The 10 College Basketball Teams with the Roughest Roads to the Final Four

Jake Curtis@jakecurtis53Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2013

The 10 College Basketball Teams with the Roughest Roads to the Final Four

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    Assessing which teams have the roughest road to the Final Four is a risky venture. Early-round upsets can change the picture dramatically in an instant.

    However, some teams seem to have stiffer challenges in front of them than others based on the potential matchups.

    For the purposes of this article, we will only consider teams seeded sixth or better. Teams seeded lower than that will be long shots to get to the Final Four no matter which teams they face.

    Naturally, more attention is paid to the top seeds in assessing how difficult it will be for them to get to Atlanta.

    Here is our list of the 10 teams that figure to face the toughest competition on their way to a possible Final Four berth.

10. Florida

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    Florida's chief competition at this point may be Florida. Despite being seeded No. 3, the Gators simply haven't played well lately. They are 5-4 over their last nine games, and they are 0-6 this season in games decided by six points or less.

    The Gators might even get a scare in their opener against Northwestern State, which leads the nation in scoring.

    Assuming they get past that one, the Gators might have to play UCLA, which is erratic but dangerous. The Bruins have more NBA talent than Florida, which means something at this stage.

    Beyond that, Florida faces possible games against Georgetown and Michigan or Kansas.

    The Hoyas defense would make things difficult for Florida, and Kansas simply has more talent.

9. Wisconsin

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    Having to play a hot Mississippi team in its opener is not much of a reward for a team seeded fifth, as Wisconsin is.

    If the Rebels' Marshall Henderson goes off and No. 12 Mississippi stays hot, it could be a short tournament for the Badgers, who don't have a lot of offensive firepower.

    Assuming they get past the Rebels, the Badgers probably would have to face Kansas State in Kansas City.

    Kansas State tied Kansas for the regular-season Big 12 title. The Wildcats don't have many impressive wins, but they win the games they are supposed to win.

    Beyond that for Wisconsin would be a possible game against No. 1-seeded Gonzaga.

    Wisconsin would have a reasonable chance against the Bulldogs, but Gonzaga has won 14 in a row and has a frontcourt that would give the Badgers problems.

    Wisconsin's final barrier to a Final Four berth might be Ohio State, which has won two of three meetings with Wisconsin this season.

    Wisconsin is capable of beating every team in the West Regional, which appears to be the weakest regional. However, few teams face as many potential challenges as the Badgers do at every step along the way.

8. Butler

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    Butler is only seeded No. 6 in the East, so it's not expected to reach the Final Four.

    However, the Bulldogs were seeded fifth and eighth in 2010 and 2011, respectively, when they got to the NCAA final in each season.

    The committee did not make it easy for them to get to the Final Four for the third time in four years, though.

    The opening game against underrated Bucknell will be an immediate challenge. The Bison feature one of the nation's best big men in Mike Muscala.

    Down the road might be a game against Miami, which plays a similar style as Butler, except better. The Hurricanes won both the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, and they thought they might get a No. 1 seed.

    If Butler survives all that, it probably would have to face Indiana.

    The Bulldogs know they can beat Indiana because they did so earlier this season. But that might make it more difficult to do so again, with Indiana carrying a motive along with superior talent.

7. Kansas State

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    Kansas State faces much the same situation as Wisconsin.

    Playing the first weekend in Kansas City helps, and the Wildcats should get past either Boise State or La Salle.

    However, potential foe Wisconsin has fared well in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament in recent years. The Badgers also play a physical style somewhat similar to Gonzaga, which used its inside power to beat the Wildcats by 16 points back in December.

    Another game against Gonzaga could result if Kansas State gets to the second weekend, and we already know the Wildcats would have trouble with the Bulldogs.

    New Mexico or Ohio State could present the final hurdle in Kansas State's path to the Final Four, and both played their best basketball late in the season.


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    UNLV received a No. 5 seed, but the selection committee didn't do the Rebels any favors by matching them up against Cal.

    The Bears probably should have been seeded higher than 12th, and playing the Rebels in San Jose is virtually a home game for Cal.  

    The Rebels beat Cal earlier this season on the Bears' official home court. It took a putback at the buzzer to win that game, and Cal plays better now than it did then.

    If UNLV survives that game, it will probably have to beat Syracuse, Indiana and Miami in succession to get to the Final Four. And the Rebels would have to accomplish the latter two in Washington, D.C., which is a long way from home.

5. Oklahoma State

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    It's hard to imagine a tougher draw for a fifth-seeded team than the one handed to Oklahoma State.

    First off, the Cowboys face Oregon.

    The Ducks struggled late in the season, but Joe Lunardi of, among others, claims the selection committee erred badly on the Ducks, who should be seeded several slots higher. They come off a Pac-12 tournament title.

    Assuming it gets past Oregon, Oklahoma State probably would have to face Saint Louis.

    The Billikens have won 15 of their last 16 games and won both the Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles. They have the backcourt speed to give the Cowboys fits.

    Looming beyond that for Oklahoma State could be games against Louisville and Duke, and beating both those powerhouse teams in a three-day span would take a Herculean effort by Marcus Smart, among others.

4. Syracuse

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    Syracuse should get by Montana in its opener, although the Grizzlies' ability to hit three-pointers could present problems for the Orange's zone defense.

    UNLV's frontcourt talent could make things tough for Syracuse in the next round, and a game against Indiana would likely await Syracuse if it gets that far. Indiana is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, which, again, is not good news for Syracuse and its zone.

    Even if it survives all that, Syracuse might have to face Miami with a berth in the Final Four on the line. The Hurricanes have a way of getting teams to play at the pace they want, which may not be to Syracuse's liking.

3. Kansas

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    Two scary teams stand in the way of Kansas, the No. 1-seeded team in the South.

    North Carolina is the Jayhawks' potential second opponent, and that will be a challenge. The eighth-seeded Tar Heels—coached by former Kansas coach Roy Williams—are a talented and athletic team that has played well ever since it switched to a small lineup.

    After that, Kansas could face Michigan, which features the best point guard in the country (Trey Burke) and an outstanding array of talent.

    Not long ago, the Wolverines hoped for a No. 1 seed, and they are extremely dangerous as a No. 4 seed.

    Georgetown might remain in Kansas' path if it gets that far.

2. Michigan

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    Just as the presence of Michigan presents a problem for Kansas, the presence of Kansas creates a major challenge for the Wolverines in their Final Four hopes.

    Michigan has a challenge even before a possible game against the Jayhawks.

    The Wolverines open against South Dakota State, whose point guard, Nate Wolters, provides a personal challenge for Michigan's Trey Burke. The Jackrabbits gave Baylor a scare last year and are no pushovers.

    Getting past South Dakota State may land Michigan a game against Virginia Commonwealth, which knows how to win in the postseason under Shaka Smart.

    If Michigan then gets by Kansas or North Carolina, Georgetown might be the final obstacle for the Wolverines, who are just 6-6 since a 20-1 start.

1. Louisville

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    Louisville earned the No. 1 overall seed, and the Cardinals will have deserved it if they make it to the Final Four.

    The Cardinals' second game would be against Colorado State or Missouri, either of which could present problems.

    Colorado State is an outstanding rebounding team, and Missouri is an erratic team that can be outstanding when all its talented players have it going at the same time.

    After that would be a game against either Saint Louis or Oklahoma State, both of whom fall into the dark-horse category as title contenders.

    Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart can carry a team by himself at times, and nobody wants to play Saint Louis at this point. It won the Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles and has won 15 of its last 16 games.

    The final obstacle in the Cardinals' path to the Final Final could be Duke. The Blue Devils have lost only once with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, and they might have landed a No. 1 seed had they not lost to Maryland in the ACC tournament.

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