NCAA Bracket 2012: Top Dark-Horse Candidates to Win It All

Josh SteinContributor IIIMarch 22, 2012

Can Indiana pull off another miracle against Kentucky on a bigger stage?
Can Indiana pull off another miracle against Kentucky on a bigger stage?Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The second weekend begins tonight, and it is not a day too soon. Tonight, we will find out who the Elite Eight contenders will be in the Midwest and South Regions, with the other two being decided tomorrow.

So now we have to look at who will this year's surprise team in the Final Four. We may just have all No. 1 seeds, but the possibility of other teams breaking into the spotlight captivates America, and the world. Here's a few teams who could be making the trip to New Orleans next week for a shot at destiny.


Florida, No. 7 Seed, Midwest

Florida came into the season as a Top 10 team with large expectations, but struggled mightily down the stretch of the regular season. It lost four of its last five games of the season, but still has the tools requisite to make a deeper run in March.

Florida has a strong rotation of players including Kenny Boynton, Brad Beal, Eric Murphy and Patric Young, but has dealt with foul issues and consistency throughout the entire season.

The Gators have had the talent to knock off Virginia and Norfolk State on their surprisingly easy way to the Sweet 16, and they need to continue to keep Young out of foul trouble.

It will be very interesting to see how Florida's guard-heavy lineup—Mike Rosario and Erving Walker play in addition to Beal and Boynton—fares against Darius Johnson-Odom and the large superstar, Jae Crowder, when they face off against Marquette in the late game tonight.


Indiana, No. 4 Seed, South

The Hoosiers have had a fairly easy road as well so far, playing two double-digit teams leading up to their colossal matchup with the No. 1 overall seed, Kentucky Wildcats.

Being awarded the No. 4 seed in the South Region, Indiana played two mid-majors in its first two rounds. New Mexico State is a very good team, but Indiana handled them with relative ease. Next, the Hoosiers took on the VCU Rams which presented some trouble with their unique, extremely fast pace game, but did not faze Indiana.

Indiana has shown signs of dominance this season, including the buzzer-beater win over Kentucky which has been heavily discussed as motivation for this weekend's game, because they will face the Wildcats in a Sweet 16 rematch.

Kentucky looked vulnerable the last few games of the season, especially in its surprising loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship, and I believe Indiana has the firepower to pull out a close one against the overall No. 1 seed.

Look for Indiana to be a dark horse to make the Final Four with just two more games between it and history.


Louisville, No. 4 Seed, Midwest

There is not a single team in this tournament that had more momentum than Rick Pitino's Cardinals going into this tournament.

After knocking off Cincinnati for the Big East title, Louisville was awarded a No. 4 seed, and continued its recent dominance with wins over Davidson and New Mexico.

This Davidson team struggled against the fast-paced game of Louisville, and New Mexico did fare much better, as the Cardinals roared into the Sweet 16.

Michigan State and Marquette are their No. 1 threats, but the Spartans and Golden Eagles have showed little lapses that can hurt them in the Sweet 16 and potentially Elite Eight.

I would not be shocked if Louisville makes a run like its Big East adversary, UConn, did one season ago. But first the Cardinals will have to get through Draymond Green and the relentless Spartans.