The chances of a Cinderella mid-major school going on a Final Four run remain slim for the 2013 NCAA tournament.
In a field where we have plenty of talent from the non-power conferences, the higher seeds have a significant advantage. Mid-majors such as Saint Louis, VCU, Butler, Gonzaga and New Mexico are in much better positions compared to the lower-seeded schools from similar conferences.
At the same time, however, those aforementioned schools didn't get to their current college basketball stature without shocking upsets during March Madness. The following schools simply have the same opportunity this year to bust brackets and reach the Final Four.
Saint Mary's, Midwest Region
The Saint Mary's Gaels got an impressive victory over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the First Four.
And to put the Gaels' consistency in perspective, Saint Mary's has gone 20-3 dating back to late December: All three losses came courtesy of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, so the Gaels clearly know how to win against other opponents.
Facing Memphis on Thursday afternoon, Saint Mary's has the momentum and ability to thwart past the Tigers. The offense is capable of exchanging punch-for-punch with Memphis and the athleticism to equal Memphis on the glass.
Defensively the Gaels are solid as they allow an average of 63 points per contest.
Final Four Odds: 225/1
Who is best positioned to make a Final Four run?
La Salle, West Region
Another First Four winner comes in the form of the La Salle Explorers who defeated Boise State, 80-71. This was a sound victory for the Explorers, because the Mountain West is no slouch this year.
The Broncos had won over Creighton and nearly upset Michigan State on the road. That said, La Salle also sported a strong resume by notching wins against VCU, Butler and Villanova.
Taking on the Kansas State Wildcats in the round of 64, the Explorers have a slight offensive advantage. Kansas State possesses the talent to put up points, but are not as consistent as La Salle.
Switch to defense and the schools are quite even. Each will generate turnovers, but it's capitalizing in transition that will be the difference. Coming from the Atlantic 10, La Salle faced arguably stronger competition to adapt to a faster- or slower-paced game.
Final Four Odds: 140/1
South Dakota State, South Region
Given the No. 13 seed in the South Region, South Dakota State matches up quite well with the Michigan Wolverines.
Featuring the marksmen to knock down buckets consistently, the Jackrabbits dish the rock around nicely to get a defense moving. Interestingly enough, South Dakota State and Michigan don't force turnovers at a high rate and aren't incredibly dominant in the paint.
Obviously a major distinction comes from Michigan competing in the Big Ten. It is the deepest and strongest conference, so the Wolverines are more battle-tested.
Still, the Jackrabbits have displayed their utmost potential after defeating New Mexico on the road and winning their conference tournament. Their confidence to score from anywhere will stick around and give Michigan trouble throughout.
Final Four Odds: 200/1
Davidson, East Region
Davidson may be a No. 14 seed, but the Wildcats are much more dangerous than at first glance.
Entering the madness on a 17-game winning streak Davidson has the skill set to outscore anyone. Offensively, the Wildcats are reliable passers from everywhere and will connect from inside or outside the arc, as well as the line.
Squaring off against Marquette to tip off their tournament, the Wildcats get an opponent whose style is eerily similar opponent. The Golden Eagles are just as impressive marksmen and will move the ball efficiently in the half court.
The defensive side is also rather even across the board. So, how does Davidson gain an edge? By pushing the pace, because it's more consistent than Marquette at putting up 70-plus per game.
Final Four Odds: 160/1
*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of TeamRankings.com
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