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Fresh faces of the 2013 NCAA Tournament: Ben McLemore, Shane Larkin, Gary Harris

This post is sponsored by Dove, which asked us to come up with some of the fresh faces to watch for in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Dove is encouraging you to end the face torture by taking better care of your face. Our list of fresh faces to watch includes four freshman and one sophomore. All five players are appearing in the tournament for the first time.

Below are some fresh faces you should keep your eye on during the 2013 NCAA Tournament:

Ben McLemore KansasBen McLemore, Kansas – McLemore is a 6-foot-5 freshman from St. Louis and one of the top shooting guards in the country. He averages 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. McLemore’s shooting percentages are among the strongest you will find from a guard: he’s shooting 50.7 percent from the field, 43.7 percent on threes, and 86.7 percent from the free throw line. Though he was somewhat quiet in Kansas’ last two games of the Big 12 tournament, McLemore has the ability to carry his team like few other players. He went off for a season-high 36 points against West Virginia in March, and 30 against Kansas State the month before. He’ll be a huge factor during the tournament.

Shane Larkin, Miami – Larkin is a sophomore and will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The son of Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, Shane averages 14.6 points, 2.09 steals, 4.4 assists, and nearly two threes per game. Larkin led the Hurricanes to their first No. 1 ranking in school history, and he has been particularly hot lately. He averaged nearly 24 points per game during the ACC tournament and had exceptional shooting numbers. Larkin won’t let Miami make an early exit from the big dance.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – A five-star recruit from Flower Mound, Texas, Smart has lived up to the high expectations for the Cowboys. Smart averages 15.4 points and an incredible 2.9 steals per game. His skills were best on display during a February win over Kansas when he had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals, including a steal that lead to a dunk over Jeff Withey:

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Popular upset picks for 2013 NCAA Tournament

Upsets are one of the biggest reasons why March Madness is so popular. People love seeing the underdog win even if it means their brackets get torn to shreds. Who can ever forget some of the classic underdogs to make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament? Valparaiso with Bryce Drew, Davidson with Steph Curry, Butler (twice!), VCU, and of course, George Mason making it to the Final Four all stole our hearts by beating bigger programs. Upsets are going to happen — they always do — the question is: who is going to produce them?

This year, the tournament field seems to be pretty even when it comes to competitive balance. For that reason, it would not be much of a surprise to see many higher-seeded teams lose.

I have already posted my expert tournament picks online, and I’ve picked a few upsets. Combining my thoughts with many other expert brackets I have looked at, there seems to be several popular upset picks.

Here are some of them:

(11) Minnesota vs. (6) UCLA – Minnesota is favored to win the game by three points and seems to be picked much more frequently than the Bruins, so this would be an upset strictly on seeding. We’ve already gone over the big reason why Minnesota is a popular pick to beat the higher-seed Bruins — UCLA’s Jordan Adams got hurt in the Pac-12 tournament and is done for the season.

(14) Davidson vs. (3) Marquette – Marquette is only favored by 3.5 points, which is a tiny margin for a 14-3 matchup. But the stats point to this being a close game. Davidson has won 17 in a row including their conference tournament. They are led by senior forward Jake Cohen and junior forward De’Mon Brooks, both of whom are averaging more than 13 points per game and playing well. Marquette, despite being 23-8, ranks lowly in defensive metrics, so they’ll probably have a tough time holding down the Wildcats.
Nate Wolters
(13) South Dakota State vs. (4) Michigan – I picked the Wolverines to reach the Final Four, so I don’t anticipate an upset here, but the Jackrabbits are a popular upset pick for those feeling extra brazen. Many people are also betting on them to cover the spread, which is 11 points. The biggest reason people are in on South Dakota State is Nate Wolters (pictured). The senior guard is averaging 22.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game.

(10) Iowa State vs. (7) Notre Dame – The old 10-7 upset is only a mild one, but many experts are picking the Cyclones to win this game. Iowa State lost to Kansas three times and doesn’t seem to capable of beating elite opponents, but they have wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State, which are more on Notre Dame’s level. Freshman Georges Niang has been playing very well lately, as has Utah transfer Will Clyburn. The Cyclones also have some senior leadership from Korie Lucious, who has tournament experience from his time at Michigan State.

(10) Colorado vs. (7) Illinois – Another 10-7 upset that has been popular. Illinois is a good team — they beat Indiana, Gonzaga, and Ohio State — but they also went 8-10 in conference. One of their biggest issues is that they are a streaky outside shooting team. After starting the season hot from the outside, many of the Illini’s top 3-point shooters have seen their percentages drop. Against a pretty good defensive team in Colorado, they could have trouble. Andre Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie are no joke.

(11) Saint Mary’s vs. (6) Memphis – Saint Mary’s first needs to defeat Middle Tennessee State in a play-in game. The Gaels are favored by 2.5 points in the game and, if they win, they would be facing the Tigers. Saint Mary’s has only lost six times this season — three of which have come against Gonzaga. They’re strong on the outside with senior guard Matthew Dellavedova and they’ll need some strong interior play from Brad Waldow.

Photo credit: Twitter/Nate Wolters

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard shows a ton of confidence in Indiana with his bracket (Picture)

Indianapolis-Mayor-Greg-Ballard-bracket

Greg Ballard, the mayor of Indianapolis, feels confident that Indiana University can win it all this year. Like many other politicians, Ballard filled out his 2013 NCAA tournament bracket this week. You probably could have predicted that he would pick the Hoosiers to win it all. What you may not have seen coming is that he picked them to win every game — as in, even the ones they aren’t playing in.

How long did it take Ballard to fill in his bracket? If you figure out how long it takes the mayor to write “IU” 63 times, you have your answer. Reddit user backnblack92 summed up Ballard’s selections perfectly.

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Expert NCAA Tournament bracket picks: LB’s 2013 March Madness selections

Expert NCAA Tournament picks? Yes, we say that lightly. The truth is the NCAA Tournament is one of the most difficult events in sports to predict. If it were so easy, then there wouldn’t be a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of picking a perfect bracket. Anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is lying. Sure, we can tell you plenty of trends — always pick at least one 13 or 14 seed to win a game; pick one 12 seed to win; advance your top-seeded teams to the Sweet 16; and have three of the four No. 1 seeds in the Elite 8. But does anyone really know who those teams will be? Of course not.

Still, I’ll do my best to explain my picks. I have Indiana beating Duke in the national championship game, with Ohio State and Michigan as the other Final Four teams. You’ll notice immediately that I am high on the Big Ten. I thought it was the best overall conference this year and that the competition wasn’t even close.

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 is below.

NCAA Tournament picks 2013

NCAA Tournament picks 2013

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Saint Louis watches tournament selection show at Best Buy because of traffic

Saint-Louis-Atlantic-10-championsSaint Louis knew it had clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament on Sunday, but that didn’t make the Selection Show any less exciting. Finding out who your opponent is in The Dance and seeing your school’s name on ESPN is one of the most exciting moments of a collegiate athlete’s career, so the Billikens had to go to great lengths to make sure they were able to witness it.

The Atlantic 10 tournament was in Brooklyn, and Saint Louis had to take a bus to its charter flight at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey after winning it. As they sat in traffic with the clock getting dangerously close to 6:00 p.m., the team decided it would be best to pull into a Best Buy in Secaucus, N.J. to catch the action.

“The plan was to watch the Selection Show in the terminal,” Saint Louis sports information director Brian Kunderman told ESPN.com, noting that the traffic quickly became a concern. “So someone saw a Best Buy and we pulled in. It was awesome. And thank God we stopped because we were announced pretty quickly.’’

The team’s official Twitter account shared a photo of the Billikens soaking up the big moment in the store.

“I brought them in the Magnolia room and the next thing I know there 30 guys there,” store manager Jen Hart said. “A couple of minutes later, they all started screaming. They thanked us 100 times, helped move the chairs back and got on the bus. Customers were asking what was going on. It was really cool. They were really nice guys.”

Moments like the one Saint Louis enjoyed and crazy finishes like these are the reasons we love March Madness.