2013 NCAA Tournament Preview
It was a wild regular season in the NCAA, as defending champion Kentucky started the season ranked in the top 3 and ended the season settling for the NIT, while being ranked number one became a weekly death sentence as parody was the word for 2012/13 Basketball season. To that end we have one of the most wide open tournaments in recent history as each region has at least two or three teams that could cut down the nets in Atlanta.
Two teams that will not go anywhere near Atlanta start the show in Dayton as 15-20 Liberty faces MEAC Champion North Carolina A&T. The winner will face Louisville, on Thursday and will surely lose by 20 or more. As for who faces the Cardinals both teams have been bad at times this year and played strong in the conference tournament, I like the Flames to flicker at least one more day, as the First Four have been good to sub-.500 teams so far, In Tuesday’s other first round game, I like St. Mary’s to advance, as Guard Matthew Dellavedova who played in the Olympics with London will be the best player on the court as the Gales could be a team that goes far beyond Dayton.
On Wednesday the tempo will get turned up as Long Island should be able to outpace James Madison in a high scoring affair, as the Dukes will likely play without top scorer Rayshawn Goins who was arrested Sunday Night. In the Dayton finale, look for Derrick Marks to lead the way for Boise State past LaSalle.
Louisville is the top seed in the field of 68 and they should be able to extinguish the Liberty Flames with ease, while Missouri and Colorado should be one of the better 8-9 games, with Missouri surviving a battle of former Big XII rivals, as Colorado struggled down the stretch. The Cardinals will then go on to reach the Sweet 16 as they have too much talent for Missouri to handle.
Every year there is a 12 seed that beats a 5 seed and the best bet is Oregon, who is coming of a Pac-12 Championship and already feeling slighted by their placement in the tournament. The Ducks are healthy and surging at the right time and could make some serious noise in the tournament, especially if Dominic Artis continues his strong play. St. Louis has played inspired ball all season under interim coach Jim Crews, they should have no problem beating New Mexico State. With Artis leading the way, Oregon will be the team to advance to the Sweet 16.
Look for an upset in Detroit as St. Mary’s after winning in Dayton will take down Memphis, while a talented Michigan State team will get an extra boost as they beat up Valpo. Matthew Dellavedova is solid, and the Gales will be a tough out, but in Detroit it will be Sparty who goes on their Sweet 16 party.
The poor shooting of Cincinnati will come back to haunt them as they face a tournament tested Creighton squad who will advance to face Duke after the Blue Devils breeze past Albany. Duke would than advance to the Sweet 16.
Regionals @ Indianapolis, IN
Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, Oregon
Look for Louisville to continue to skate through the Midwest as they have too much talent on both sides of the floor for Oregon, while Michigan State against Duke promises to be one of the best match ups in the regional semifinals. I like the Spartans to advance to the Elite Eight having a slight edge with the home crowd in Big Ten country, with the Spartans rebounding being the difference.
Louisville is the top overall team for a reason and their ability to surge and score over 80 and hold opponents under 60 will be too much for Michigan State to handle, as Russ Smith is the Regions Most Outstanding Player taking the Cardinals to the Final Four.
Gonzaga comes in with a 19 game winning streak and the top ranking in the polls, but they do not have as many believers coming from the West Coast Conference. The first round will be no issue for the Zags as the will beat Southern. However, the third round could bring bad news, as Pittsburgh’s defense could be the answer to Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. The Panthers will beat Wichita State and then they will upset Gonzaga to reach the Sweet 16.
Another strong defensive team is Wisconsin, who should have no problem shutting down Ole Miss, who is in the tournament for the first time, since 1981. Meanwhile Kansas State is a strong 4 seed, who should beat play in winner Boise State. This will set up a terrific third round matchup between the Badgers and Wildcats. It will be a low scoring affair and that will play into the hands of Sweet 16 bound Wisconsin.
The Cinderella darling of the West will be Belmont, who has teased a run for several years only to come up short. This is the year for the Bruins who led by Rick Byrd will stun Arizona in the second round, and New Mexico to reach the Sweet 16.
Iowa State is another little gem in the tournament, which is the worst possible draw for Notre Dame, their ability to spread out their offense will bring a quick exit for Notre Dame, while Ohio State is the team to beat in the entire region. Look for the Buckeyes to advance to the Sweet 16 with wins over Iona and Iowa State.
Regionals @ Los Angeles, CA
Ohio State, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin
The average casual fan will hate the Pittsburgh-Wisconsin match up, but the basketball purist will love the slow down fundamental game both teams will play. The Badgers will tire you out and because of that they will outlast Pittsburgh, while midnight will come early for Belmont who will be no match for Ohio State.
Ohio State hates playing Wisconsin and the feeling is mutual. The two Big Ten rivals split in the regular season, while the Buckeyes won the third match up in the Big Ten title game. Each game was a test for the Buckeyes as will this one it will be close it will be low scoring, but in the end Deshaun Thomas will be the difference, winning the region’s MOP as he leads Ohio State to Atlanta.
Set your faces for stunned, because Kansas City will be the scene for the most earth shattering upset of the tournament, as Western Kentucky pulls off the impossible and becomes the first 16 seed to win in the Men’s Tournament. Kansas is a solid team and beating them in a home game will be tough. However, the Jayhawks are a team that has been known to sleep walk, and in a year of wide open parody a 16 beating a one seed will be the ultimate cherry on top. Looking at the four top seeds, Kansas is the most vulnerable and the will be the one who goes down with an ear shattering thud. Western Kentucky will not go any further however, as surging North Carolina will defeat overrated Villanova and will reach the Sweet 16 as the Hilltoppers upset of Kansas will expend all their energy.
Shaka Smart is still at VCU, and has no plans to leave as the Rams are quickly becoming a new power in the NCAA joining the Catholic seven in the new Big East. The Rams are 13-4 in the last three seasons at the tournament and they in position for another run look for them to get past Akron with ease. Their next meeting with Michigan will be tougher, but the Wolverines have struggled down the stretch, and the Rams three point attack and relentless pace will take Virginia Commonwealth back to the Sweet 16.
UCLA limps into the tournament without leading scorer Jordan Adams, which is bad news for the Bruins, who will fall to Minnesota. In the end this pod will belong to the Gators, who loss in the SEC Tournament will serve as mere bump on the way to the Sweet 16 as they have a light draw with Northwestern State and Minnesota.
Oklahoma is a deep and talented, as a 10th seed they could be a tough out after getting by San Diego State. However, the will run into a brick wall as Georgetown and their stifling defense will lift the Hoyas all the way to the second weekend.
Regionals @ Arlington, TX
Georgetown, Florida, Virginia Commonwealth, North Carolina
North Carolina has had an up and down season, and getting to the Sweet 16 will be an accomplishment, but when they come up against the three point shooting and quick attack of VCU, their season will come to an end. Meanwhile, Georgetown against Florida promises to be one of the better Sweet 16 matchups. In the end it will be the Hoyas ability to rebound that will be the difference as Georgetown will be able to hold off the Gators perimeter attack.
A rivalry will be born in North Texas, as VCU and Georgetown soon to be conference rivals meet with a trip to the Final Four on the line. This game will be about pace, if the Hoyas slow the game down, they will be on the Midnight Train to Georgia. I still like the speed of Virginia Commonwealth, as they will rain threes, with Juvonte Reddic outplaying Otto Porter in the post to win the region’s MOP.
It will be bye-bye Black Birds in the second round as top seed Indiana will have no problem getting by LIU. The Hoosiers will find their way in Philadelphia as they will also have no issue with NC State in the third round.
California will be another lively 12 seed, led by Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs as they upend UNLV. While Syracuse will survive a battle with Montana, form there look for the Bears to squeeze past the Orange to reach the Sweet 16.
When the lights are brightest, Butler brings their best as wins over North Carolina, Gonzaga and Indiana attest. This could be another long run for the Bulldogs. Look for them to reach the Sweet 16 with wins over Bucknell and Marquette.
Some of doubted Miami all season as they did not even get a number one seed despite winning the ACC Tournament, while beating up on Duke and Carolina all season. In the past the Hurricanes have been a poor tournament performer, but Coach Jim Larranaga has Final Four experience leading George Mason, and now he has a top talented team that will be difficult to beat. Miami will reach the Sweet 16 with wins over Pacific and Illinois.
Regionals @ Philadelphia, PA
Indiana, Miami, Butler, California
Indiana began the season ranked #1 and they have the talent to win it all, against California they will demonstrate why they have been at the top of the rankings all season as they will put forth their best effort to reach the Elite Eight. Meanwhile it will be too much Miami for Butler to handle as the Hurricanes reach the regional finals for the first time ever.
This is the best 1-2 match up in the entire tournament, as Miami was clearly snubbed, while Indiana if they bring their A game will be tough for anyone to beat. This should be one of the best games of the tournament. In the end the rebounding of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji will be the difference as Shane Larkin wins the MOP to lead Miami to the Final Four.
Final Four-Atlanta, GA
Louisville, Ohio State, Virginia Commonwealth, Miami
The Semifinals in Atlanta should be entertaining as Louisville and Ohio State will take on the feel of a heavyweight title fight. The winner will surely be the favorite in the Monday Night title game. The Cardinals are just too solid and too deep, while the game should be close the stage is set for Rick Pitino to get Louisville to the championship game as they are a solid team inside and out with Gorgui Dieng’s presence in the paint being the difference maker against the Buckeyes.
Is there anything hotter than Miami Basketball? The Heat are on a 23 game winning streak and look to be on the way to a second straight NBA Championship, while the Hurricanes have a Final Four team. Facing VCU will be a tough draw for the Hurricanes, but with Shane Larkin and a deep versatile team I see Miami making all the way to the Championship Game.
This is the year for Louisville, Rick Pitino and the Cardinals are deep talented and can score in bunches. The ball hawking defense and ability to hold teams under 60 make the Cardinals the favorite for a reason, and even in a season this wide open and with this much parody looking at their path and their match ups it’s hard to see anyone beat the Cardinals who will bring back-to-back titles for the Bluegrass State. The Final Four Most Outstanding Player will end up being Gorgui Dieng.