexpectedly won the automatic NCAA bid in the MAAC Tournament Championship after finishing fourth in the conference in the regular season. Plus, St. Peter's already used its upset card with a win over Alabama in the regular season. My advice to the Peacocks would be take lots of pictures and pick up a t-shirt on the way out.
Winner: Purdue by a lot
(7) Texas A&M vs. (10) Florida State
Just like Georgetown's situation with Chris Wright, Florida State's hopes ride on the health of Chris Singleton. Singleton did it all for the Seminoles up until he fractured his foot on February 12. He's expected to play against Texas A&M but it's been over a month since he's been on the court and he won't be at 100%. Luckily, Florida State's halfcourt defense will still be enough to at least keep this game close, regardless of Singleton's status.
Winner: The viewers. This one will be close.
(2) Notre Dame vs. (15) Akron
From "Psycho B" to Tyrone Nash to "Harangody The Remix", Notre Dame will be too much for Akron to handle. It'll be the biggest blow to the hearts of the Akron community since Lebron took his talents to Underachieving Beach. Thanks for playing, Zips.
Winner: Notre Dame
Players to Watch:
Kyle Kuric, Louisville... Kuric is averaging 17 points per game and shooting almost 50% from deep since February 1.
Derrick Jasper, UNLV... "Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat."
JaJuan Johnson, Purdue... The Southwest region's leading scorer at just over 20 points per game.
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State... He holds the key to Kentucky's happiness.
Players to Hate:
Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame... He's fun to watch in that "I want to slap the s--- out of that guy" kind of way.
Josh Selby, Kansas... Free Enes.
Kansas, obviously... The Jayhawks are venerable at the point guard spot but those Morris twins are going to be a handful for anyone who gets in the way. Kansas is deep. Kansas is talented. Kansas is good.
Morehead State... If Louisville can't knock down threes, Faried and his fellow Eagles might be trying on slippers.
Best First Round Matchup:
Texas A&M vs. Florida State... Again, I think this one will go down to the wire. Can we get Gus Johnson in the house?
Sterilize That Silverware:
Pagliacci's (Denver, CO)... Pagliacci's is Denver's oldest Italian restaurant, where the doors close at nine and middle-aged women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano
Going to the Final Four:
Vanderbilt... Yeah, that's crazy talk but I refuse to pick any of the others.