The bracket has been set for the 2013 NCAA tournament (printable version here), with plenty of different opinions available on which teams to select where.
One of those is ESPN's expert bracektologist Joe Lunardi, who has made his full selections for the upcoming March Madness tournament. And given that Lunardi knows more than the average guy about the tournament, it makes to listen to him if you're wondering who to take in your bracket.
Read on for a full breakdown of Lunardi's expert picks for the NCAA tournament.
Few upsets are to be found in arguably the strongest region of the tournament by Lunardi in the opening rounds, with just one legitimate upset scheduled. He opts for the No. 11 seed Saint Mary's (who still has to get past Middle Tennessee) to topple the No. 6 seed Memphis Tigers.
From there, he has all four top seeds in Louisville, Saint Louis, Michigan State and Duke emerging from the round of 32, with Louisville and Michigan State winning their respective Sweet 16 games. His Elite Eight game sees Louisville beating Michigan and moving through to the Final Four.
Hard to fault too many of Lunardi's predictions here given the strength of this region. Saint Mary's beating Memphis does seem like a stretch, though, with Valparaiso or Cincinnati perhaps better suited as upset candidates in the second round.
Having said that, however, this is the strongest region and upsets will be hard to find in the early rounds of the Midwest—making his call for the top four seeds to make the Sweet 16 a pretty safe prediction. And from there on in, it's pretty hard to disagree with Lunardi.
Louisville is the top pick and seems the most likely to make the Final Four, and Duke has been just a touch too inconsistent of late to back with any real confidence—especially given its lack of defense against Michigan State's offense.
Again, few upsets to be found in the second round by Lunardi, who opts for just the one again in this region—No. 11 seed Belmont over No. 6 seed Arizona.
And from there, it's top seeds all the way in.
Lunardi has the top four seeds winning their round of 32 games, the top two winning their Sweet 16 and Gonzaga (the No. 1 seed) winning the region.
Lunardi's second-round picks seem pretty straightforward given the lack of good upset chances here, with Belmont a nice call over a less-than-impressive Arizona. Yet after that, some big question marks have to be raised about his reliance on the top seeds.
Gonzaga hasn't been truly tested all year, and has lost two of the three games it's played against seeded teams. To take the Zags then, not only over the No. 8 seed Pittsburgh, but over the No. 4 Kansas State and over the No. 2 Ohio State seems a little off.
Ohio State seems more consistent and the better lock to progress here—perhaps against Kansas State after it takes down Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
Even fewer upsets in the South than in other regions from Lunardi, who has all top seeds winning their various round of 64 and 32 matchups. However, things do start to get a little bolder when he gets to the Sweet 16, where the bracketologist has both top seeds bowing out.
Lunardi has Michigan to topple Kansas and then Florida to beat Georgetown, who in turn, then beat Michigan in their Elite Eight game.
Not too many second-round upsets in the South either, but the round of 32 could well throw up a few more than what Lunardi has accounted for here. Minnesota beating UCLA is probably the best potential upset given how talented the Golden Gophers' squad is.
Georgetown hasn't been that strong of late and could well drop to a surging No. 7 seed in San Diego State. And should it progress, Minnesota could well challenge the No. 3 seed Kansas, although it probably doesn't have the defensive strength to get home in that one.
Georgetown bowing out in the Sweet 16 is nice and a statement about the lack of firepower it has at the moment. But seeing Kansas stunned by Michigan seems to be a bit of a reach from Lunardi, given how strong the Jayhawks have been all season.
Not sold on the Elite Eight matchup, though Florida is a nice call.
In a region packed with potential upsets, Lunardi opts for none them in the first round, with No. 9 seed Temple the only higher-ranked seed he has winning.
He then has Marquette bowing out in the round of 32 to Butler, with Syracuse toppling Indiana in the Sweet 16 his most bold pick of them all. His other Sweet 16 matchup sees Miami beating Butler, and then going on to defeat the Orange to claim the East Region.
The call on Marquette not getting very far is a nice one, but it's hard to not see at least one legitimate upset taking place in the round of 64—especially given the number of low seeds that have a chance at taking down their more-fancied opponents.
California, Bucknell, Davidson—all three seem very good chances to go through in 2013, with perhaps Bucknell being overlooked by Lunardi too much here.
Given the lack of go-to talent on the Golden Eagles' squad and their lack of any real threats, seeing them drop out to the winner of that Bucknell-Butler game is a nice call from Lunardi, and one to definitely take into consideration.
Syracuse also cannot be underestimated—as Lunardi points out—with a streaking Orange capable of knocking off the No. 1 seed in Indiana. Whether it will happen is up for debate, but there is logic and reason behind the move, whilst Miami simply benefits from an easy schedule thanks to the upsets that took place earlier in the tournament.
Final Four and National Title Game
Lunardi has Louisville beating Gonzaga and Florida beating Miami—most likely the two teams who will enter those matches as the respective favorites.
He then has the Cardinals winning the tournament over the Gators.
It is very hard to go past Louisville here, particularly if it draws Gonzaga as Lunardi suggests. The Cardinals would surely win that one, and would be a real chance for the title—even if they drew the powerhouse that Florida has quickly become.
Picking those two in the title game is very understandable from Lunardi, with the Cardinals' winning something that we could definitely see happening in 2013.
What do you make of Joe Lunardi's 2013 March Madness picks?
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