The 2013 NCAA tournament is already upon us, and the excitement over picking the tourney winners has every college basketball fan trying to find the Cinderella team destined to ruin his bracket (print yours here).
These lower-seeded teams are still very talented, but they either faced an easy schedule that the selection committee punished them for or these schools were flat-out disrespected by their seeding.
Each of the following schools have a chip on its shoulder and wants to make its mark on the NCAA tournament by being the Cinderella of 2013.
No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers, South Region
When the No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers take on the No. 6 UCLA Bruins in the second round, most bracketeers will have selected the Bruins to walk away victorious. Unless you want to start the tournament off on the wrong foot, do not pick against Minnesota.
UCLA is reeling, as the team’s second leading scorer Jordan Adams will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot he suffered in the Pac-12 tourney (h/t ESPN). That’s a devastating blow that will give the Golden Gophers a chance to shine.
The lack of elite scoring depth for the Bruins will open the door for Minnesota players like the dynamic guard duo of Andre and Austin Hollins to show the casual fans what makes the Golden Gophers so dangerous.
If Minnesota can stun UCLA, the momentum the team creates could be enough to take the university on a surprising run deep into the bracket. At the very least, though, the Golden Gophers will send the Bruins home early.
No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels, West Region
Everyone is sleeping on the No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels and star guard Marshall Henderson, but those filling out their brackets and the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers have been officially put on upset alert.
Wisconsin is a team predicated on stellar defense and low turnovers, but it has not faced a team as dynamic as the Rebels yet this season. Led by Henderson’s 20.1 points per game, the Rebels rank seventh in the nation, averaging 78.2 points per game.
An offense that potent will be too much for the Badgers to overcome.
Another huge difference-maker will be the rebounding. While Wisconsin normally dominates the low-post with its size advantage (71st in the nation in rebounding), Ole Miss is superior in that category as well, ranking 19th in the NCAA with 38.8 rebounds per game.
Take the Rebels for the upset win.
12. Oregon Ducks, Midwest Region
The selection committee showed little respect to the Pac-12 Conference on the bracket, but that will not stop the No. 12 Oregon Ducks from making their mark on the 2013 NCAA tourney.
Oregon takes on an undeniably tough No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys team, but if there was ever a team built to stifle the Cowboys assault on the tourney, it would be the Ducks.
Statistically, these two teams are almost identical. Whether it’s points (Oklahoma State averages 72.4, Oregon averages 71.7 per game), rebounds (Oregon averages 37.4, Oklahoma State averages 36.4 per game) or shooting percentage (Oregon .447, Oklahoma State .440), the Ducks and the Cowboys are cut from the same cloth.
Despite Oregon coming into this second-round matchup with the better overall record and as Pac-12 champions, Oklahoma State is still favored to win. When you pick your bracket, do not sleep on the Ducks.
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.