South Region (Atlanta, GA):
2nd round must-see games:
#5 Wichita State (27-5) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth (28-6) Thursday 7:15pm Portland, OR
When this game popped up on the screen there was a collective ooh and eww among college basketball fans everywhere. Both teams have Sweet 16 capability, Wichita State was a trendy, sneaky final 4 pick for some. With big man Garrett Stutz and silky smooth guard Joe Ragland the Shockers have the personnel to make a deep run. The nation was alerted to the ability of Wichita State when they totally dismantled a pretty good Davidson squad on the road in Bracket Busters.
VCU, coming off a magical run to the final 4 last year is probably the one mid major team (aside from Butler) that casual fans would associate with. This is a different Rams team, this one is led by Senior Bradford Burgess and Sophomore Javonte Reddic. The experience the Rams gained last season helped them this season as they continually got better, culminating in a Colonial Athletic Association championship where they beat one of the hottest team in the country, Drexel.
While this may be one of the more exciting games of the 2nd round, it also will eliminate a team that could do some damage down the road.
#3 Baylor (27-7) vs. #14 South Dakota State (27-7) Thursday 7:27pm Albuquerque, NM
If you like track meets this may be the game for you. Baylor is undeniably one of the most athletic teams in the country. The question has been which version of the Bears will show up? When Perry Jones III, the Quincys (Acy and Miller) and company play to the capabilities they can beat anyone in the country. The effort and mental toughness is the question, when they got punched in the mouth by Kansas and Missouri they didn’t punch back, last we saw it happened in the Big 12 title game against Missouri.
South Dakota State not only has the one of the best nicknames in the country, Jackrabbits, it also has one of the better players in the nation that not many people have heard of Nate Wolters. One of the leading scorers in the country Wolters dropped 34 on PAC 12 regular season champion Washington earlier this season. The Jackrabbits live up to their name averaging 77 points per game and can score with anyone in the country.
A team like South Dakota State could give Baylor some fits, having someone that can keep up with them offensively. How will Baylor react if they get 30 minutes in and are unable to put away a #13 seed.
One first round in-game match up to watch:
#2 Duke (27-6) vs. #15 Lehigh (26-7) Thursday 7:15pm Greensboro, NC
One aspect of basketball that carries more weight than some in March it has to be guard play, and the 2/15 game has two of the better guard mano-a-mano duels in the entire bracket. Duke’s fabulous freshman Austin Rivers introduced himself to the country and his arch rival by confidently hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to sink the hearts of those clad in Carolina blue. Since that game he has become the “the guy” late in games for the Blue Devils, for better or worse.
Rivers faces Lehigh’s CJ McCollum who carried his team to a Patriot League championship by defeating league favorite Bucknell in the title game, a game in which he dropped 29 on the Bison. McCollum at 6’3 is one of the country’s leading scorers at 21.9 points a game also leads the Mountain Hawks in rebounding at 6.5 per game.
It will be interesting to see how a Duke team that has struggled getting stops on the defensive end this season how they try and contain McCollum. If the two back court leaders guard each other, how much will work on the defensive end effect their ability to run their offenses?
One anticipated Round of 32 game:
#1 Kentucky (32-2) vs. #9 Connecticut (20-13) Saturday Louisville, KY
For garnering the top overall seed in the tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats were certainly thrown a gauntlet if they hope to make it to New Orleans. The first may come in their 2nd game as they could face defending national champion Connecticut. The Huskies have been one of the most frustrating teams in basketball this season, but a team with the likes of Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Andre Drummond and Ryan Boatwright certainly has the talent to give the ‘Cats a run.