NCAA Tournament 2013 Bracket: Analyzing Thursday Evening's Most Exciting Games

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 21, 2013

Can Nate Wolters lead South Dakota State to an improbable Round 2 victory over Michigan?
Can Nate Wolters lead South Dakota State to an improbable Round 2 victory over Michigan?Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NCAA tournament has plenty of exciting matchups in the beginning stages of Round 2, but there are several noteworthy games later in the evening that will fittingly cap off Thursday's wild action.

Potential upsets loom at every corner as the night wears on, with several mid-major upstarts fully capable of knocking off power-conference foes. Even a formerly No. 1-ranked team could be in danger.

Here is a breakdown of the games that are likeliest to generate the most intrigue late on Day 3 of March Madness.


(4) Michigan Wolverines vs. (13) South Dakota State Jackrabbits

This isn't even guaranteed to be a close game necessarily, but it should be among the most entertaining. Considering Michigan ranked atop the nation at one point this season and played in the nation's best conference, it's hard to fathom an opening loss in the tournament to the Summit League champions.

However, the matchup between Wolverines star point guard Trey Burke and Jackrabbits sharpshooter Nate Wolters has the potential to be one of the best battles in the entire round of 64.

Both are finalists for the John R. Wooden Award and should contribute heavily to a high-scoring affair.

Wolters is more than just a scorer—he's second on the Jackrabbits with 5.6 rebounds per contest and leads with 5.8 assists. That gives South Dakota State strong balance.

There is legitimate NBA-caliber talent on this Michigan squad, though. In addition to Burke, the Wolverines lean on talented freshman Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway, Jr., both of whom have dads who were successful pros.

Michigan's size and superior athleticism should outweigh its defensive shortcomings, which were especially on display in allowing 51 second-half points in its most recent loss to Wisconsin.

It should be interesting for a little more than a half, but the size advantage inside with Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan along with Robinson's versatility should push the Wolverines over the top.

Prediction: Michigan 82, South Dakota State 70


(6) Arizona Wildcats vs. (11) Belmont Bruins

A name that continually comes up for the Bruins is Ian Clark, and rightfully so. The senior averages 18 points per game on 54 percent shooting, including 46 percent from beyond the arc on nearly seven attempts.

Belmont shoots better than 40 percent from distance as a team, which should be a massive problem for Arizona, who defends that shot at just 36 percent, according to

The Wildcats may have the superior size and athleticism to crash the boards, but the Bruins' high-octane attack may dig Sean Miller's team into too big of a hole to overcome down the stretch.

Clark and Co. should be seeking redemption from a disappointing loss to Georgetown in last year's tournament, and are in a much more ideal position to advance past Round 2 this time around. Arizona also enters March Madness in the midst of an uninspiring, inconsistent 5-5 run over the past 10 games.

Take a look near the bottom left corner of President Barack Obama's bracket. He seems to think this contest has upset written all over it.

But it might not be that much of an upset after all.

Going by the interesting statistic provided by AJ Mass of ESPN—called "Atomic Mass"—Belmont should have garnered consideration for a No. 4 seed based on its resume, RPI ranking, strength of schedule and other factors.

Other than Davidson, that seventh-seed disparity between the slot the Bruins "deserved" and the seeding the selection committee actually dealt out is highest in the field.

Prediction: Belmont 80, Arizona 72


(4) Syracuse Orange vs. (13) Montana Grizzlies

Montana lost its leading scorer in Mathias Ward to a foot injury back in late February, but there is still plenty of potential for the Grizzlies to do the improbable.

CBS analyst Seth Davis went on to express his faith in the Grizzlies to topple the reeling Orange. Maybe expert opinions are to be taken with a grain of salt all the time, but considering Davis picked the entire NCAA tournament field accurately, he's a fairly trustworthy source.

And there is actual substance as to how this could happen. The Grizzlies overcame Ward's absence in the most vital part of the regular season to win the Big Sky conference with a 19-1 record.

Then, the team powered through the conference tournament, capped by a win over Weber State, which crushed the Grizzlies in the previous matchup.

The Orange boast a host of players with NCAA tournament experience, but have a very talented yet untrustworthy point guard in Michael Carter-Williams. He is frequently turnover-prone, and shoots the ball too often for someone with a lackluster jumper.

C.J. Fair gives Syracuse a huge advantage on the inside, and the Orange should have a significant edge on the glass. James Southerland will also provide serious problems with his size and ability to spread the floor.

Perimeter shots should be easy to come by for the Grizzlies against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. It's just a matter of knocking them down.

Look for stat-sheet stuffers Kareem Jamar and catalyst Will Cherry to continually gash the vulnerable Orange and pull out what will arguably be the biggest upset of the tournament on Thursday.

Prediction: Montana 60, Syracuse 58

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