The bracket for March Madness 2013 has been set (available here), with plenty of fascinating potential matchups emerging right throughout the tournament.
From even-money bets in the round of 64 to mouth-watering prospective duels in the latter rounds of competition, the tournament is filled with great matchups that will no doubt provide for great viewing and plenty of talking points—and they might even provide for an upset too.
After all, every tournament has them, and 2013 should be no different.
Several teams are flying below the radar heading into March Madness this year and could emerge as possible candidates for a big-name upset down the track.
Read on to see which teams are primed for a deep run in the tournament this year.
Iowa State Cyclones (No. 10 seed, West)
The Iowa State Cyclones will come into the tournament this year as the No. 10 seed, but will know that they have the potential to beat teams ranked much higher than that. Their strong showing against Kansas during the regular season (which ended in a tough overtime loss) showed that to be true, and they'll be looking to do the same again in March Madness.
The Cyclones ranked fourth in the country for average points scored per game this season, and are tremendous shooting the ball from deep—something that should hold them in good stead throughout March.
They'll take on Notre Dama in the round of 64 and then probably Ohio State if they advance, and whilst both are certainly not easy matchups, they're definitely games that the Cyclones will come into knowing they can win.
Both of those teams have strong defenses that served them well all year, but against a dominant offense like Iowa State, it's hard to see them factoring in too much.
Regional semifinals at the minimum for the Cyclones.
Pittsburgh Panthers (No. 8 seed, West)
According to KenPom.com, the Panthers are a team that ranks top-20 in both defensive and offensive efficiency—making them an instant threat to watch out for.
They were very strong throughout the regular season, and were perhaps unlucky to run into a streaking Syracuse in the Big East tournament. Had they not done so, the Panthers could well have made a statement there, given their consistency and production at both ends of the court.
Pittsburgh didn't suffer any real "shock" losses during the year other than a defeat to Rutgers and an overtime loss to Marquette back in early January. Since then, they've been strong and disciplined, with their impressive 0.475 field-goal percentage continuing to improve with every passing week.
Look for the Panthers to make a strong run in the West, with their third-round potential matchup against the No. 1 seed Gonzaga the big one to watch for. If they can get past that one with their dominant frontcourt play and lack of errors at both ends of the court, look for the Panthers to go deep in the NCAA tournament.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams (No. 5 seed, South)
The Rams' strong offense, coupled with their incredibly troublesome defense, has the potential to make a serious run in the tournament.
If VCU can continue to force turnovers like they have this season, expect them to not only challenge the likes of Akron and Michigan, but also to give the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks a very tough matchup should they meet in the regional semifinals.
This is a team that ranks 19th in offensive efficiency and 21st in Pythagorean rankings—essentially winning percentage (per Ken Pom)—making them a very real contender here. Especially given their ability to bring about turnovers from their opponents with their high-pressure defense.
If they can capitalize on their opponents mistakes, then look for VCU to be very much alive come crunch time in the tournament this year.
Which teams do you think can make deep runs in March Madness 2013?
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