(1) Kentucky vs. (3) Baylor: South Region
Kentucky 35-2, 16-0 SEC (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
Baylor 30-7, 12-6 Big 12 (At large)
Time: 2:20 p.m. Sunday
Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta
Winner will face: (4) Louisville or (7) Florida, Saturday in New Orleans
Kentucky def. Western Kentucky, 81-66; def. Iowa State, 87-71; def. Indiana, 102-90
Baylor def. South Dakota State, 68-60; def. Colorado, 80-63; def. Xavier 75-70
Kentucky No. 1 AP; No. 1 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Baylor No. 9 AP; No. 10 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Kentucky -7 (O/U 147)
Players to Watch
Kentucky: F Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. (14.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.6 bpg); F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. (11.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.1 spg); G Doron Lamb, 6-4 So. (13.4 ppg, 1.5 apg, 47% 3s). Lamb’s perimeter game has been a key to the Wildcats’ tremendous season. On Friday, Lamb went 6-for-10 from the field, hit his only 3-point shot and all eight of his free throws for 21 big points to help UK advance past rival Indiana.
Baylor: F Quincy Acy, 6-7 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 56.7% FG); G Pierre Jackson, 5-10 Jr. (13.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 1.8 spg); F Perry Jones III, 6-11 So. (13.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 49.4% FG). Acy was a monster in Friday’s win over Xavier. After scoring 11 points in the Bears’ first two NCAA games, the senior went for 20 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal in the triumph.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Kentucky: On top of having the nation’s best interior defense and transition offense, Kentucky showed it can shoot the basketball in Friday’s win. A relative weakness early in the season, the Wildcats ran their half-court offense efficiently, hitting half of their 3-point shots (5-of-10) and 94.6 percent of their free throws (35-of-37). There’s not much this team doesn’t do well.
Baylor: The Bears are one of two teams in the tournament – along with North Carolina – that can stack up with Kentucky’s size and skill. When at its best, Baylor is as deep in talent as any team in the country. The Bears also shoot well. On Friday, they shot 50.9 percent from the field and made 12-of-14 free throws. For the season, they are shooting 47 percent from the floor, 38.5 percent from behind the 3-point line and 75.1 percent at the free throw line. All three rank in the top 32 in the country. Baylor out-rebounds its opponents by 5.4 boards per game. Defensively, the Bears force 14.2 errors and get 7.6 steals per game.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Kentucky: The Wildcats make only 6 3-pointers per game, so if they fall behind, they could struggle to shoot themselves back into a game. Kentucky forces just 11.6 turnovers per game and, at times, it has had trouble with turnovers in the past, although it had just six against Indiana. The Wildcats aren’t very deep. Only one Wildcat played more than six minutes off the Kentucky bench on Friday. Against a big, physical Baylor squad, foul trouble could be an issue for the Cats.
Baylor: The Bears are prone lapses, sometimes in short spurts and sometimes game-long. They are also prone to turnovers, coughing up the ball 13.8 times per game. Baylor has allowed opponents to get to the foul line 638 times and on Friday Xavier shot 24 against them while Kentucky got to the stripe 37 times against Indiana. Baylor’s interior defense sometimes lacks aggression. On Friday, Musketeer center Kenny Frease was 7-for-10 from the field for 18 points. Frease is no Anthony Davis.
The Bottom Line: After Kentucky’s performance on Friday, I don’t have the guts to pick an upset. But the Wildcats are going to get Baylor’s best shot. The Bears will go on some runs and will push the Wildcats. This should be one of the best games of the tournament so far.
The Pick: Kentucky 80, Baylor 77
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 215-171-6 (Through Regional Semis)