NCAA Bracket Picks 2013: Predicting a Final Four Full of Sleepers
Based on the craziness of the 2012-13 college basketball season, is there any reason to expect the NCAA tournament to be any different?
Top teams consistently lost to lesser opponents throughout the year, but in March Madness we are expecting most of the No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four. However, it is much more likely that this bracket will feature a number of surprise teams in Atlanta.
Here are the top sleepers in each region that have a good chance of winning the next four games to get to the Final Four.
Midwest: No. 5 Oklahoma State
If you are looking at teams from a pure talent perspective, there are not too many teams better than Oklahoma State. Point guard Marcus Smart is certain to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft, while Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash do a lot to carry the scoring load.
This squad is not only full of potential, though. It has succeeded on the court, winning 12 of the last 15 games, including a win over every team in the Big 12.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys have a pretty rough road in the NCAA tournament, although that does not mean the games are not winnable.
Opening-round opponent Oregon might be under-seeded, but the squad struggles to defend the interior. Nash should be able to have a big game inside. Saint Louis would also have a hard time handling Oklahoma State's athleticism.
Finally, Smart's ability to handle the ball will help overcome top-seeded Louisville and its tough defense.
The Cowboys are built for a long run and they have the opportunity to make it happen.
South: No. 4 Michigan
Michigan is not exactly a sleeper after being considered one of the top teams in the country all season. However, people seemed to have forgotten about the squad now that it is a fourth seed.
The biggest problem is the schedule. Kansas is a tough matchup as the No. 1 seed, VCU has an outstanding press defense looming in the second round, and even South Dakota State presents an upset possibility.
However, Michigan has one thing that none of these teams have: Trey Burke.
Burke is arguably the best point guard in the country and has continued to make big plays to help his team win all season long. He can also distribute to great shooters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas, or dump it down inside to Glenn Robinson III.
The Wolverines certainly have flaws, including a small frontcourt, but the advantage in the backcourt should be enough to win a bunch of games over the next couple of weeks.
West: No. 4 Kansas State
It is amazing how little respect Kansas State has received for an outstanding season. The Wildcats tied Kansas for a share of the Big 12 regular-season title and went to the finals of the conference tournament.
Even though every single one of the seven losses was understandable, they received a No. 4 seed compared to Kansas' No. 1 seed.
Still, this is a fundamentally sound team led by Rodney McGruder, who is one of the best players in the entire tournament.
A lot of people are already picking Wisconsin to beat Kansas State in the third round, but it is important to remember that the Wildcats will be playing in Kansas City. The home crowd will be more than excited to see their team advance to the Sweet 16.
With the weakest No. 1 seed in the tournament looming with Gonzaga, Kansas State can avenge an early season loss and get to the Elite Eight. At that point, it would only need one more win to reach the Final Four.
East: No. 8 North Carolina State
When the brackets were released, there is no way that Indiana was happy with its placement. While the Hoosiers did get a top seed, they are not playing in Indianapolis, and they could have to face North Carolina State in the second game.
The Wolfpack might not be under-seeded after an up-and-down season, but they are much more talented than a normal No. 8 seed.
Five players average at least 12 points per game, and everyone seems to have their own specialty on the floor. Lorenzo Brown is a very quick point guard, Richard Howell is a monster on the boards, and Scott Wood is one of the best shooters in the country.
North Carolina State is also coming together at the right time, winning eight of the last 11 games.
If this squad is able to pull the upset over Indiana, the rest of the bracket is not too difficult. The Wolfpack will be able to shoot over a team like Syracuse or beat UNLV inside. While they have lost to Miami twice, both games were close and they will be looking for revenge.
When this team plays well, there are few opponents better. The preseason Top 10 team will look to live up to its lofty expectations in the NCAA tournament.
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