Kentucky needs big games from freshmen guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb.
Kentucky vs. West Virginia
These teams are fairly similar with both possessing a ton of athleticism. Kentucky is once again very young, but I believe they got the jitters out of their system during their first round (or second round if you want to get technical) win over Princeton. Kentucky PG Brandon Knight really struggled until hitting the game-winner with only seconds left, but I think he has a big game today against the Mountaineers. Look for Kentucky G Doron Lamb to be the difference in the game with his shooting from the wing.
Florida vs. UCLA
In my opinion Florida was seeded too high, but it is what it is and the Gators have a very favorable path to the Elite Eight. UCLA played well for stretches in their first round victory over Michigan State, but they also nearly choked away a huge lead. Florida should win this game with their superior athletes, but if the Gators fall in love with the jump shot (which they tend to do) UCLA could steal this game. The Florida perimeter players (F Chandler Parsons and G’s Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton) need to control this game and get their team good shots.
Morehead State vs. Richmond
This is an extremely interesting matchup. Morehead State has the superior athletes and more size around the rim, but don’t underestimate the power of the three-point shot in the NCAA Tournament. Richmond is deadly from downtown and F Justin Harper (6’10” and a great outside shooter) could pull Morehead F (and defensive stopper) Kenneth Faried away from the basket on defense. This game probably comes down to Richmond’s ability to knock down threes, and in that case, I like the Spiders’ chances.
Temple’s Lavoy Allen, 24, is very tough around the basket.
Temple vs. San Diego State
Another interesting matchup. San Diego State has some great athletes, but they will be going to the basket against Temple F Lavoy Allen who is a very good rebounder and shotblocker. If San Diego State can get out in transition and utilize their superior athleticism, this could turn into a bit of a blowout. But if Temple can control the pace and execute well on the offensive end, the Owls could certainly make this a game.
Butler vs. Pittsburgh
There’s not a lot of second round games where you doubt the #1 seed, but this might be one of them. Pittsburgh has traditionally struggled to get deep in the tournament and they lack the superior athletes to run away from Butler. The Bulldogs are a seasoned veteran team that will not be intimidated by the Panthers and the backcourt matchup in this game could be extremely entertaining. Butler G’s Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored will go head to head with the Panthers’ Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs and have an edge with their Final Four experience from last season. The x-factor here could be Butler F Matt Howard and his ability (or lack thereof) to stay out of foul trouble.
Gonzaga vs. BYU
It’s the Zags vs. Jimmer Fredette here. I hate to make the Cougars out to be a one man team, but there’s very little chance they win this game without a big scoring number from Fredette. The Zags are much more balanced and have a ton of guards that they can use to guard Fredette. Gonzaga C Robert Sacre looks to be too much for the Cougars to handle inside and I think he’s the difference in the game.
Wisconsin F Jon Leuer is a matchup nightmare for opposing bigs.
Kansas State vs. Wisconsin
Again, it’s matchup of superior athleticism against superior execution. The matchup to watch here is Kansas State G Jacob Pullen against Wisconsin G Jordan Taylor. Both are very good in the half court and dominate the ball for their teams. Kansas State is actually at their best when Pullen is playing off the ball, so freshman G Will Spradling will need to help carry the load at the point. Wisconsin F Jon Leuer could be a huge matchup problem for the Wildcats as he possesses the deadly outside shot to pull the Kansas State bigs away from the basket.
Connecticut vs. Cincinnati
Kemba Walker. He’s clearly the key. You can’t stop him, but can you contain him? Cincinnati’s best shot will be to swarm Walker and make him a distributor rather than a scorer. The Huskies shot very well from the outside in their first round matchup with Missouri, but if I was Bearcats’ Head Coach Mick Cronin I would much rather take my chances with F’s Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith shooting jump shots than watch Walker run roughshod over my defense.