NCAA Bracket 2012: Complete Guide to South Region
The NCAA selection committee made Kentucky the No. 1 overall seed in this year's NCAA tournament, and rewarded the Wildcats by putting them into a South region that includes several talented schools.
Defending national champions UConn could find themselves facing Kentucky in what could be an incredible third-round matchup. One of the hottest teams in the country right now is the Baylor Bears, who have as much talent as just about any team in this field and are the No. 3 seed in this region. Duke, the region's No. 2 seed, will not be an easy opponent for anyone.
The interesting part of this region is the amount of quality mid-majors and dark-horse teams that could make a deep run. VCU, Wichita State, New Mexico State and UNLV are all very talented teams who could upset some quality schools in this region.
Let's look at a complete preview of the South region with everything you need to make the best picks for your bracket.
Opening Round Schedule
Tuesday, March 13
No. 16 Mississippi Valley State vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky
Thursday, March 15
No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 16 Mississippi Valley State/Western Kentucky
No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 9 UConn
No. 5 Wichita State vs. No. 12 VCU
No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 New Mexico State
No. 6 UNLV vs. No. 11 Colorado
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 South Dakota State
Friday, March 16
No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Xavier
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Lehigh
Best Matchup in Round of 64: Wichita State vs. VCU
This is a spectacular meeting of two fantastic mid-major programs, and a very dangerous matchup for Wichita State.
Who is your pick to win the South Region?
VCU made an amazing run to the Final Four last season as a No. 11 seed, and are fully capable of making another deep run in this year's tournament.
The Rams are playing their best basketball of the season right now and are playing very well defensively. They are confident and full of experience, both of which will help them against the Shockers.
This will be an incredibly competitive matchup, and right now I would give a slight edge to VCU.
Four Stars to Watch
Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky
The freshman forward is the best player in college basketball and will be tough to stop at both ends of the floor.
Davis is extremely athletic and has a polished post game that is difficult to defend. Davis has earned a double-double in four straight games and will be a key part of Kentucky's tournament run.
Perry Jones III, F, Baylor
The sophomore forward had a phenomenal Big 12 conference tournament for Baylor and was a major reason the Bears advanced to the final. Jones has a ton of athleticism and can score in the paint while also being effective with his outside shot. In his last five games, Jones has averaged 18 points and 10.2 rebounds. If you want to beat Baylor, you must do a good job containing Jones.
Austin Rivers, G, Duke
Austin Rivers has done a nice job in a playmaking role for the Duke Blue Devils this season.
He's a talented scorer with outside range and the ability to take the ball to the basket and finish strong.
In his last five games, Rivers has averaged 16.4 points and is playing solid defense as well. Rivers will need to shine in this tournament for Duke to make a deep run.
Garrett Stutz, C, Wichita State
Stutz has been a huge reason for Wichita State's success this season because of his rebounding and defensive ability in the paint.
The senior center averaged 13.5 points and eight rebounds per game this season, and will not be an easy player to defend in this tournament. If the Shockers are going to make a surprise run to the Sweet 16, Stutz has to shine.
Favorites on Upset Alert
The Fighting Irish must be careful against a high-scoring Xavier team that lost in the final of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament. Xavier proved they could beat teams from BCS conferences when they defeated SEC tournament champion Vanderbilt earlier in the season. Notre Dame's grueling Big East schedule has certainly prepared them well for a tough Musketeers squad.
VCU is an experienced team that plays great defense and is well coached. Even if the Shockers get an early lead, the Rams will still be a major threat to make a comeback with their no-quit attitude.
Hoosiers backup point guard Verdell Jones III tore his ACL on Thursday and will miss the entire NCAA tournament. This will hurt Indiana's guard depth, but they will also miss the experience and on-court leadership from the senior guard. New Mexico State dominated Louisiana Tech in the WAC tournament final, and have the 11th-highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 78.5 points per game.
Cinderella Story Waiting to Happen: New Mexico State Making a Sweet 16 Run
If you're looking for a mid-major that could make a surprising run to the Sweet 16, look no further than the New Mexico State Aggies.
The Aggies have a high-scoring team and dominated the WAC the entire year. Their size and strength in the frontcourt will also be a major issue for teams. NMSU was sixth in the nation in rebounds per game this season.
Indiana must be careful because the Aggies are capable of jumping out to a big lead and not looking back. A possible matchup with Colorado or UNLV in the third round also isn't an impossible task for NMSU.
Dark-Horse Teams Ready to Make a Run
UNLV: Impressive wins against ranked teams such as North Carolina and San Diego State has given the Runnin' Rebels the confidence they need to make a deep run in March Madness.
UConn: Don't be afraid to pick the defending champions to beat Kentucky in a possible second-round matchup. The Huskies nearly beat East region No. 1 seed Syracuse in the Big East tournament, and have great experience following their national championship run last year. The Wildcats proved they're beatable with their defeat to Vanderbilt in the SEC conference tournament final on Sunday.
VCU: The Rams are one of the hottest teams in the nation and are not afraid of the bright lights and all the pressure March Madness brings. Teams who play exceptional defense and can rebound like VCU will always be a threat to make a deep run. The Rams won't fear anyone they play in this tournament, even Kentucky in a possible Sweet 16 matchup.
Teams That will Crack Sweet 16
Kentucky: A tough matchup with UConn is the only thing standing in the way of the Wildcats and a Sweet 16 appearance.
VCU: A difficult matchup against Wichita State and a possible third-round game against Indiana or New Mexico State will be challenging for the Rams, but they should be able to survive it.
Baylor: The Bears should have little trouble defeating South Dakota State in their first game, as well as Colorado or UNLV in their second matchup.
Duke: After defeating Lehigh in their first matchup, expect the Blue Devils to defeat Xavier or Notre Dame in the next round.
Dream Matchup We'd Love to See: Baylor vs. Kentucky in Elite Eight
This would be a fantastic matchup of two of the most talented teams in America that have an amazing amount of athleticism and top NBA prospects. Perry Jones and Anthony Davis would be an exciting one-on-one matchup to watch at the forward spot.
The Bears are playing fantastic basketball right now and with their Kansas win in the semifinal of the Big 12 tournament, they have the confidence needed to defeat top teams.
In terms of excitement, scoring and entertainment value, it won't get better than a Baylor and Kentucky matchup in the final of the South Region.
Who Will Earn Berth in Final Four: Kentucky
The amount of talent Kentucky has is absolutely ridiculous, and with several quality big men, their size and athleticism in the frontcourt will create matchup nightmare for opposing teams.
UConn and Baylor are the Wildcats' two biggest threats in their quest to reach the Final Four, but both those schools are squads that Kentucky should be able to defeat.
The winner of the South region will play the winner of the West region on one side of the Final Four, which means Kentucky would likely play either Michigan State or Missouri in one national semifinal.
Projected National Champion: Kentucky
After winning the South region, Kentucky would likely play either Missouri or Michigan State in the Final Four. There aren't a ton of ultra-talented teams in the West region, so I don't see the Wildcats having too much trouble in their Final Four matchup.
A possible national championship matchup for Kentucky would likely include a school like Syracuse from the East region or North Carolina from the Midwest region.
Kentucky has amazing talent, they have solid depth and are very well-coached. The Wildcats will make it through a challenging South region and win their first national title since 1998.
Nicholas Goss is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, follow him on Twitter.
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