Right now, the NCAA tournament bracket is empty. There are 68 blank spaces waiting to get filled in by out by the selection committee and college basketball fans around the nation as the opening matchups get announced on Selection Sunday.
As the top seeds are watching the selection show, which can be viewed on March Madness Live at 6 p.m. ET, they won't have to worry about getting in like all the bubble teams. Instead, they can focus on their seeding and the other teams in their region.
Every year, there's a group of middling seeds that the top contenders would prefer to avoid, and 2013 is no different. Let's examine a trio of dangerous teams that squads like Louisville and Indiana would rather see playing elsewhere in the early going.
The Bluejays are led by Doug McDermott, who ranks second in the nation in scoring at 23 points per game and shoots 56 percent from the field. The fear for any team that faces Creighton is that either he will take over the game or the extra attention on him will allow other players to explode.
As a team, the Bluejays are shooting 51 percent to lead the nation. They are one of only three teams making more than half their shots. That type of efficiency makes them a threat, even to teams that rank high in the defensive categories.
The biggest key will be the players other than McDermott. If a few players can emerge as reliable secondary scoring threats, the Bluejays will be around for awhile. If they force McDermott to carry the load himself every game, the top seeds won't have to be as worried.
UCLA received a lot of hype coming into the season thanks to the program's high-profile status and a top-tier recruiting class. The Bruins struggled to handle the pressure early, as highlighted by a loss to Cal Poly, but they have been much better as of late.
Most impressively, they scored three victories over Arizona in the second half of the season. Those results illustrate the team's upside, and there's plenty of it, which should concern the top seeds. If they get hot, they can hang with anybody.
The loss of Jordan Adams obviously hurts, but the Bruins have enough depth to make up for it. Players like Kyle Anderson and Travis Wear will have to pick up the slack alongside Shabazz Muhammad. There's still enough talent on the roster to make their presence felt.
The Billikens have been on fire ever since a two-game losing skid in mid-January. It's a stretch that includes two victories over Butler, a past NCAA tournament Cinderella story, and some tremendous play on the defensive end.
Most of the time, the defensive discussion in college basketball revolves around a couple post players who protect the rim and block a lot of shots. In Saint Louis' case, it relies less on blocked shots and more on strong on-ball defense and being active in the passing lanes.
Five different players average more than a steal per game. The Billikens will put a lot of pressure on opponents by turning up the defensive heat—something the top seeds don't want to deal with until the later rounds. It's a hard-working group ready to make a run.