This region didn’t fall victim to the upset bug like many of the other regions. In fact, some of the most prestigious names in college basketball can be found here. In the 90’s Duke, UCLA and Kentucky combined for five National Championships and ten Final Four appearances. Now they’re all lumped together in one region. Throw in a USC team with one of the most talented front lines in the country and you have yourself a pretty good regional.
1 Duke v. 4 UCLA
Duke had a hard-fought affair against a familiar face in their win over Missouri in round two. It doesn’t get any easier for the Dukies in this one, as UCLA matches-up very well with Duke at just about every position. The battle between point guards Earl Watson of UCLA and Jason Williams of Duke should be entertaining. They are both catalysts for their teams and both are extremely gifted with the dribble. The key could be who UCLA decides to put on Shane Battier. He has been a problem for many teams now that Boozer has been out. Battier hit big basket after big basket as Missouri tried to guard him with post players that weren’t used to going out on the perimeter to defend. Without Boozer in the lane, Battier was free to penetrate and get easy baskets. Look for UCLA to have the same type of problem and the Blue Devils should move on to the round of eight.
2 Kentucky v. 6 USC
This game features a contrast in styles. USC has a very good starting five but a very thin bench. They play well in a half-court game and try to slow the tempo. Kentucky will go to its bench early and often and will try to push the tempo. Kentucky has enough big bodies to put on USC’s Clancy. Although Bluthenthal or Scalabrine should be able to use their strength against Kentucky’s Tayshaun Prince, Prince will be difficult for them to defend on the perimeter with his ability to shoot the long range jumpshot. Kentucky should win the battle of tempo and move on to a meeting with Duke.
1 Duke v. 2 Kentucky
Is this really happening? Nine years after their epic battle in Philadelphia that was decided by Christian Laettner’s last second heroics, these two teams meet again in Philadelphia to decide who goes to the Final Four. This should be another memorable game. Kentucky has the edge with their depth but pressing Jason Williams for forty minutes may spell nothing but trouble for the Wildcats. Kentucky’s Prince will be one of the few people in the tournament that can match-up with Battier but don’t look for Prince to outbattle Duke’s do-everything man on the boards – a place where the Blue Devils could have the advantage. This could turn into a shootout as both teams love the perimeter shot. Duke shoots it better. Duke defends better. Duke goes to the Final Four.