NCAA Tournament Predictions: South Region: 1. Kentucky vs. 16. Mississippi Valley State or 16. Western Kentucky

By: Kels Dayton

 1 Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC)-If you don’t know that Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite to capture the national championship in 2012, you haven’t been paying much attention to college basketball. The Wildcats boast the likely National Player of the Year in forward Anthony Davis, who averages 14.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game. Davis is a force on the defensive end of the floor, and is a sinch to win the national defensive and freshman of the year awards, as well as to hear his name called first in the NBA Draft in June.

Forward Anthony Davis (Photo:

Sophomores  Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones have taken the role of elder statesmen on the team, as both were around for Kentucky’s run to the Final Four last season. Lamb averages 13.2 points per game and shoots 46 percent from three-point range, while Jones puts up 12.5 points and pulls down 7.5 boards per game.

6-7 Freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a big-time scorer who averages 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds, and may be trusted by his teammates to take big shots down the stretch in games if Kentucky needs it.

Kentucky will be the national champion on an overwhelming majority of brackets across America. But Big Blue is not without weaknesses.

The Wildcats are extremely young and it remains to be seen how they will handle the pressure of a one-and-done situation in the NCAA Tournament. Also, Kentucky can be vulnerable to a team that plays a solid zone defense (See: Syracuse), because the Wildcats are not a great three-point shooting team (37.1 percent, 51st in the nation).


20th Points per game (77.1)

10th Field Goal Percentage (.487)

12th Points Allowed per game (59.1)

Team stats courtesy of


Western Kentucky center Teeng Akol. (Nelson Chenault. US Presswire)

16 Western Kentucky (15-18, 7-9 Sun Belt)-The Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt conference tournament as a 7-seed, winning four games in four days to capture the league crown and become the only team in the NCAA field with a losing record. WKU won six games in a row overall, and went 10-4 down the stretch after firing head coach Ken McDonald on January 5.  Oklahoma State transfer and Sudan native Teeng Akol (6-11, 217 lbs.) scored 23 points in the championship game against North Texas, and looked like a breakout star. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him continue with that run and pace the Hilltoppers to a win over Mississippi Valley State, which despite having a better record, plays in a much weaker league.

 16 Mississippi Valley State (21-12, 17-1 SWAC)-The Delta Devils went wire-to-wire in winning the SWAC and reaching the NCAA Tournament. Mississippi Valley State is led by senior center Paul Crosby (13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg), who was much more consistent than Western Kentucky big man Teeng Akol and could take apart the Oklahoma State transfer with his size advantage (6-8, 245 lbs). The Delta Devils are a good rebounding team (51st nationally), and boast senior leadership in the backcourt in guards Terrence Joyner and Cor-J Cox, who combine to average 25.1 points per game.

PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 

Second-Round PREDICTION: Kentucky 

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