It’s finally time for the 2013 edition of March Madness to begin, and with the release of the official NCAA college basketball tournament bracket (print yours here), the talk of which unheralded programs will shine is sweeping the nation.
Every lower-seeded team will be looking to play the role of Cinderella during the tournament, but several programs are poised to make deep runs despite being underestimated by the selection committee and college basketball fans.
All of the following programs have nothing to lose, and that attitude will help carry these teams to great heights in the NCAA tourney.
The No. 9-seeded Villanova Wildcats (20-13) are being written off in the second round because of the team’s matchup with the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (24-10), but this game is far from a lock.
Villanova has a freshman guard named Ryan Arcidiacono that is an absolutely lights-out shooter (averaging 12 points and 3.5 assists), but it wasn’t until he won the starting job that he really developed into a game-changer for the Wildcats.
Once Arcidiacono gets hot shooting the ball, there are few teams in the nation that will be able to stop the freshman star.
There is no questioning just how talented this Tar Heels team is and how hard it will play on every possession, but Villanova loves to run the floor as well and will stun the South Region by giving North Carolina a second-round upset.
The Temple Owls (21-9) are one of the more dangerous all-around teams in the NCAA tournament this year, but a tough second-round matchup against the N.C. State Wolfpack has most college basketball fans picking against the Owls.
Unless you want an early loss on your bracket, bracketeers should be taking Temple to stun N.C. State in what is shaping up to be the most interesting No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed matchup of any region.
Senior guard Khalif Wyatt is the straw that stirs the Temple drink (averaging 19.8 points, 4.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game), and if the Owls can get the starter playing well from the jump, there is no doubt they could make a splash in the East Region.
Just like the Temple Owls, the La Salle Explorers got no love out of the Atlantic 10 Conference (also finished third in the standings with a 21-9 record), but they are a very dangerous team in the West Region of the bracket.
Led by senior guard Ramon Galloway (17 points and 3.8 assists per game), the Explorers have the outside presence to contend with any team in the nation, but the lack of size in the low post will catch up with the team eventually.
La Salle plays Boise State in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday for the right to move on to the actual bracket of 64 teams. When the Explorers stop the Broncos, the momentum created could push the team past Kansas State and deep into the bracket.
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.