On Tuesday, LB brought you his expert picks for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. As most of you know, the phrase “NCAA Tournament expert” is practically an oxymoron. No one knows what’s going to happen. If we did, we wouldn’t enjoy the tournament as much as we do year in and year out.
That being said, we always give it our best shot every year in hopes of cashing in on that 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance we have of filling out the perfect bracket. To see my picks below, just click twice on each image and that will bring you to the full-size sheet. Region-by-region analysis follows the bracket.
Like my colleague Mr. Brown mentioned on Tuesday, this could be the toughest region in the tournament. Top overall seed Louisville has not been given an easy path, as very few would be surprised if Duke or Michigan State emerged as the Final Four team from this region.
That being said, I’m sticking with the popular pick of Louisville. Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee certainly give the Blue Devils enough postseason firepower, but the Michigan State-Duke matchup (should it take place) is almost a coin flip for me. MSU’s balanced attack has allowed them to work eight players into their regular rotation, which can benefit a team greatly in March. The thing that scares me about Coach K’s team is how much it relies on scoring. If they shoot well every game, there might not be a team in the country that can beat the Blue Devils. But how often does that happen in the tournament? Duke ranks 213th in the nation in rebounding, which will be a major concern when the physicality of postseason play kicks in.
It seems like Peyton Siva has been a regular contributor at Louisville for 10 years. That type of experience can’t be overlooked. Rick Pitino’s team is thinking championship or bust.
The name that may surprise you here is Wisconsin. The Badgers have lost plenty of games this year that they had no business losing, but they also beat Michigan twice and Indiana once (two of my Final Four Teams). They showed they are a vastly improved team by reaching the Big 10 championship game, and momentum is often huge when dealing with the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin doesn’t have many scorers in their lineup, but their experience and depth should help offset some of that.
Ultimately, I think Ohio State will be too much for the Badgers in the Elite 8. If Wisconsin does beat Kansas State and Gonzaga as I’m predicting, they should be far more worn down than the Buckeyes, who have an easier path. If junior forward Deshaun Thomas can take over games the way he did at various points throughout the season, Ohio State should be tough to beat.
Every time I ride Kansas when filling out my bracket, it seems to work out. If the Jayhawks make their way to the Final Four again this year, I have no one to blame by myself for my misfortunes. This year, I just feel that the talent Michigan has in its back court can’t be ignored. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have averaged a combined 34 points per game this season, making them probably the most dangerous guard combination in the country. Add freshman guard Nik Stauskas’ 11.5 points per game to the mix and you have a plethora of productive guards. Depth is huge in March and April, and the Wolverines have it. That’s why I’m picking them for the upset over Kansas in the Sweet 16.
Elsewhere, I like Georgetown to advance over Florida in the Elite 8. Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. seemed to get better as the season progressed for the Hoyas, and I’m not sold on the Gators after the way they performed against Ole Miss in the SEC tournament and a depleted Kentucky team back on March 9. In fact, the more I hear about Minnesota the more I realize it would not be out of the question for the Gophers to pull off the upset over Florida in the round of 32. We know a low seed is going to make a deep run, and the Gators could become a victim. Either way, I think Georgetown earns a chance to face Michigan but cannot overcome the Wolverines backcourt.
In the East, a potential matchup between Miami and Marquette could be one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Butler is a popular pick in this region given its recent history of success in the tournament under Brad Stevens, but I think Marquette may be one of the most underrated teams in the field. Unlike the Golden Eagles teams of the past, they have not been relying on the three-pointer. They were able to beat some tough Big East teams down the stretch and win a share of the Big East regular season crown. A blowout loss to Louisville stands out, but this could be the year Marquette makes a deep run.
As for Miami, how can you not be a believer at this point? The Hurricanes stumbled a bit down the stretch, but three of their six losses were by three or less points — including one to No. 3-ranked Duke. Miami’s backcourt of Shane Larkin and Durand Scott has been one of the best in the business and could be a dangerous weapon, but ultimately I’m with most others in thinking that Indiana will be too much to handle. I’m going with the popular pick in the Hoosiers to emerge from the East.
There’s my best effort at predicting the craziness we’re about to witness over the next two or three weeks. Take my advice, if you dare.Google+