John Clay: Cats will conjure title magic of 1951, '96

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 11, 2012 

Kentucky forward Anthony Davis (23) jammed for two of his 16 points as LSU's five on the floor looked on. The Cats went on to beat the Tigers 74-50 on Jan. 28 in Baton Rouge.

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader

NCAA Tournament predictions:

Final Four

Kentucky: There are plenty of marquee names in the South Region but not all that much meat. Duke is the weakest of the No. 2 seeds. No. 3 seed Baylor isn't solid enough to challenge the Cats. And John Calipari's club has a score to settle with No. 4 seed Indiana.

Missouri: I don't like Missouri's lack of size, but I do like the No. 2 seed's speed and scoring ability. It will be fun watching Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Co. make it two SEC teams (almost) in New Orleans for the Final Four.

Syracuse: Hate on the Orange all you want, but Jim Boeheim's club is long, experienced and knows how to do that funky zone thing.

North Carolina: This pick is made on the hunch that John Henson (sprained wrist) was being held out for precautionary measures.

National champion

Kentucky. Cue spooky music. In 1950-51, UK had lost one game in the regular season by one point before Adolph Rupp's team lost to Vanderbilt in the championship game of the SEC Tournament. UK won the national title. In 1996, a one-loss Kentucky team lost in the SEC Tournament finals in New Orleans. And UK won the national title. Those historic vibes are just too strong.

Upset specials

No. 12 Long Beach State will use the lessons it learned during a ridiculous non-conference road schedule to knock off Steve Alford and No. 5 seed New Mexico.

The winner of the play-in game between California and South Florida will knock off No. 5 Temple.

Cinderella

Belmont is ranked No. 23 in the nation by stats guru Ken Pomeroy, but the committee gave the Atlantic Sun champs a No. 14 seed. The Nashville school can beat Georgetown and San Diego State to reach the Sweet 16.

Kentucky schools

Kentucky: John Calipari will win his first ring, but don't be surprised if the toughest team in UK's path is Wichita State.

Louisville: The Cardinals should handle Davidson, then win a rematch with Long Beach State. That could set up a rematch with red-hot Memphis or powerhouse Michigan State. Guess is U of L's run ends there.

Murray State: The Racers had a great regular season, and they were rewarded with a trip to Louisville, but my guess is they will lose to an underrated Colorado State.

Western Kentucky: Ray Harper's Toppers should handle Sean Woods and Mississippi Valley State in Dayton on Tuesday, but then WKU will fall to UK on Thursday. Not to worry, the Big Red has a bright future.

Bracket breakdown

Florida State slaughtered North Carolina, beat Duke in Cameron Indoor, then beat both those teams to win the ACC Tournament yet ends up as a No. 3 seed, while UNC is a 1 and Duke a 2.

Just four SEC teams made the field, but the guess here is that Vanderbilt will reverse its tourney fortunes. The 'Dores will beat Harvard, then get past Wisconsin.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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