(5) West Virginia vs. (4) Kentucky
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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(5) West Virginia Mountaineers
It’s very common to see a 5th seed upset by a 12th seed in the NCAA Tournament and in the first half of the West Virginia Mountaineers’ game against the Clemson Tigers it looked like they were going to add to that notion. They trailed by as many as 10 at one point, but fought back and eventually wore down the tired Tigers, who were last in action just two days ago as a part of the tournament’s new first four games. Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant were the real difference makers for them, combining for 36 points. Jones in particular was a very tough guard for the Tigers’ big men, showing off his extended range with a 3-4 shooting performance from beyond the arc. Against Kentucky they’ll need to defend better on the perimeter and come to play from the opening tip, not 10 minutes afterwards.
(4) Kentucky Wildcats
In a matchup where they were heavily favored, the Kentucky Wildcats found themselves in an absolute battle against the Princeton Tigers of the Ivy League. The Wildcats simply couldn’t pull away from the Tigers, who responded impressively every time it looked like Kentucky was starting to take control of the game. As Coach Calipari said before the start of the tournament, you can’t count on freshmen and his first year players definitely seemed to be overwhelmed by the moment. Terrence Jones was just mediocre while Brandon Knight couldn’t buy a bucket, until he hit the game-winner with two seconds left to help his Wildcats avoid what would have been a huge upset. He wouldn’t have had the chance to win it, though, if it wasn’t for the great play of upperclassmen Josh Harrellson, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins. Now that Knight, Jones and Doron Lamb have their first tournament game under their belt they have to step up and play like they did in the regular season.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: West Virginia. This is a rematch from last year’s Sweet 16, but both teams look much different. We’re going with West Virginia because Kentucky’s freshmen just looked too shaky and we’re not willing to bet on Harrellson, Miller and Liggins duplicating their efforts from Thursday.
HOOPSWORLD’s 2011 previews were written by senior NCAA analysts Yannis Koutroupis and Luke Byrnes. 2011 March Madness coverage is sponsored by the United States Marines. To return to our preview headquarters, CLICK HERE.