NCAA Bracket 2012: Breaking Down the South Region

Eric HampfordContributor IIIMarch 12, 2012

NCAA Bracket 2012: Breaking Down the South Region

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    The most loaded region in the 2012 NCAA tournament is led by John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats in the South region. From top to bottom, it is easy to tell that almost every game is going to be a dogfight.

    After Kentucky, the Duke Blue Devils, Baylor Bears and Indiana Hoosiers are the teams who have showed over the course of the season why they are all capable of capturing March glory, but there are many road blocks standing in the way of these teams.

    Dangerous squads like Connecticut, Iowa State, Wichita State, VCU and UNLV are all lurking in the South region, and there will be no shortage of drama in this region's games.

    As a college basketball junkie, it's crucial that you know sleeper teams, players to watch and underdogs to root for. Welcome to March Madness!

King of the Region: Kentucky Wildcats

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    The Kentucky Wildcats enter the tournament as the overall No. 1 seed, so there's no questioning their status as the elite team in their region.

    They are led by freshman sensations Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, as well as sophomore star Terrence Jones. The 32-2 Wildcats are young, like most of head coach John Calipari's teams of the past, but one aspect of the current Kentucky team makes them more dangerous than any other Calipari coached team.

    They have the ultimate game-changer in the 6'10" Davis. He is an absolute shot-blocking machine who scores easily and is an incredible athlete. As long as he can stay out of foul trouble throughout the tournament, they are the front-runners to win the entire tournament.

Sleeper Team: Connecticut Huskies

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    If you are looking at the Connecticut Huskies on paper, you immediately realize that they have the talent to easily win a national championship. The problem is, they haven't played this season like a team that can win it all.

    They enter the tournament as a No. 9 seed, an incredibly dangerous No. 9 seed, and they have several key pieces on their roster capable of leading the Huskies to a title.

    With a core unit of Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Alex Oriakhi, Andre Drummond and Ryan Boatright, Connecticut can contend with any team in America.

Best First-Round Matchup: Iowa State Cyclones vs. Connecticut Huskies

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    The Iowa State Cyclones are enjoying a breakthrough season under the leadership of second-year coach Fred Hoiberg. The 22-10 team is led by Royce White, one of the most versatile forwards in college basketball.

    With wins over Kansas and Baylor already this season, they have proved that they can play with the elite teams in the country.

    The Connecticut Huskies enter the NCAA tournament as an extremely talented team that nobody is talking about, which could bode well for the them. Playing without the pressure of living up to their preseason expectations could do wonders for them in the postseason, but they must get past Iowa State first.

The Underdog America Is Rooting For: Wichita State Shockers

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    The Wichita State Shockers have been significantly gaining momentum throughout the season as a team capable of doing a lot of damage in March.

    The Shockers are 27-5 on the season, and have a dangerous duo leading them in guard Toure' Murry and center Garrett Stutz.

    They were rewarded for their strong season with a No. 5 seed, but drew a very hot VCU team. The Rams are another good sleeper pick, but they don't have the offensive firepower to take down Wichita State.

Player to Watch: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

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    South Dakota State has one of the most exciting players in the country in Nate Wolters. The 6'4" point guard is a legitimate NBA prospect who carries the Jackrabbits. 

    The 6'4" senior is averaging 21.3 points this season, along with 6.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds. When he gets hot, not many defenders can stop him. He dropped an extremely impressive 34 points on the Washington Huskies in a blowout victory early this season.

    Who's to say that he can't do the same thing against the Baylor Bears?

Final Four Pick: Baylor Bears

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    The Baylor Bears are a very tough team to figure out. They started the season red hot, winning their first 17 games. Right now, the third-seeded Bears are 27-7, and are quietly positioning themselves to make a nice run.

    They win games they are supposed to, and six of their losses have been to either Kansas or Missouri, two of the 10 best teams in the country.

    Perry Jones III is playing great basketball of late, which is a great sign for Baylor fans. Look for the sophomore to make a name for himself on the biggest stages of college basketball while leading Baylor to the Final Four.