Sweet Sixteen Odds and Picks: Indiana Hoosiers vs Kentucky Wildcats
Friday, March 23, 2012
by Joe Rodriguez
The top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats will have a chance to avenge their only regular season loss as they square off with the fourth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers in a South Regional semifinal matchup at the Georgia Dome.
The Hoosiers escaped a battle with Virginia Commonwealth in the third round with a narrow 63-61 victory after a last second three-point attempt by the Rams rimmed out. The win put Indiana in its first Sweet 16 since 2002. The last time Indiana made it to the regional semifinals, it ended up advancing all the way to the national championship game. Head coach Tom Crean has slowly rebuilt the program since arriving in Bloomington four years ago, and he will be looking to win his first NCAA title, while delivering Indiana its sixth. The Hoosiers are 62-30 in this event all-time, earning national titles in 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981 and 1987.
The top-seeded Wildcats continued to impress by defeating the talented Iowa State Cyclones, 87-71, in their second game of the Big Dance. Iowa State is a strong three-point shooting team, but the Cyclones were held to 13.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc by Kentucky. Coach John Calipari led his squad to 24 straight wins before it was upset by Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament title bout. Kentucky is tied with North Carolina for the most wins in NCAA Tournament history with 107. The Wildcats boast of seven national titles, winning it all in 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996 and 1998.
Indiana was the only team to take down UK in the regular season before Vanderbilt managed to do the same in the SEC Tournament. The Hoosiers' Christian Watford knocked down a deep three-pointer as time expired to give IU a 73-72 victory in a game played in Bloomington on Dec. 10. Indiana knocked down 9-of-15 from beyond the arc in that contest, while UK made only 2-of-7 from distance. A big factor in the first bout was Kentucky's star forward Anthony Davis only played 24 minutes due to foul trouble. Still, Kentucky holds a 31-24 edge in the all-time series with Indiana.
The winner of this game will take on either Xavier or Baylor in the South Region's final.
Davis struggled with foul trouble as he competed inside with Indiana's star freshman Cody Zeller. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year leads the team in both scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg) with tenacious inside play. Zeller's post play has opened up the outside for Christian Watford (13.3 ppg) and Jordan Hulls (9.8 ppg). Watford and Zeller each netted 16 points versus VCU in the third round, and Will Sheehey (6.7 ppg) came up big in the clutch with the game-winning jumper with 12.7 second left. Victor Oladipo (9.1 ppg) played very well in the contest also, as he scored nine points and dished out six assists. The Hoosiers have found success this season by being one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation (.437).
Zeller will need to keep pressure on Davis again, as his presence is a huge factor. The rookie forward scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help the Wildcats cruise past Iowa State in their third round matchup. Davis was named the SEC Player of the Year after one of the most remarkable freshman campaigns of all time. The 6-10 youngster was among the nation's best in field-goal percentage (.636). He leads the Wildcats in both scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg) and leads the entire nation in blocked shots (166). Davis is far from the only player IU will have to worry about in this one. Darius Miller (9.8 ppg) and Doron Lamb (13.4 ppg) are both impactful scorers. Point guard Marquis Teague (9.9 ppg) had a spectacular showing in the third round versus Iowa State, as he scored 24 points and dished out seven assists. If Teague continues to be assertive, it will only open things up even more for Davis, Miller, Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11.5 ppg) and Terrence Jones (12.6 ppg). UK has plenty of firepower, outscoring its opponents by an average of 17.6 ppg during this dominating season.
On a neutral floor this one should be a lot more manageable for the Wildcats. Indiana has as good a chance as anyone to take down Kentucky due to its ability to punish opponents from deep with its array of outside shooters. The Hoosiers will need Watford, Zeller, and Hulls to all submit great performances to pull off another win over UK. The Wildcats should be able to stay on top if Davis can stay out of foul trouble and Teague and Lamb continue to pressure defenders with their outside shooting.
Sports Wagering Odds Prediction: Kentucky 76, Indiana 69
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