Atlanta, GA – The top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats have a tough challenge ahead of them as they square off with the third-seeded Baylor Bears in the South Regional final of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at the Georgia Dome.
Baylor improved its program single-season record of wins to 30 on Friday night by defeating the Xavier Musketeers, 75-70, in the Sweet 16. The Bears made 51 percent of their field goal attempts and held Xavier to 43 percent shooting, to improve their record to 24-1 when outshooting their opponents. Head coach Scott Drew has been doing a terrific job in NCAA Tournament games, as he owns a 6-2 overall record in the Big Dance. Baylor put on an exceptional display defensively versus Xavier on Friday night. The Bears' athletic frontcourt did not allow anything easy in the second half and also held the Musketeers to 3- of-15 shooting from distance in the contest. Baylor has outscored its opponents by 9.9 ppg this season.
One of the most decorated teams in NCAA Tournament history, Kentucky is seeking its 15th Final Four appearance and eighth national title. The Wildcats are tied with North Carolina for the most wins in tournament history (108) and have won national titles in 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996 and 1998. Kentucky advanced to its third straight Elite Eight by exacting revenge for its only regular season loss with a 102-90 victory over Indiana. The Wildcats have dominated their opposition all season with the only losses coming to the Hoosiers on a buzzer beater and to a pumped up Vanderbilt squad in the SEC Tournament championship game. Coach John Calipari has had as much success as possible without winning the big one in the NCAA Tournament, but many feel like this is his year. With several definite future professionals on his roster, the biggest obstacle is maturity. Kentucky gave up a nine-point lead in the first half versus Indiana, and it allowed the Hoosiers to come back and take the lead. However, the Wildcats overpowered Indiana and ran away with it in the second half.
Baylor is 0-6 all-time versus Kentucky. The last time these programs met was on Dec. 8, 1979. The winner of this game will move into the Final Four and take on Louisville next weekend.
The Bears are one of the few teams in the NCAA that can match up athletically with Kentucky. Quincy Acy was electrifying on Friday night as he threw down multiple game changing dunks on his way to 20 points and 15 rebounds. Acy is one of the five BU starters whose scoring average is in double figures. Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller are both capable scoring forwards, Brady Heslip is a deadly accurate shooting guard, and Pierre Jackson's point guard play has been magnificent so far. The short and speedy Jackson's ability to penetrate and either finish or find the open player is going to cause problems for his opponents once again.
Kentucky's superstar freshman forward Anthony Davis struggled with foul trouble in the Sweet 16, but he still managed to finish with nine points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes of action. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took over with his teammate on the bench. Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, Marquis Teague, and Terrence Jones all scored in double figures as well. Kentucky only had six turnovers and made 35-of-37 at the charity stripe. Miller and Lamb are both highly capable of scoring along the perimeter, and with Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis demanding attention of the defense down low, it is likely to happen once again.