March Madness 2013 Bracket: Picks and Predictions for All Round of 64 Games
Now that we've had time to digest the brackets and lament various under-appreciated teams (attention: Davidson and Pittsburgh), let's get into some of the juicier opening-round matchups.
Most of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 games should be excellent (especially UNC vs. Villanova), and the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchups are all intriguing (looking at you, Marshall Henderson). The committee also gave us plenty of upset fodder, especially in the West region, where a number of higher seeds could drop in the first round.
Spoiler alert: Don't expect this to be the year a No. 16 seed takes out a No. 1 seed. A number of upsets occurred in the smaller conference tournaments that ultimately gave teams like Liberty (20 losses) a chance at the tournament; thus, this year's crop of 16s isn't all that impressive.
Who cares about the No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups? Let's get to picks for all Round of 64 games.
1. Louisville vs. 16. Liberty/North Carolina A&T: So much for rewarding the No. 1 overall seed. The Cards will dispatch either of these teams because of their suffocating press and backcourt quickness, but after that, the Cards face a brutal road to Atlanta. Cardinals advance.
8. Colorado State vs. 9. Missouri: The Rams will pull out the victory in this battle of rebounding titans. Both teams average at least 40 rebounds per game, but the difference will be CSU center Colton Iverson, who averaged nearly a double-double throughout the season. Rams advance.
5. Oklahoma State vs. 12. Oregon: The Ducks are vastly under-seeded now that Dominic Artis (8.5 points, 3.4 assists) is healthy again. With him in the lineup, Oregon is 21-4, not to mention, it won the Pac-12 tournament. With that being said, Oklahoma State is a tough draw and the guard combination of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown will be too much to overcome. Cowboys advance.
4. Saint Louis vs. 13. New Mexico State: The Billikens are as polished a team as you’ll find in the tournament, and they won’t be beaten by a team that turns the ball over on more than 21 percent of its possessions. Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans is a star waiting to be recognized. Billikens advance.
6. Memphis vs. 11. Middle Tennessee State/Saint Mary’s College: Good on the committee for getting both bubble teams MTSU and SMC in the field, but the dance won’t be over for the Blue Raiders after they face the Tigers in the first round. Kermit Davis’ squad defends, forces turnovers and his rotation legitimately goes 10 guys deep. I like the upset. Blue Raiders advance.
3. Michigan State vs. 14. Valparaiso: Tom Izzo is too good of a tournament coach and the Spartans are too big in the frontcourt for this game to be any real issue. Despite the Crusaders’ magical run throughout the Horizon League tournament, Sparty will advance, especially in front of a home crowd in Auburn Hills. Spartans advance.
7. Creighton vs. 10. Cincinnati: Mick Cronin’s defense is good, but the Jays offense is better. Much better. Led by Doug McDermott (AKA Dougie McBuckets), Creighton’s offense boasts the top effective field-goal percentage in the country at 59 percent. That includes a marksman-like 42 percent from the three-point line. Cincinnati’s won just three of its last eight. Bluejays advance.
2. Duke vs. 15. Albany: Don’t expect another Lehigh-like first-round disaster for the Blue Devils, although ESPN’s Dana O’Neil did point out that seven years ago, a No. 16-seeded Albany team was up 12 on Connecticut at halftime in a game played in Philadelphia. Friday’s game takes place in the land of the cheesesteaks. Blue Devils advance.
1. Kansas vs. 16. Western Kentucky: The Jayhawks in Kansas City is almost unfair for the Hilltoppers, but it’s worth the watch just to see their mascot, whatever that thing is. Kansas should destroy Western Kentucky in the paint on both sides of the floor behind a dominant performance from Jeff Withey. Jayhawks advance.
8. North Carolina vs. 9. Villanova: This is easily the best No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup of the tournament. Carolina’s offense has been rolling since the addition of P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup and the Tar Heels have lost to two teams (Duke and Miami, both twice) since Jan. 26. I love the activity of 6’7’’ ‘Nova forward JayVaughn Pinkston, but Carolina’s perimeter shooting (37 percent) will be the difference. Tar Heels advance.
5. Virginia Commonwealth vs. 12. Akron: Absolutely horrible draw for the Zips, who’ll have to deal with Shaka Smart’s havoc defense minus point guard Alex Abreu. However, the Rams could get caught looking ahead to their potential second-round opponent, Michigan. On VCU’s website, the top basketball link reads, “Michigan or Bust.” Rams advance.
4. Michigan vs. 13. South Dakota State: As much fun as NBA prospect Nate Wolters is to watch (22 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists), Michigan got a great matchup in Auburn Hills. The Wolverines won’t get beat inside (one of their lone weaknesses), and the Jackrabbits defense will be spinning in circles trying to contain Trey Burke. Wolverines advance.
6. UCLA vs. 11. Minnesota: I get why people want to call this upset given Jordan Adams’ recent injury along with Minnesota’s few sparking victories, but the Gophers have looked atrocious in the final month, having lost seven of their last 10 games. Minnesota’s Andre Hollins has the potential to go off, but the Gophers turn the ball over way too much and the Bruins’ athletes will take advantage of those miscues in transition. Bruins advance.
3. Florida vs. 14. Northwestern State: There’s not much to see here. The Gators are huge with frontcourt towers Patric Young and Erik Murphy and the Demons, are, um, not. They’re also awful from the perimeter, which was about their only hope of scoring. Northwestern State’s numbers look great but only because it hails from the Southland Conference. Gators advance.
7. San Diego State vs. 10. Oklahoma: The Sooners aren’t particularly great at anything, and they recently lost to TCU, the same team that sprung the upset of the year over Kansas. The Aztecs’ Jamaal Franklin is a natural scorer who can fill it up in a variety of ways, and he’s relentless on the glass (9.5 rebounds). SDSU held its own against Mountain West foes Colorado State, UNLV and New Mexico. Aztecs advance.
2. Georgetown vs. 15. Florida Gulf Coast: The Hoyas will never blow anyone out (save for a Syracuse team that shoots 31 percent), but their defense is among the best in the country. According to ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, the Eagles will push Georgetown to the limit behind guards Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson. FGC has beaten Miami and won five games in a row, but Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter is too versatile to let his team get upset in the first round. Hoyas advance.
1. Indiana vs. 16. LIU Brooklyn/James Madison: The Hoosiers won’t become the first No. 1 seed to drop to a No. 16 seed. Indiana is too big inside with Cody Zeller and Christian Watford, and it’s too deadly from the perimeter for either one of these teams to keep pace. The Hoosiers are second in the country with a 41 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc and four of five starters can knock down the trey ball. Hoosiers advance.
8. North Carolina State vs. 9. Temple: The Wolfpack’s offense can hang with anyone behind the inside presence of C.J. Leslie and the outside shooting of Scott Wood, who’s made 102 of 230 three-point attempts this year. But Temple has won seven of its last eight games and has the best scorer you’ve never heard of in 6’4’’ Khalif Wyatt (19.8 points per game). Not to mention, the Owls’ last win of the regular season was over Final Four sleeper VCU. I like Temple and its careful, efficient offense. Owls advance.
5. UNLV vs. 12. California: Allen Crabbe’s a beast and could very well pull the famed 12-5 upset, but the Rebels are beginning to roll. This matchup wasn’t supposed to occur because these teams have already met in the regular season, but in that affair—a 76-75 UNLV win—the Rebels didn’t have Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Khem Birch and his 2.6 blocks per game. Likely lottery pick Anthony Bennett will dominate against a weak rebounding team. Rebels advance.
4. Syracuse vs. 13. Montana: Will Cherry will be a great matchup for Orange guard Michael Carter-Williams, but Syracuse’s 2-3 zone will stifle the Grizzlies’ game inside the arc. Montana does hit 37 percent of its three-pointers, but the Big East tournament seemed to give Orange upperclassmen Brandon Triche and James Southerland some of their confidence back. Orange advance.
6. Butler vs. 11. Bucknell: The Bison have heard enough about Butler’s back-to-back Final Four runs and will put an end to the Bulldogs’ dream early. Center Mike Muscala is one of the best defensive rebounders in the country (8.2 per game on defensive glass alone) and his post game logs 19 points per night. Butler can match him with Andrew Smith, but Bucknell doesn’t turn the ball over and can hit from deep. I can’t believe I picked against Brad Stevens. Shame on me, but I’ll stand by it. Bison advance.
3. Marquette vs. 14. Davidson: I think Davidson was marginally under-seeded and Marquette was significantly over-seeded. The Wildcats have two stellar postmen in Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks, and that’s exactly where Buzz Williams’ squad is vulnerable. This will be a classic No. 3 vs. No. 14 matchup, and the fact that Davidson has the best free-throw shooting team in the country (80 percent) will give them the advantage. Wildcats advance.
7. Illinois vs. 10. Colorado: Even though the Buffs’ Spencer Dinwiddie (15.6 points on 42 percent shooting) makes the tournament’s all-name team, I like the schizophrenic Illini. Yes, they’ve been inconsistent, but Brandon Paul is an elite scorer, and center Nnanna Egwu (another all-name candidate) is a defensive game-changer. Watch for stretch forward Tyler Griffey to knock down a few from outside, and don’t doubt a team coached by John Groce. Illini advance.
2. Miami vs. 15. Pacific: The Hurricanes are massive, have excellent guard play with Shane Larkin and Durand Scott and rarely turn the ball over. For some reason, this Hurricanes team isn’t getting its due despite winning the outright ACC title. They should handle Pacific, which is one of the shorter teams in the field. Hurricanes advance.
1. Gonzaga vs. 16. Southern University: The lowest overall No. 1 seed got the most wide-open region of the four. Gonzaga’s size and efficiency with mobile big men Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris will overwhelm one of the worst rebounding teams in the field. That doesn’t mean that you should ride the ‘Zags too deep, though. Bulldogs advance.
8. Pittsburgh vs. Wichita State: As you can read here, the Panthers are one of my sleeper teams after finishing fourth in the Big East and losing just four times since Jan. 16. I love Pittsburgh’s size with Talib Zanna and Steven Adams inside and trust the experience of senior point guard Tray Woodall (5.2 assists/2.1 turnovers per game). Wichita State is big as well, but the Shockers have lost three of their last five. Panthers advance.
5. Wisconsin vs. 12. Mississippi: The committee didn’t seem to care about postseason wins over Michigan and Indiana, but that won’t stop the Badgers from advancing. Free-wheeling Marshall Henderson hasn’t seen a defense this long and suffocating from the perimeter all season, and despite his antics, the Rebels won’t dance very far. Wisconsin’s three-point defense ranks 10th in the country. Badgers advance.
4. Kansas State vs. 13. Boise State/La Salle: The Wildcats seem to be flying under the radar despite winning a share of the Big 12 title with Kansas. Senior Rodney McGruder is a dangerous inside-out scorer and Angel Rodriguez has turned himself into an excellent distributor (5.3 assists). Bruce Weber’s squad should be able to get past either team, but a matchup against Boise State wouldn’t be a cakewalk. The Broncos knock down nearly 39 percent of their three-pointers and have wins over San Diego State, Colorado State and Creighton. Wildcats advance.
6. Arizona vs. 11. Belmont: The committee didn’t favor anyone out of the Pac-12 and dropped the Wildcats to a No. 6 seed, having lost to UCLA in the conference tournament finals. That being said, Arizona, which has wins over Florida and Miami, is still a dangerous team. Belmont will be a common upset pick because of their fast style, and even though this game will be wildly entertaining, Arizona’s Mark Lyons will make the difference. Wildcats advance.
3. New Mexico vs. 14. Harvard: The Lobos have as great a chance as anyone at reaching Atlanta out of this region. They’re a potent offense with Kendall Williams (13.5 points) and Tony Snell (40 percent on threes), and their interior defense (thanks to center Alex Kirk) is phenomenal. Harvard turns the ball over too much, which fits into the Lobos’ transition style. Lobos advance.
7. Notre Dame vs. 10. Iowa State: The Irish got an unlucky draw with the 10th-seeded Cyclones. Notre Dame big man Jack Cooley has been struggling in the post, and their only real offense has come from the backcourt duo of Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. The Cyclones score 37 percent of their points from beyond the arc and will go as far as their three-point shooting will carry them. I’ll take the Cyclones as a sleeper out of the West. Cyclones advance.
2. Ohio State vs. 15. Iona: The Buckeyes have been surging recently (eight wins in a row), and the committee rewarded them with a second-round game in Dayton. Aaron Craft is playing better than at any point in his career on both sides of the ball and he’ll be a terror for Gaels leading scorer Momo Jones (23 points per game). Buckeyes advance.
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