And just like always, upsets are bound to happen in the tournament.
March Madness always provides upsets and Cinderella stories and 2013 is shaping as no different, with several teams bound to ruin our bracket predictions.
Who are those teams likely to cause bracket havoc this year, and what matchups should we be looking for in the opening round of 64?
Read on and find out.
Middle Tennessee State over Memphis
Middle Tennessee State are riding a wave of momentum into the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and that's a difficult thing for any opponent to come up against. They might not have the "stars" or big-name players that other programs do, but they've been playing good basketball throughout the season and will likely enter March Madness full of self-belief in their ability here.
They'll need to overcome a First Four game against St. Mary's to make the round of 64, where they'll play against the Memphis Tigers. And whilst it might seem like an incredibly tough ask—to defeat a team that went 16-0 in their conference this year—it isn't at all out of the equation in this one.
First off, the reality is that the Tigers haven't faced a lot of tough games this year, and when they have, they've struggled to overcome their opponents. They're a consistent team that rarely delivers poor production, but they don't quite have the pizzazz that they could need to stick with a firing team like Middle Tennessee State—should they start to get hot.
The Blue Raiders have allowed more than 66 points just once all season, and that came in an overtime game back in December. If they can set up well on defense here against the Tigers and try to spread the court quickly on offense, then there could be an upset on the cards.
Middle Tennessee State still have to get past St. Mary's to even have a shot at taking down Memphis, and even then it might not happen for the Blue Raiders. But with a strong defense and momentum on their side, they're definitely a sleeper to keep an eye on in the tournament this year.
Belmont over Arizona
No. 11 seed Belmont will take on the No. 6 seed Arizona in the round of 64 this year, with the Bruins making for a very scary opponent indeed.
Led by Ian Clark, Belmont have been incredible in the past month or so—dropping just two games in their past 18. They've chalked up a very solid 6-3 record against teams inside those rankings’ Top 100, and look to be a real threat to Arizona here.
Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats have only won two of their past five matches, and don't appear to have the offensive strengths needed to keep pace with the Bruins. Not when their opponents average the country's fourth best field-goal percentage and 77.2 points per game (15th highest) whilst Arizona barely make it inside the top 50 teams for points scored or field goal percentage.
The Bruins have experience in March Madness, having suffered big defeats in their past two seasons, but they still have made it to the big-time before.
Look for them to build on that and turn their matchup against the Wildcats into a shootout—something that they should ultimately prevail in.
LIU Brooklyn over Indiana
Before you read that game and herald it as the most ludicrous pick you've ever heard, note that nowhere does it say this upset is going to happen.
It's simply a statement about big upsets that might happen in the round of 64, and LIU-Brooklyn could well shock the nation with a strong showing against Indiana.
The Hoosiers are the No. 1 seed in the East at 27-6, and will be largely expected to make a deep run into the later rounds of the competition. But their first game against the Blackbirds could well end up causing them a few more problems than they'd expect from the No. 16 seed.
Indiana have built their success this season around their dominant offense, which sees them average 80.0 points per game (third in the country) and a 0.486 field goal percentage (seventh in country). However, the Blackbirds possess the high-scoring offense needed to match that here—averaging 79.5 points per game (fifth in country) and 0.484 percent from the field (tenth in country).
Granted that might have been against weaker opposition than what the Hoosiers faced in the Big Ten, but the reality is that LIU-Brooklyn are a high-scoring team. Which, if they get going here, could keep them in their round of 16 clash against Indiana.
They might not win, but they should put up a good fight. And if you're into shock upsets, this is a No. 16 pick that actually has some logic behind it.
Which upsets do you think could happen in the round of 64?
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