College basketball fans across the country are furiously filling out brackets right now, but most are likely sending the same teams to the Final Four.
Sure, teams are seeded for a reason. Louisville has been extremely impressive leading up to the tournament, while Indiana, Gonzaga and Kansas are all powerhouses as well.
But there are always surprises in the NCAA tournament, and correctly identifying the sleepers in the tournament is always the best way to have a better bracket than your friends and co-workers.
Midwest: No. 4 Saint Louis
Winning four straight games against the best teams in the country is extremely difficult, and it takes something special for a small school to accomplish such a task.
The Billikens have that this season. Head coach Rick Majerus passed away in December, and the team has been on a mission ever since.
Jim Crews led the team on nine- and 11-game winning streaks during the regular season, and Saint Louis finished as both the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament champions.
While the Midwest region is insanely tough, this team plays an unselfish and fundamentally sound style of basketball that would cause Majerus to beam with pride. The team has proved that it can overcome adversity already, and this is exactly what it will have to do in order to reach the Final Four.
South: No. 5 VCU
Coaching is massively important in the NCAA tournament, and having a coach who knows what it takes to reach the Final Four is an asset most teams in the competition do not have.
But Shaka Smart is one of the most promising young coaches in college basketball, and he is just two years removed from taking the Rams to the national semifinal. His fiery leadership will be hugely advantageous for VCU in this competition.
In addition to top-level coaching, the Rams have players who can flat out score. Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic are both averaging over 14 points per game, and the team has averaged the 11th highest average scoring total in the country this year.
Kansas, Georgetown and Florida are standing in between Smart and Atlanta, but this team is entirely comfortable in the underdog role, and it should not be counted out.
West: No. 5 Wisconsin
The Badgers have proved multiple times this season that they are one of the premier giant killers in the country.
Bo Ryan’s team slows the pace of the game, moves the ball to get open looks from three-point range and plays ferocious defense. This strategy has shut down two of the best offenses in the country this season.
Indiana and Michigan are the top two offenses in the nation, according to KenPom.com, but both teams failed to beat Wisconsin this season, despite having two tries.
The No. 3 offense in the KenPom.com rankings in Gonzaga, and the Bulldogs will likely be there if the Badgers reach the Sweet 16. In the Elite Eight, Wisconsin’s most likely opponent is a familiar foe in Ohio State, and the team has a favorable path to Atlanta.
East: No. 6 Butler
Having a young, energetic coach that has made it the Final Four is great, but Butler trumps VCU, as Brad Stevens is a young, energetic who has made it to the National Championship game twice.
The Bulldogs came up just short in 2010 and 2011, despite being seeded fifth two years ago, and eighth this past season. Butler is another team that has no problem being the underdog.
Both Miami and Indiana will make a third finals appearance difficult for Stevens, but his team has a legitimate star in Rotnei Clarke. The senior guard is an electric scorer and his experience will be extremely valuable.
Butler is another team that should never be counted out, and there is no better sleeper to pick in the East region.
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game