2012 NCAA Picks - South: Kentucky vs. Baylor

Posted Mar 25, 2012

Predicting and projecting every NCAA Tournament game - South Region

2012 NCAA Tournament Picks

South Region

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- 2012 Hoops & Helmets, Part 2
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NCAA Tourney Picks East | Midwest | South | West

South Picks: Straight Up: 9-6  ATS: 11-5

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're College FOOTBALL News, but like everyone else we're into hoops this time of year. Back by popular demand after a few years off - we used to be pretty good at this - here are all the picks against the spread with a reason why each team should be picked in your bracket. We'll make the picks round by round and we'll keep track as we go.


No. 1 Kentucky (35-2) vs. No. 3 Baylor (30-7)
  Line: Kentucky -8
Why To Pick Kentucky: With Syracuse not quite right without Fab Melo, and North Carolina a whole bunch of wrong without Kendall Marshall, and with Michigan State getting blown away, Kentucky has turned into the most impressive team of the tournament. It has answered every challenge while being versatile. This is a young defensive team that managed to get into a shootout and put up 102 on a supposedly good Indiana defense. Inside and out, on the move or in a halfcourt set, the Wildcats are doing everything right including hitting the boards. The UK defense has put the clamps down, stopping IU from three, and it should be able to keep a Baylor team that had problems from behind the arc against Xavier in check.
Why To Pick Baylor: Finally, the Cats are playing someone their own size. Baylor has the athletes, the speed, and the leapers to keep up with UK and give it a taste of its own medicine. Baylor was great on the free throw line like the Wildcats were last week, and scoring inside wasn't a  problem with Quincy Acy destroying Xavier. The Bears might not be able to get the inside points and second half buckets like they did on Friday night, but Kentucky won't be able to own the glass, either.
The Pick: Baylor 81-78. Expect nothing less than a classic. These two can jump out of the gym, they can fly, and they can each play a smart, tight full 40 minutes without too many mistakes. It'll be a well played game with UK's free throws not coming through like they did against IU, and least in the final moments. This will be when UK's youth starts to finally shine through.


No. 1 Kentucky (34-2) vs. No. 4 Indiana (27-8)
Line: Kentucky -9.5
Why To Pick Kentucky: The Hoosiers are really, really thin. there's little bench to rely on and there's not much scoring pop. if this gets into a track meet in any sort of way, it'll be uh-oh time; IU doesn't have the ability to crank out spurts against the Wildcat defense. Forget about anything happening for IU from three; UK will put the clamps down. The Wildcat D has turned up the intensity a few notches, and it should be able to come up with another terrific performance like it did against Iowa State.
Why To Pick Indiana:  The Hoosiers only hit six three pointers and had a nightmare of a time with turnovers against Virginia Commonwealth, but they were still able to come back and fight their way to a win. They're not going to have a 33-20 rebounding margin against UK, but they're going to be active with Cody Zeller leading the way. All five starters can hit the boards, and they're going to get to every loose ball; they were able to outhustle VCU at times, and almost no one can outhustle the Rams.
The Pick: Kentucky 80-65. IU was able to win a thriller over Kentucky the first time around - and the Wildcats are sick of it. The late loss was all they're been hearing about as it's being played up in a big way for the rematch. They're going to come out smoking, they'll get up early, and they'll coast in the second half to an easy win. 
FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 102-90

No. 3 Baylor (29-7) vs. No. 10 Xavier (23-12) Line: Baylor -6
Why To Pick Xavier: The defense has been terrific. Of course, getting Lehigh in the second round was a big break, and the Musketeers took advantage by shutting down the game from the start. The Mountain Hawks couldn't hit from three, and Baylor could have similar issues if it's not getting good production inside. Xavier is just big enough in the interior, and just active enough, to handle all the great Bear athletes on the boards.
Why To Pick Baylor: The Bears could dominate on the offensive glass. The came up with 13 offensive rebounds against Colorado and were almost flawless and converting on every mistake. Xavier might have beaten Lehigh in a walk, but the offense wasn't exactly careful with the ball committing a few too many turnovers. The Musketeers were able to come up with the blowout partly because Kenny Frease was dominant on the inside hitting on 11-of-13 field goals. The Musketeers aren't going to have the same success in the interior.
The Pick: Baylor 65-60. It's going to be a war. Baylor is so active and so athletic that it can score in bunches. However, Xavier has the talent and the will to keep it close throughout. The Bears will never be able to pull away. 
FINAL SCORE: Baylor 75-70


No. 1. Kentucky (33-2) vs. No. 8 Iowa State (23-10)  Line: Kentucky -11.5
Why To Pick Kentucky: The Wildcats got past the first round. Not that there was too much fear that WKU was going to pull off the shocker, but the young Wildcats managed to keep their cool after a horrible start to get running. They looked like they were ready to get the offense moving and not just bog down with the defense. The talent lever should shine through.
Why To Pick Iowa State: Granted, UConn played like a dead team walking, but Iowa State was ultra-active and overcame the talent gap by hustling and scrambling. Royce White was tremendous on the boards, but the whole team was terrific getting to the ball outrebounding the Huskies 40-21.
The Pick: Kentucky 74-68. It's going to be a fight. The young Cats will have their moments of brilliance, but Iowa State won't go away after getting hit with haymaker after haymaker. UK will come up with enough defensive stops to get out alive. 
FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 87-71

No. 4 Indiana (26-8) vs. No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth (29-6) Line: Indiana -6
Why To Pick Indiana: The Hoosiers were able to get out on New Mexico State and keep the three point bombing to a minimum. The VCU offense wasn't exactly explosive against Wichita State and struggled to consistently hit from the outside. VCU can play defense, but IU seems to have turned it up a few notches, too.
Why To Pick VCU: They're doing it again. The VCU pressure defense was able to get after Wichita State early while the offense got just enough balance to get by. Great at forcing turnovers and screwing up average backcourts, the confident team looks like its ready to go on yet another great run.
The Pick: VCU 67-65. Indiana is better, the three point shooting should be on even with the VCU pressure, and the backcourt won't crumble. But VCU continues to defy logic, making every key play and not wavering in the clutch. IU will end up loading on the boards, and that'll be the difference. 
FINAL SCORE: Indiana 63-61

No. 3 Baylor (28-7) vs. No. 11 Colorado (24-11) Line: Baylor -7.5
Why To Pick Baylor: Turnovers. Colorado had to hang on for dear life after screwing up way too much. Even with everything clicking from the outside, the backcourt struggled and the team kept giving the ball away with 23 turnovers. The Bears should dominate on the boards and should keep the Colorado three point shooters from finding a groove. 
Why To Pick Colorado: The Buffs destroyed UNLV on the boards and were far, far more active early on to get the big cushion needed. The three pointers were falling from the outside, and balance was enough to give the Rebel defense fits. Colorado looked like a team playing with a chip on its shoulder, at least for around 35 minutes.
The Pick: Baylor 74-66. Both teams did everything possible to snare defeat from the jaws of victory, but they both will learn from the close calls. Baylor will turn things up a notch for a full 40 minutes and won't go into a shell again. 
FINAL SCORE: Baylor 75-60

No. 10 Xavier (22-12) vs. No. 15 Lehigh (27-7) Line: Xavier -3.5
Why To Pick Lehigh: It wasn't really THAT big a shocker; Lehigh is the real deal when C.J. McCollum is rolling. The Mountain Hawks only committed eight turnovers, and ball security is a must against Xavier. Lehigh has the guards to match up with the Musketeers.
Why To Pick Xavier: You wouldn't know it by listening to the post-game analysis, but Lehigh won because Duke played a stupid, stupid game. Mason Plumlee was unstoppable, but the Blue Devils failed to keep pumping it inside. Xavier might not be huge inside, but it should own the boards and will be more active in the backcourt to keep McCollum in check.
The Pick: Xavier 66-60. McCollum will be the best player on the floor, but Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway will keep the pressure on and should be able to get inside better than the Blue Devil guards did.
FINAL SCORE: Xavier 70-58

No. 16. Mississippi Valley State (21-12) vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky (15-18)  Line: WKU -4
Why To Pick Mississippi Valley State: The Delta Devils are fast, fast, fast, and WKU isn't at its best when it has to get up-tempo. WKU makes a ton of mistakes in the backcourt, and MVSU will get more than its share of easy baskets.
Why To Pick Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers are red hot. Don't be fooled by the losing record; this is a program and a team that knows how to produce in the tournament and showed up this year when needed. The offense has clicked at just the right time.
The Pick: MVSU 77-71. WKU is playing with supreme confidence, but it'll have to slow things down and won't be able to. The Delta Devils will go on a spurt late to put it away.

No. 1. Kentucky (32-2) vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky (16-18) Line: Kentucky -25
Why To Pick Kentucky: The Wildcat defense should destroy the WKU backcourt. Scoring will be a huge problem for the Hilltoppers both inside and out, and UK shouldn't have a problem coming up with transition points.
Why To Pick Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers should be able to slow it down. They were able to win a slugfest against a Mississippi Valley State team that likes to get up and down the court. If they can keep the mistakes to a minimum and keep the pace at a crawl, this could be interesting.
The Pick: Kentucky 82-50. Kentucky is going to come out roaring, putting the clamps down early and putting the game away after ten minutes. 
FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 81-66

No. 8. Iowa State (22-10) vs. No. 9 Connecticut (20-13) Line: Connecticut -2
Why To Pick Iowa State: This is a dangerous tournament team because of the three. Yeah, the Cyclones can go dead cold and be an easy out, but they can also hang with anyone in the field if the threes are going in.
Why To Pick Connecticut: Are the Huskies waiting for the right time to turn it on? They're far more talented than Iowa State, and if they can turn up the defensive pressure and get out on the perimeter to bother the shooters, they can get by. The defending national champion, even without some of the key pieces from last year, knows how to win.
The Pick: Connecticut 69-61. When push comes to shove, Connecticut's defense will come up big. It'll be a good battle, but the Huskies will get the stops they needed in the final minutes.
FINAL SCORE: Iowa State 77-64

No. 5 Wichita State (27-5) vs. No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth (28-6) Line: Wichita State -6
Why To Pick Wichita State: The best thing that could happen for the Shockers was Illinois not getting in the NIT. Now, all the focus will be on the coaching search, and an VCU head coach Shaka Smart is front and center in the hunt. On the court, Wichita State can win without a problem by keeping the mistakes to a minimum. VCU's offense is mediocre.
Why To Pick VCU: The Rams dominate when it comes to defensive pressure. They're deadly at forcing turnovers and converting, and the Shockers have to be ready to handle the pressure. Smart got his team to the Final Four last year for a reason; he knows how to get his teams to turn the D up a notch.
The Pick: Wichita State 65-58. After last year's run VCU will be the popular 5/12 upset pick. The offense, though, won't be there to get by a Shocker team that's good enough to make a deep run.

No. 4 Indiana (25-8) vs. No. 13 New Mexico State (26-9) Line: Indiana -6.5
Why To Pick Indiana: The Aggies don't have the offensive punch if Indiana can get going early. This is hardly a complete Hoosier team, but it should be able to score inside and out against a NMSU defense that's good, but not great.
Why To Pick New Mexico State: The front line can rebound with IU. Losing Verdell Jones to a knee injury suffered in the Big Ten tournament won't help IU, and if the three aren't falling the upset chance will be there late.
The Pick: Indiana 67-56. The Hoosiers will be an easy out without Jones, but it won't happen here. NMSU hasn't proven itself against a team as sound as IU.
FINAL SCORE: Indiana 79-66

No. 6 UNLV (26-8) vs. No. 11 Colorado (23-11) Line: UNLV -4.5
Why To Pick UNLV: Colorado won't be able to keep up. This is a sound, smart Buff team, but it's not going to be able to keep up the pace when the Runnin' Rebels start hitting from three. UNLV has the ability to open up a close game in a hurry.
Why To Pick Colorado: The Buffs are balanced and can bother the UNLV defense from several spots. It's all about the defensive pressure. If Colorado can keep the Rebels from consistently hitting on the outside, this will be close late.
The Pick: UNLV 78-67. The Pac-12 was awful this year. Colorado might have a chip on its shoulder after missing out on the tournament last year, but the threes from UNLV will rain down throughout to stay ahead.
FINAL SCORE: Colorado 68-64

No. 3 Baylor (27-7) vs. No. 14 South Dakota State (27-7) Line: Baylor-7.5
Why To Pick Baylor: SDSU has a decent offense and can fire away from the outside, but it doesn't have the strength inside and it's really, really in trouble against Baylor's length. Rebounding will be a big problem for the Jackrabbits.
Why To Pick South Dakota State: The three. Can SDSU bomb its way in the game? Baylor has a strange way of going bye-bye for stretches, and if it doesn't keep up the pressure and intensity, the Jackrabbits can stay alive from beyond the arch.
The Pick: Baylor 81-67. This is a bad, bad matchup for SDSU. Baylor is too athletic and too good up front to have any problems.
FINAL SCORE: Baylor 68-60

No. 7 Notre Dame (22-11) vs. No. 10 Xavier (21-12) Line: Notre Dame -2.5
Why To Pick Notre Dame: The Irish are rock-solid sound. They might be ugly and they might struggle a bit too much, but they don't make a slew of mistakes and they're consistent. Xavier likes to get moving, but Notre Dame is terrific at slowing things down to a crawl.
Why To Pick Xavier: The backcourt could give the Irish fits. Notre Dame might like a deliberate pace, but there's almost no scoring punch whatsoever and it's ripe for the picking by a great pair of guards. The Musketeers have fantastic guards in Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway.
The Pick: Xavier 59-52. How do you win in March? Guards, and Xavier has them. Notre Dame will keep things slow, but the Musketeers will still be able to survive with an offensive spurt late.
FINAL SCORE: Xavier 67-63

No. 2 Duke (27-6) vs. No. 15 Lehigh (26-7) Line: Duke -12.5
Why To Pick Duke: The Hawks just aren't big enough inside. They're active and scrappy, but they don't have the size needed to hold up if Duke starts coming up with a bunch of early second chance points.
Why To Pick Lehigh: Duke doesn't really play defense. While the Blue Devils can bomb away and should be able to handle the pressure, they're going to need to be prepared for a fight. C.J. McCollum will put up points and the Hawks should make it interesting for a little while.
The Pick: Duke 81-70. Lehigh will keep pace, and then the Duke threes will start coming. The Blue Devils will get too many second chances and will dominate on the boards.
FINAL SCORE: Lehigh 75-70