Are Duke, Kentucky destined for rematch?

March 12, 2012
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Forget about Kentucky’s loss to Vanderbilt Sunday. John Calipari has the best team in the country, and it will play out that way.

The Wildcats will have a glorified scrimmage against the Mississippi Valley State-Western Kentucky winner, but then will have to put on the hard hats. Iowa State or UConn is capable of beating the Wildcats, but playing Kentucky in Louisville won’t be easy.

Once Kentucky gets to Atlanta, it is likely to find some serious challenges. Wichita State should knock off VCU, and Indiana or New Mexico State should also fall to the Shockers.

The other half of the regional might have some new faces. UNLV should be able to handle surprising Pac-12 champion Colorado, but then could have a problem with Baylor, which should end the dreams of South Dakota State.

Duke will take Lehigh in Greensboro, N.C., but the Notre Dame-Xavier winner could be a problem, although both look a little soft.

Dealing with Baylor might be a tougher task. It should be a shootout, perhaps in the 90s, but the Dukies can also make it work, which puts them up against Kentucky in a 20-year anniversary of the classic decided by Christian Laettner.

Not this time, Duke. Sorry.

Upset specials: New Mexico State over Indiana, Xavier over Notre Dame

Teams moving to Atlanta: Kentucky, Wichita State, Baylor, Duke

Regional champion: Kentucky

1. Kentucky (32-2) Freshman center Anthony Davis, a national player of the year favorite, is averaging 14.3 ppg and 10.0 rpg with 154 blocked shots.

2. Duke (27-6) Freshman Austin Rivers (15.4 ppg) is aided by Seth Curry (13.4 ppg) and Mason Plumlee (9.1 rpg).

3. Baylor (27-7) The Bears started 17-0, then closed by winning five of six before falling to Missouri in the Big 12 final. Led by Perry Jones (14.0 ppg).

4. Indiana (25-8) Beat No. 1 Kentucky, then-No. 2 Ohio State, and then-No. 5 Michigan State. Cody Zeller (15.5 ppg) leads a very balanced offense.

5. Wichita State (27-5) The Shockers are stingy on defense (39 percent shooting), rebound ferociously (plus-6), and finally have a good big man in 7-footer Garrett Stutz (13.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg).

6. UNLV (26-8) Especially difficult to beat in Sin City (17-1). Mike Moser leads the team at 14.1 ppg and 10.6 rpg.

7. Notre Dame (22-11) Leading scorer Tim Abromaitis was lost to a knee injury in November. Jack Cooley’s numbers spiked (3.7 ppg to 12.4, 61 percent shooting).

8. Iowa State (22-10) Home wins over Kansas and Baylor stand out, and sophomore forward Royce White (13.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.1 apg) could become a star.

9. Connecticut (20-13) The defending national champion has relied on Jeremy Lamb (17.7 ppg) and freshman Andre Drummond (10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg).

10. Xavier (21-12) Tu Holloway (17.0 ppg, 5.2 apg) can be an explosive player when engaged.

11. Colorado (23-11) Forward Andre Roberson is 6-7, but he’s fifth in the country in rebounding (11.1).

12. VCU (28-6) Looked for lots of full-court pressure. The Rams have won 17 of their last 18.

13. New Mexico State (26-9) Coach Marvin Menzies is a Rick Pitino disciple, so the Aggies like to press and run.

14. South Dakota State (27-7) The mascot looks like a life-sized stuffed bunny. The Rabbits are led by Nate Wolters (21.3 ppg).

15. Lehigh (26-7) C.J. McCollum averages 21.3 points and 3.5 assists.

16. Mississippi Valley State (21-12) The Delta Devils were 1-11, but then dominated the SWAC, going 17-1.

16. Western Kentucky (15-18) The school fired coach Ken McDonald Jan. 6, and somehow replacement Ray Harper got the Hilltoppers to win the Sun Belt tournament.

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