Tuesday, March 18, 2014
2014 March Madness - Midwest Region (First Weekend)
The Wildcats entered the season with a ton of hype, solely based on the incredible amount of McDonald's All-Americans that John Calipari had brought in. They had all this hype despite not even making the NCAA Tournament last season. They started the year off ranked number one and even had some morons talking about a potential undefeated season. That talk quickly faded and the Wildcats ended up finishing the regular season out of the Top 25. However, they did show signs of life in the SEC Tournament this past weekend, getting to the championship game and almost knocking off the Florida Gators. Forward Julius Randle is one of the best freshman players in the country, and averages a double-double in points and rebounds. Guard-forward hybrid James Young is Kentucky's second leading scorer and Kentucky is led by the Harrison twins at guard, Andrew and Aaron. Kansas State is reeling coming into the Tournament, having lost three in a row. But they have some exciting freshman of their own, including their leading scorer guard Marcus Foster. It will be forward Thomas Gipson's job to try to contain Randle and keep the battle on the boards even. Despite a disappointing regular season, that can all be erased with a run in the NCAA Tournament, so it will be interesting to see which Kentucky team shows up.
Player to Watch: Louisville guard Russ Smith
Many thought that Russ Smith would head to the NBA after winning a championship at Louisville last season. But much to Cardinals fans delight, Smith has returned and has been the main reason that Louisville has been playing such excellent basketball as of late. Smith leads the Cardinals in scoring, averaging over 18 points per game and has been earning the nickname "Russtacular" with his play as of late. He scored 42 points in a rout of Houston in the AAC Semi-Finals and when not pouring in the points, has done an excellent job finding teammates such as Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell. If the Cardinals are to defend their NCAA Tournament crown, it will be on the back of Smith.
Best Potential Game: #1 Wichita State vs. #8 Kentucky
The storylines for this game would be endless. You have the preseason #1 that some had undefeated talk for going up against the team that ended up going undefeated. However, despite their undefeated season, the Shockers have many doubters that believe they feasted off a very bad Missouri Valley Conference. They seem to forget that Wichita State was good enough to knock off major heavyweights on their way to the Final Four last season. If the Shockers could beat Kentucky, I think their bandwagon will fill up fast. But if they lose, it will validate all those analysts that had doubts about just how legitimate Wichita State's perfect season really was. It would be a rare instance where the #1 seed would almost be in the underdog label going against the 8 seed and the casual fan will likely be rooting for Wichita State to win one for the little guys.
Lowest Seed to Make It Through the Weekend: #8 Kentucky
While I do believe Kentucky was way overhyped going into the season, I think by being put in as an 8th seed they were highly undervalued by the NCAA Tournament committee. I believe that the Shockers are a good team, but I have a hard team believing that they can knock off a Wildcats team with so much talent at each position. I think the Wildcats run will likely end in the Sweet 16 but for the first weekend of the Tournament, they will show why so many had such high hopes for them going into the season.
#16 Texas Southern over #16 Cal Poly
#12 NC State over #12 Xavier
#11 Tennessee over #11 Iowa
#1 Wichita State over #16 Texas Southern
#8 Kentucky over #9 Kansas State
#12 NC State over #5 Saint Louis
#4 Louisville over #13 Manhattan
#11 Tennessee over #6 Massachusetts
#3 Duke over #14 Mercer
#7 Texas over #10 Arizona State
#2 Michigan over #15 Wofford
#8 Kentucky over #1 Wichita State
#4 Louisville over #12 NC State
#3 Duke over #11 Tennessee
#2 Michigan over #7 Texas