I’ll be heading down to the Georgia Dome in a few hours to watch this weekend’s South Region semifinals and final round as an innocent bystander. And if I must say, the matchups we’re going to see Friday and Sunday in Atlanta will put this region under the national spotlight all weekend.
Obviously, the rematch everyone is craving will feature the top overall seed, the Kentucky Wildcats, and the Indiana Hoosiers. IU knocked off the ‘Cats on a buzzer beater by Christian Watford on Dec. 10, 2011, and it was the first loss of the season for UK. Going into this game, Kentucky boasts a 34-2 record, losing to only Vanderbilt the rest of the way (in the SEC Championship game). Meanwhile, Indiana is 27-8, and head coach Tom Crean has turned around the program that went 10-21 just two seasons ago.
I know what you’re thinking, so let me just say this — no, it won’t happen again. Kentucky will be winning this time around.
The Hoosiers played the perfect game to beat the Wildcats, and they did it in their own arena (Assembly Hall, one of the great buildings of college basketball). I expect to see a lot of IU fans in the Dome tonight, but it won’t hold a candle to the massive numbers we’ll see from the Kentucky faithful. It’s going to be a very hostile environment for Crean’s boys, and it’s not going to be the night for an earth-shattering upset.
Kentucky gets the win in the late game.
While Kentucky/Indiana was definitely the highlight of the Dec. 10 slate of basketball, Xavier was certainly involved in the lowlight when they brawled with cross-town rival Cincinnati that same day. Many thought neither team would make it out of that fight unscathed, dooming the Musketeers and Bearcats for the rest of the year.
But Cincy made the Sweet 16, and now Xavier has the chance to upset third-seeded Baylor tonight in Atlanta and punch a ticket to the Elite Eight. Sounds like a heck of a feel-good story, no?
The Baylor Bears, on the other hand, are seeking their 30th victory of the year if they can beat the Musketeers tonight, and their play in the NCAA Tournament so far suggests they will achieve that milestone tonight. After beating San Diego State by eight points in the first round, the Bears went on to destroy Colorado in the second round, 80-63. Head coach Scott Drew has Baylor clicking on all cylinders, and they’re going to be a serious threat to upset Kentucky, after they take care of Xavier.
So we’ll see the Wildcats and Bears facing off in the Elite Eight, in my opinion. And while I know I just said Baylor will be a threat to Kentucky’s unstoppable train on the tracks to the national title game, I think it will be John Calipari’s Wildcats that will be cutting down the nets on Sunday, advancing to New Orleans and the Final Four.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want your opinion, so vote below and let me know who’s your pick to win the South Region!