Now, it’s time to focus on the main region of interest for Kentucky fans.
Let’s see what the South has to offer with a trip to Atlanta for the region title on the line:
Under the spotlight, Kentucky’s leading scorer has risen to the occasion more often than not. He has scored 34 against West Virginia, 20 against Kansas, 21 against Virginia Tech, and 23 on the road against Arkansas, among others.
There is no spotlight brighter than the NCAA Tournament. Look for Knox to continue his streak of performing when the pressure is at its peak.
DeAndre Ayton (Arizona)
Averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds a game, DeAndre Ayton is quite possibly the best player in college basketball. And he’s only getting better.
Ayton is legitimately unstoppable in the paint, shooting a ridiculous 64% from two and above 80% at the rim alone. Think you can stop him down low? He’ll just beat you from the outside, as he’s shooting 36% from three and 74% from the line. He has a beautiful midrange shot, has hit 12 threes on the year, and he will put a hurting on you in the paint. What do you do?
There is a reason Ayton is considered a consensus top-three selection in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Mohamed Bamba (Texas)
Going into the year, Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba was seen as one of the most dominant and feared defensive players in the nation. For the most part, he has lived up to the billing.
He’s averaging 13 points, ten rebounds, and a ridiculous four blocks per game. He’s a human shot altering machine.
He’ll be taking on a tough Nevada team, and unfortunately, Bamba doesn’t have much help around him.
Like Ayton, he’s a lock to be selected in the top five in June, and he’ll be must-see TV… at least for one game.
Kyle Guy and Devon Hall (Virginia)
Virginia’s offense may put you to sleep on occasion, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have weapons.
Guy is averaging 14 points, three rebounds, 1.5 assists, and a steal per contest, leading the team in minutes played and total points.
Hall is second on the team with 12 points per game, but he’s shooting 45% from three and 90% from the line. He’s also pulling down 4.3 rebounds and dishing 3.2 assists per game.
Virginia has a tendency of finding ways to efficiently and methodically hurt you, and a lot of it has to do with these two.
With star guard De’Andre Hunter out for the year for the Cavaliers, look for both Guy and Hall to step up even further.
Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline (Nevada)
Nevada’s dual forward threat in Martin and Caroline is pretty ridiculous.
Jordan Caroline is currently averaging 17.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for the Wolfpack, and he ended the year by scoring 20-plus points in five consecutive games.
And he’s not even the team’s leading scorer.
Caleb Martin is averaging 19.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest, and he’ll beat you from the outside and inside.
They’ll be taking on Texas in the opening round, a team that was stuck on the bubble and did just enough to earn a tournament bid. Outside of Mohamed Bamba, the team doesn’t turn heads in the slightest.
Look for these two to feast.
Wright State Rowdy Raider
Wright State has since transitioned to a Wolf (boring) as the team’s mascot, but before, the Rowdy Raider was the center of the show.
And you can see why, as the Raider is pretty phenomenal.
Though he’s not the main mascot anymore, the Rowdy Raider still makes appearances at games and Wright State events, making him still eligible for the contest.
With a million Wildcats, Wolves, a Duck, etc., the answer was easy. Rowdy Raider for the win.
Admiral Schofield (Tennessee)
Jon Axel Gudmundsson (Davidson)
Ebuka Izundu (Miami (FL))
Auraum Nviniahh (Buffalo)
Simple, complementary colors, and a United States flag. What more do you need?
In game action, these Nike uniforms are stellar.
I just don’t understand it. You’re the University of Buffalo Bulls. Why is the state (New York) the bolded part of the jersey?
Introducing the Buffalo New York State University Tech Community College Institute of Technology Bulls:
Potential Upset Picks
Loyola-Chicago over Miami (FL)
Loyola-Chicago hasn’t lost a game since January, and playing disciplined basketball is a big reason for that.
Not one player has fouled out for Loyola this season and they only commit 12 turnovers per game. Oh, and they shoot 40-percent from beyond the arc.
Miami star guard Bruce Brown is out for the year with a left foot injury, and the team hasn’t looked the same ever since.
Write it down, Loyola-Chicago is moving to the Round of 32.
Buffalo over Arizona
Despite never reaching double-digit losses in the regular season, Arizona has always managed to flame out in the tournament.
Since Sean Miller took over in the 2009-10 season, Arizona has yet to make it to a Final Four. They’ve been to the Elite Eight three times and lost in the Sweet Sixteen once. They also lost in the first round in 2016, when they fell to Wichita State.
Buffalo finished the year on a six-game win streak, adding to their program-record 26 victories this season. They won each game in the MAC Tournament by double-digits, and their last two losses of the season came by a combined four points. The Bulls are efficient, shoot the ball well, and play at an incredibly fast pace.
Most people are focusing on a potential Arizona vs. Kentucky matchup in the round of 32, but if Miller’s Wildcats overlook the Bulls, they’ll go home early yet again.
Davidson over Kentucky
Oh, the beloved 5-12 matchup to open the tourney… and Kentucky got stuck with it.
In the last five years alone, 10 12-seeds have pulled off the upset. That’s half of the possible matchups.
Davidson is a dangerous shooting team, and like Arizona, the Cats could get burned by overlooking them. Kentucky has been up and down this season, with playing down to their opponents being one of the most frustrating aspects of the team.
I still expect to see both Arizona and Kentucky move on for an epic matchup in the round of 32, but it won’t be a cakewalk.
After finding their groove again in the SEC Tournament, I expect them to continue that into the Big Dance.
If the Cats can get past DeAndre Ayton and Arizona, I like their chances to represent the South in the Final Four.