By Jon Rothstein
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The Wildcats may have lost to Vanderbilt on Sunday but they’re still ripe for a major run in the NCAA Tournament. John Calipari’s team is arguably the best defensive group he’s had in his storied career and has a burgeoning point guard in freshman Marquis Teague.
FIRST ROUND UPSET: Colorado over UNLV
The Buffaloes may not be known in most circles but have been a terrific defensive team for most of the season and have a lethal scorer in guard Carlon Brown. UNLV meanwhile has struggled in the second half of the season on the road and doesn’t seem to click against teams that don’t allow them to play at a frenetic pace. Look for the Buffaloes to get a big game from 6-foot-7 wing Andre Roberson, who is really starting to resemble a young Trevor Ariza.
BOLD PREDICTION: VCU advances to the Sweet 16
The Rams are better defensively than they were a year ago when they reached the Final Four and seem destined to write their own piece of history — winning two games in the NCAA Tournament would certainly accomplish that.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: Iowa State beats UCONN
The one thing the Huskies can’t do is defend the three.
FEAST OR FAMINE?
Baylor’s Perry Jones needs to produce if the Bears are to have a chance at the Final Four.
PREDICTION: Kentucky over Baylor
Michigan State may be the top seed in this region but Missouri may be built to go further in the field of 68. The Tigers have four terrific guards and two of them (Marcus Denmon and Kim English) played on the 2009 team under Mike Anderson that reached the Elite Eight. This team is special and has the chops to reach New Orleans.
FIRST ROUND UPSET: Long Beach State over New Mexico
Steve Alford may have the Lobos peaking at the right time but the 49ers have been yearning for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament and have four seniors in their rotation should Larry Anderson return from injury. Keep an eye on Long Beach State guard Casper Ware, a fearless player who could engage in a terrific showdown with New Mexico’s Kendall Williams.
BOLD PREDICTION: Saint Louis will reach the Elite Eight
Crazy? Probably but what the heck, it is March. The Billikens have the savvy to take Memphis out of what they do offensively in their first game and control the pace well enough to frustrate multiple opponents. Rick Majerus has his best team since he joined the Atlantic-10 and seems primed to make a mark when it matters most.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: Iona plays Marquette in a classic
The Gaels first have to get by BYU in the play in game but if they do and get their chance against the Golden Eagles, it could be one to remember. Both Iona and Marquette are terrific at scoring the ball in transition and both are capable of scoring in triple digits. This one could be a dandy.
FEAST OR FAMINE?
Louisville’s Peyton Siva. If he plays well, the Cardinals could reach the Final Four. If he doesn’t, they could lose to Davidson.
PREDICTION: Missouri over Saint Louis
What’s your prediction for the South and West? Make your case in the comments below!