Sweet Sixteen Predictions: Indiana Hoosiers vs Kentucky Wildcats
Monday, March 19, 2012
by Mike Stewart
A buzzer-beating 3-pointer fired more than three months ago provides part of the backdrop for one of the most intriguing matchups of the Sweet 16, as the Kentucky Wildcats look to avenge the shot that cost them a perfect regular season.
Indiana’s Christian Watford drained that 3-pointer on Dec. 10, giving the Indiana Hoosiers a thrilling 73-72 victory at Assembly Hall. Kentucky responded by winning its next 24 in a row, before losing in the SEC title game, and has opened the NCAA tournament with two dominant victories.
Indiana is in the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade, has won 10 out of its past 12, and rallied from nine points down in the second round to bounce VCU on Saturday, 63-61.
Indiana Hoosiers (27-8): Indiana’s victory over Kentucky came in the midst of a 15-1 start, as the Hoosiers have returned to national prominence in head coach Tom Crean’s fourth season. Undoubtedly Indiana will have to be better than the season-high 22 turnovers it committed against VCU. Four Hoosiers average double figures; five scored 10 or more points against Kentucky earlier this season. Cody Zeller scored 16 points with 13 rebounds against VCU, and Watford hit four 3-pointers en route to 16 points. Watford hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points in the victory over Kentucky.
Kentucky Wildcats (34-2): The Wildcats shook off that SEC title game loss with two impressive performances in victories over Western Kentucky and Iowa State. Both games underlined how quickly Kentucky’s athleticism on both ends can turn a close game into a blowout. In one 13-minute stretch of Saturday’s victory over Iowa State, the Wildcats scored 42 points to turn a 42-42 tie into an 84-63 lead. Marquis Teague took control of the scoring Saturday (24 points on 10-for-14 shooting). Anthony Davis (15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds in two games) and Terrence Jones (15.0 points, 10.5 rebounds) continue to excel. Jones in particular will be motivated to play the Hoosiers again; he had just four points, one rebound and six turnovers in 28 minutes.
1. The winner heads to the South Regional final on Sunday against either Baylor or Xavier.
2. Watford hit the big shot, but the Wildcats gave him and the Hoosiers plenty of opportunities. Kentucky shot just 10-for-17 from the free-throw line in the loss.
3. Talk about pedigree: the Wildcats and Hoosiers have combined for 12 national championships.
NCAA BASKETBALL PREDICTION: Wildcats 81, Hoosiers 66.
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