NCAA Bracket 2012: Top 9 Team Matchups We Can't Wait to See

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IMarch 12, 2012

NCAA Bracket 2012: Top 9 Team Matchups We Can't Wait to See

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    For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here.

    Every year the NCAA tournament has at least one game you swear you'll always remember. Whether it was Gonzaga versus UCLA in 2006, Duke versus Kentucky in 1992 or Butler versus Pittsburgh a season ago, every year there is a game that will leave you breathless and unlikely to forget it. 

    These games aren't always expected, nor the ones with the most hype. Then again sometimes they are. 

    Here are a few possibilities which potential matchups could make us never forget. Mostly here are the games right now we can't wait to watch. 

Opening Round: Cal vs. Iona

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    When the idea of four play-in games was proposed and added to the NCAA tournament two seasons ago, most critics were skeptical at best. Little did anyone know it would produce a Final Four team in VCU a year ago. 

    This year it features one of the most interesting matchups of the initial rounds between Cal and Iona. Both are efficient offensive teams with great point guard play. 

    Both are teams that will get after it defensively. And both have something to prove after Iona goes through the whole "they shouldn't have got in" crap and Cal battles the argument that they come from a conference which is a complete fraud. 

    Expect this one to go down to the wire. 

1st Round: No. 11 Colorado vs. No. 6 UNLV

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    Few first-round matchups feature two teams so similar. No, the Buffaloes don't lead the world in scoring, but they're a wonderful defensive unit—also a staple of the Runnin' Rebels. Both are tough, physical teams with wonderful sophomore interior players (Andre Roberson for CU, Mike Moser for UNLV). 

    This is probably going to be one of the games that finishes in the 50s. But that's what you expect in tournament basketball. Those kind of games generally guarantee a fantastic finish. 

1st Round: No. 12 Long Beach State vs. No. 5 New Mexico

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    Few teams come into this tournament as hot as the New Mexico Lobos. They come in as Mountain West regular season co-champions and having defeated the San Diego State Aztecs in the Mountain West title game. 

    Drew Gordon and Co. are tough, athletic and will 'D up for 40 minutes. Of course so will "The Beach." With Casper Ware providing the scoring and Larry Anderson returning to lock down the best opposing offensive player, the 49ers have been waiting for this moment for quite some time. 

    This game could be a shootout between Ware and a number of Lobos shooters or a lock-down, drag-em-out defensive contest. Either way it should not be decided until the final moments. And the winner figures to win at least one more game after this one. 

2nd Round: No. 8 Creighton vs. No. 1 North Carolina

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    The Creighton Blue Jays can score with anyone in the country, including the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both teams love to run and shoot threes. Doug McDermott will have a tough time against John Henson or whoever Carolina throws on him. 

    But the rest of the team figures to benefit if McDermott cannot get going. They are very capable. Of course Carolina has tons of weaponry too. Kendall Marshall likes to get everyone involved. 

    This game could be first to 90, a rarity in today's defense-saturated game of hoops. 

2nd Round: No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 4 Wisconsin

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    With Vanderbilt coming off a spectacular performance against Kentucky in the SEC title game, Vandy should possess some swagger as it approaches this NCAA tournament. If the Commodores can get through "The Battle of Wits" against Harvard, they will be set up for an intriguing matchup between Wisconsin who likes to slow the game down. 

    Vandy loves to shoot the three and get out in transition. With Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins, the Commodores are very able to score the ball. It will be up to Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor to take care of the ball and ensure Wisconsin is getting makeable shots all night. 

    If not, Wisconsin could have an unusual second-round exit from the NCAA tournament. 

Elite Eight: No. 6 UNLV vs. No. 1 Kentucky

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    Obviously a lot has to happen to guarantee this matchup. But if UNLV and Kentucky meet in the Elite Eight, it could be the game of the tournament. 

    Few teams are as athletic as Kentucky. UNLV is one of those few. The Rebels love to run and can lock up on defense. And they can shoot as well. 

    Kentucky would likely have the edge in terms of depth, but if the Rebels can get hot from outside, they could stick in this game to the end. 

    At that point, they would figure to have the edge in terms of playing experience. 

Elite Eight: No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 1 Michigan State

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    The Michigan State Spartans are big and tough. The Missouri Tigers are small and tough. Despite playing four guards, Mizzou is a great rebounding team and has managed to hold its own against bigger teams all year. 

    The Tigers athleticism and quickness eventually takes over. But Tom Izzo is a master tactician and would undoubtedly have the best solution for this group to this point. This would be a fascinating matchup of two totally different, yet effective teams. 

Final Four: No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 1 Kentucky

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    I honestly believe Missouri is one of the few teams in America that would be to rattle the Wildcats' cages. With their four-guard lineup, they would simply try to speed up Kentucky and run around them. 

    They would likely press and cause a myriad of turnovers from the young 'Cats. And if the Tigers' shots were falling, they could overcome any difficulty they would have on the glass. 

    That said the 'Cats, too, are very athletic and could possibly stick with Mizzou. It would be a great matchup and one of the most exciting possible matchups this tournament presents. 

Championship Game: No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 1 Kentucky

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    Isn't this the game college basketball fans have been waiting for all season? The two true No. 1 teams. The undisputed No. 1s going into the conference tournaments. The two teams that dominated two of the better basketball conferences in the entire nation. 

    Syracuse and Kentucky have run circles around the competition all year, and we want them to meet to decide which one was best. As much as we, the fans, love upsets, there's still a part of us deep down that wants the true best team to win. 

    At least if these two were to meet in the finals, we'd know one of them truly is the best, and it'd be the one that wins this game. 

    Syracuse runs the zone defense better than any program in history. Kentucky, though, can attack the rim as well any offense in the country. On that end, it would be a fascinating back-and-forth of give and take. 

    On the other end, 'Cuse would probably be forced to play a perimeter game so as not to allow Anthony Davis to provide momentum and leak out opportunities with his swat machine of a right arm. 

    I truly hope this is the title game in 2012 in New Orleans. I just hope there's some great upsets along the way to get here as well.