Men's NCAA Tournament South Region Sweet Sixteen Breakdown
#1 Kentucky vs. #4 Indiana
Even with all the upsets and the advancing double digit seeds, the South Region arrived at the most anticipated matchup the Sweet Sixteen could produce. Number one Kentucky will face the only team to take them down during the regular season: the number four seeded Indiana Hoosiers. To get here, Kentucky pulled away late from the Iowa State Cyclones to win comfortably. As expected, their talent eventually overwhelmed Royce White and the rest of the Cyclones. When Kentucky shoots that well from three and point guard Marquis Teague (arguably Kentucky’s weakest spot) shoots as well as he did, no team in the country will take down the Wildcats.
Indiana secured the December 10 rematch with a well fought victory over the tournament-savvy VCU Rams. Instead of running the clock down for a final shot in regulation, Indiana pushed the ball down the court and ended with a short jumper attempt to take the lead with 12 seconds remaining. VCU then came down the court and, as has been the trend in the tournament thus far, trailing by two, they attempted a three and missed. Indiana overcame 22 turnovers and the lack of senior guard Verdell Jones III to come out on top.
So will the rematch mirror these two teams’ first battle? Common sense says no. Indiana was fortunate to escape with a victory that time out and Kentucky has become much more experienced and confident since that game. From a personnel standpoint, Kentucky certainly has the bodies to contain Cody Zeller inside. They also might have a hint of revenge on their mind, giving them whatever slight edge a team can get at this point in the NCAA Tournament where both sides want badly to win and advance. If the game develops into a shootout, it should benefit the Hoosiers, who are more consistent with their jump shots. However, if Kentucky’s win over Iowa State was any indication, that might not be such a given as once believed. With Kentucky shooting well, the rest of the nation should watch out.
Baylor did what was expected of them. They let an inferior team hang around for a long while until eventually blowing them out in the end. They just got to that conclusion in an unexpected way. Usually the Bears get their consistent scoring from their bigs and whatever is gotten from the guards is a bonus. Thanks to guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip, Baylor needed very little from their front court trio on their way to victory. Heslip’s game was borderline historic, as he knocked down nine threes on his way to a 27 point night.
In the other regional semifinal, Xavier’s Tu Holloway got the better of Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum yet his Musketeers teammates were as big of a reason for the victory as Holloway was. The main difference maker was big center Kenny Frease. He was too much for Lehigh to handle down low, ending with 25 points on 13 field goal attempts and 13 rebounds. Of course, in this coming matchup, Frease will have a much harder go of things against Baylor’s front line of future NBA players. He will not demand a double team nor be able to force his will upon a smaller forward. Thus, the advantage here will be gained elsewhere on the court. Whoever’s hot shooting continues, Holloway’s or Heslip’s, will go a long way to determining the victor of this Sweet Sixteen contest. Holloway is used to this pressure and probably thrives on it. Heslip, on the other hand, is oftentimes an afterthought to Baylor’s offense. He has a lot of talented help but may also not be prepared for a scoring burden to fall on his shoulders. Finally getting a good game from Perry Jones III would help the shooting guard and put Bears fans at ease a bit about their gifted yet temperamental power forward.