At this point in the 75-year history of the NCAA tournament, college basketball fans are more concerned with which of the 68 teams in the 2013 Big Dance are going to make an upset bid and push towards the Final Four.
And that's not a bad thing.
Call this "the Year of the Mid-Major" or whatever else you want to label it, but high seeds like St. Louis (fourth), Virginia Commonwealth (fifth) and Butler (sixth) have made us give pause to the possibility that smaller conferences really are catching up to the big boys when it comes to basketball.
A few low-seeded teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten also snuck into this tournament and shouldn't be ignored when looking at the bracket matchups.
If you look at this year's regions, there are going to be upsets. As noted by Jason McIntyre, each region has a different feel to it:
Every year a new team surprises us with a second-round upset of a higher seed, and as you survey your bracket one last time before the action gets underway at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday on truTV, take a look at one game from each region that should be the best chance at an upset for your bracket.
No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Oklahoma State
Oregon was a blazing 18-2 to start the season, but fell victim to some poor losses in the middle of its schedule before bouncing back late. The Ducks play an interesting style of ball, have quick guards that can score and can also rebound an opposing team into submission.
The NCAA selection committee didn't think very much of the Ducks, though, placing them with a No. 12 seed even though the win over UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship was the team's second over the Bruins (a No. 6 seed) on the year.
Facing the Ducks will be Oklahoma State, a team that has legitimate star-power at the point with Marcus Smart and a bevy of talented wings (Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown) that could easily take over this game on the offensive end.
However, the Cowboys rely on two guys of late (Smart and Phil Forte) that have never been to the tournament, and all three of the aforementioned talent could be heading to the league next season. Smart settles for jumpers too often and he hasn't yet realized that he is a matchup nightmare for opposing guards in the post.
The two teams match up well, and the loaded Midwest doesn't appear to offer many other chances for an upset this year. Stud guard Jonathan Loyd and talented wings E.J. Singler and Carlos Emery are the best bet to crash the Midwest region bracket, as is Oregon's scrappy play and momentum heading into the tournament.
No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA
A popular pick on many brackets around the country this year, Minnesota has a Big Ten schedule, a penchant for rebounding and a pair of guards (Austin and Andre Hollins) that could be waiting for the big moment to emerge.
Minnesota ended the season on a three-game losing streak, so it's hard to give them the benefit of the doubt heading into a matchup against one of the premier programs in the nation. Upon closer look though, UCLA doesn't matchup well at all with the Golden Gophers and could be going home early this year.
Jordan Adams, a key cog to the Bruins' attack, will also miss this game and the rest of the tournament for UCLA, putting bleak hopes on any kind of tournament run. You can't discount Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson—two guys likely headed for the pros—but their heads could easily be drifting off to their futures in a big moment such as this.
On the other side, Minnesota is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. UCLA had trouble boxing out against Oregon, and that could creep up again to haunt them in this second-round game.
No. 13 South Dakota State and No. 10 Oklahoma are intriguing options in this region, but this battle-tested Minnesota team was a bubble team late and enters the tournament with a lot to prove—the exact opposite of the reeling Bruins squad.
No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Arizona
If you take one upset this year in the bracket and leave the rest of the field as high seeds, make sure Belmont is the one team heading to the third round.
The Bruins are currently a 4.5-point underdog (via SportsBook) for the game, making them one of the few double-digit seeds (the other is below) that is within striking distance in Vegas before the game ever tips off.
Rick Bryd's team can flat-out shoot it, led by Ian Clarke, Kerron Johnson and a talented group of upperclassmen that have a chance to change this school's fortunes flat-around in the NCAA tournament. Previously, the Bruins are 0-5 in tournament play. This year, the team has the best shot of any group in years past to reverse that trend and gets a favorable second-round opponent in the process.
Arizona, like UCLA, has been inconsistent this season at times and faces a tough matchup against a team that both creates turnovers (9.8 steals per game) and also shoots the three well (38.6 percent).
If the Bruins can get out in transition like they have in Ohio Valley Conference play and turn the Wildcats into a team on their heels, this game could end up being a blowout in the second round.
No. 14 Davidson over No. 3 Marquette
Like the Bruins above, the Wildcats of Davidson have a chance to bust some brackets this year before the tournament even starts.
The only No. 14 seed to be less than a 10-point underdog to a No. 3 seed, the Wildcats are currently only 3.5 points (via SportsBook) behind the Marquette Golden Eagles in the sports betting world. Don't be surprised by that; the Wildcats are currently winners of 15 straight, coming off of a conference tournament title and have a chance to prove to the world that 2008 was just the start of this program's rise.
Davidson returns all five starters from a team that lost by nine points to eventual Final Four participant Louisville in 2012.
De'Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen are the two big catalysts for this team, the former of which has NBA sleeper written all over him. Cohen had 19 points last year in the loss to Louisville, while Brooks finished with 7—a disappointing effort after the season he had.
This year, both guys average more than 13.8 and have a favorable matchup against a Marquette team that has been horrendous at home. Davidson is a popular pick to get out of the East region and follow the mold of Marquette's most recent loss—Notre Dame.
So there you have it, four picks for these four regions. More upsets (or less) are sure to follow these predictions, so make sure to make your own evaluations of these teams to avoid the feeling of distress we all get when looking back at what could have been on this year's bracket.
Stay up-to-date with March Madness by following along with the live tournament bracket and by printing out a PDF of this year's draw. Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA Tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.
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