March Madness 2013 Bracket: NCAA Tournament Darlings That Will Fall Early

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 20, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 17: head coach Shaka Smart of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams looks on from the sidelines during the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament - Championship Game at Barclays Center on March 17, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Saint Louis Billikens defeated Virginia Commonwealth Rams 62-56. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The NCAA tournament is where underdogs are meant to thrive. That's why we call it "March Madness."

In recent years, we've seen some underdogs captivate the nation. From 2011 to 2013, there are several teams that have developed into NCAA tournament darlings that just so happen to be participating in March Madness this year.

But not every underdog has a Cinderella story. Here are five NCAA tournament darlings I see falling in the early rounds this year.


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N.C. State (No. 8 Seed, East)

The N.C. State Wolfpack, who upset San Diego State and Georgetown last year en route to the Sweet 16, should get past Temple in the round of 64 this year, but that's where I see their run ending.

The Wolfpack have a dangerous offense, led by star forward C.J. Leslie, but their defense is another question. They rank 115th in opponents' field-goal percentage this season, as well as 189th in defensive efficiency. That includes allowing Miami (FL) to shoot 45 percent from the floor in the ACC tournament.

That won't bode well for N.C. State against probable Round of 32 opponent Indiana. The Hoosiers also rebound the ball well, which should pose problems for the Wolfpack.


Ole Miss (No. 12 Seed, West)

Ole Miss punched a ticket to the NCAA tournament with a stunning win over Florida in the SEC championship game this year. And, hey, who doesn't want to watch Rebel Marshall Henderson these days?

But I do have the Rebels losing to Wisconsin in the Round of 64 this year.

Wisconsin has been on a roll lately, winning three straight games before falling to formidable Ohio State. That included wins over Michigan and Indiana, in which the Badgers played extremely well.

I know what the Rebels did against Florida, but I have a good feeling about Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament this year. The Badgers have been phenomenal defensively lately.


Colorado (No. 10 Seed, East)

Colorado stunned UNLV in the Round of 64 last year. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, I don't expect them to have the same success against Illinois this year.

While Colorado has shot much better than Illinois this season, the Buffaloes rank 138th in the country in offensive efficiency, and that's a much better barometer. They aren't a very good free-throw shooting team, nor do they hit the three-ball with regularity. Plus, they rank 163rd in turnovers per possession. Illinois ranks 69th in opponents' turnover rate.

I ultimately see the Fighting Illini emerging victorious.


VCU (No. 5 Seed, South)

VCU made it to the Final Four in 2011 as a No.11 seed. The Rams also upset Wichita State in the Round of 64 last year.

While I see Shaka Smart's squad defeating Akron in the Round of 64 this year, I don't see the Rams advancing past potential Round of 32 opponent Michigan.

I not only like Michigan's offense over VCU's defense, the Wolverines have an advantage on the glass (the Rams rank 164th in rebounding rate). The Wolverines not only have star Trey Burke, they have depth on offense, which makes them much tougher to defend.


Creighton (No. 7 Seed, Midwest)

Creighton may be a No. 7 seed this year, but some have the Bluejays soaring past potential round-of-32 opponent Duke.

I don't see that happening. The Bluejays do have a prolific scorer a la C.J. McCollum in junior forward Doug McDermott (who could pose problems for Duke's defense), but they also rank 99th in defensive efficiency. Given Duke ranks sixth in offensive efficiency—despite playing in the more competitive ACC—I can't see the Bluejays upsetting the Blue Devils.

On the other hand, I do expect this to be a nail-biter. If McDermott gets going, these two teams could be trading buckets down the stretch.


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