(1) Kentucky vs. (8) Iowa State: South Region
Kentucky 33-2, 16-0 SEC (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
Iowa State 23-10, 12-6 Big 12 (At large)
Time: 7:45 p.m. Saturday
Location: KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
First round results
Kentucky def. Western Kentucky 81-66
Iowa State def. Connecticut 77-64
Winner will face: (4) Indiana or (12) VCU, Friday in Atlanta
Kentucky No. 1 AP; No. 1 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Iowa State No. 31 AP; No. 21 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Iowa State 33
Line: Kentucky -10½ (O/U 140)
Players to Watch
Kentucky: C Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. (14.3 ppg, 10 rpg, 4.6 bpg); F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. (12.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 1.8 bpg); F Terrence Jones, 6-9 So. (12.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 49.8% FG). Jones has had an inconsistent season, but if he plays like he did Thursday, the Wildcats will be nearly impossible to beat. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Iowa State: F Royce White, 6-8 So. (13.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.1 apg); G Chris Allen, 6-3 Sr. (11.8 ppg, 2.4 apg, 38.3% 3s); G Scott Christopherson, 6-3 Sr. (12.5 ppg, 2.3 apg, 45% 3s). White had his 12th double-double of the season Thursday with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and when UConn made a late run, it was White who always had an answer.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Kentucky: The Wildcats are No. 1 in the country and the tournament favorites for a reason. They shoot 48.5 percent from the field (10th nationally), 37 percent from 3 (57th) and 72 from the foul line, and they get to the stripe nearly 23 times per game. Their offensive efficiency ranks fourth in college basketball and the Wildcats’ big men run the floor as well as any team in the country. And their defense may be even better than their offense. UK allows opponents to shoot just 36.9 percent, which leads the nation, and blocks a nation-best 8.8 shots per game.
Iowa State: White is one of the best playmaking big men in the country and he makes the players around him better. He will not be fazed by Kentucky’s size and talent. On Thursday, the Cyclones knocked down 36.8 percent of their 3s and that’s been a strength all season. Christopherson and Allen can shoot ISU to big leads or back into games. ISU out-rebounds opponents by nearly five per game.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Kentucky: The Wildcats aren’t deep. White is as proficient as any player in the country at getting into the lane, so foul trouble could become an issue. If it does, that could really hurt a team that typically plays seven players. Although he’s gotten better, freshman PG Marquise Teague has been mistake-prone. Kentucky turns the ball over 11.4 times per game and has just a plus-0.5 turnover margin. Kentucky is excellent in the full court, but its half-court offense has struggled at times.
Iowa State: White really struggles from the foul line (49 percent). With the ball in his hands on most possessions, ISU is shooting just 68 percent from the foul line. That could be a factor down the stretch of a tight game. While the Cyclones are a decent rebounding team, they don’t crash the offensive boards. And they don’t have a defensive presence in the paint. That will play into the hands of the Wildcats. Their 12.5 turnovers per game will also be a concern against a swarming Kentucky D.
The Bottom Line: Tough line. Nine to 11 points is just about right. In the end, Kentucky’s size and explosiveness will be a little too much for the Cyclones.
The Pick: Kentucky 77, Iowa State 66
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 206-158-6 (Through Thursday, March 16)