Dick Vitale: Baylor could be 'major dilemma' for UK

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 19, 2012 

Baylor forward Perry Jones III dunks against Colorado during the second half of an NCAA tournament third-round college basketball game on Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Albuquerque, N.M. Baylor won 80-63.

MATT YORK | AP

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

A rematch against Indiana no doubt excites Kentucky, but the best game in "Cat-lanta" might be a potential UK-Baylor matchup Sunday in the NCAA Tournament South Regional finals.

ESPN analyst and college basketball Pied Piper Dick Vitale called Baylor the "biggest obstacle" standing between Kentucky and a return to the Final Four.

"They're better than Baylor," Vitale said Monday of the Cats. "I think they'll beat Baylor.

"But Baylor has the athletes to match them athletically."

Vitale spoke of Baylor's Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller as NBA lottery picks. Guard Brady Heslip has made 45.6 percent of his three-point shots. Guard Pierre Jackson and center Quincy Acy give the Bears a fourth and fifth player averaging double-digit points.

"On a given night, they can really be a major dilemma," Vitale said.

But first things first; Kentucky must beat Indiana Friday night in the Georgia Dome to advance to Sunday's regional title game against either Baylor or Xavier.

Vitale, who worked the Kentucky-Indiana game in Bloomington in early December, likened it to a perfect storm that formed to take down the Cats.

Terrence Jones was, as Vitale called it, "a no-show." His puzzling performance included three shots, one rebound, six turnovers and a seat on the bench down the stretch of a hotly competitive game.

Anthony Davis, who was named the winner of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year Award Monday, was limited by fouls. His 24 minutes that day in Assembly Hall remains his shortest stint since Nov. 23. By contrast, Davis played all but 22 seconds of Kentucky's 87-71 victory over Iowa State Saturday.

Indiana made nine three-pointers. Only three UK opponents have made that many or more shots from beyond the arc since that game. In one stretch, the Hoosiers made seven straight three-pointers.

"And they won by one point at home," Vitale said. "On a neutral floor in Round II, with a chip on (UK's) shoulder and payback, Kentucky wins and advances."

Vitale all but predicted a more productive game from Jones in Round II. Of course, it would be difficult for Jones to be less productive.

"You'll see a different attitude, a different mental (approach)," Vitale said. "He just didn't seem into the game, at all. I don't know what the reason was, but he wasn't in the game mentally."

Vitale noted how Jones has played well down the stretch this season. In three of the last five games, Jones has posted double-doubles. He's averaged 14.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in that stretch.

"He's definitely playing much more aggressively," Vitale said. "He's rebounding. He's getting to the glass."

Tied for third

While Davis won the U.S. Basketball Writers Player of Year vote in a landslide, the Coach of the Year balloting was close.

Missouri's Frank Haith won the Coach of the Year vote. Kansas Coach Bill Self finished second, with UK Coach John Calipari tying Tom Izzo of Michigan State and Steve Prohm of Murray State for third.

Tickets available

Fans can attend the Final Four ceremony in which Davis receives the Oscar Robertson Trophy for his USBWA National Player of the Year accolades. The ceremony will be March 30 at the New Orleans Marriott beginning at 8 a.m. CDT.

Tickets are $75 each. Order online at usbwa.com. Proceeds benefit the USBWA journalism scholarship fund and the Kidney Foundation.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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