Final Four Predictions 2013: Projecting Regional Winners for NCAA Tournament

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - MARCH 10:  Cody Zeller #40 of the Indiana Hoosiers defends a last second shot by Trey Burke #3 of the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Center on March 10, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Indiana won the game 72-71. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2013 NCAA Tournament is officially underway, and upsets are bound to be a daily occurrence as we head to the Final Four. 

It's difficult to predict which teams will win in each round, let alone project which teams will win each region, but that's why this tourney is called March Madness.

That said, there are certain teams with better chances than most to make it through the inexorable flurry of upsets that occur each March. These teams have the coaching, leadership and talent to make it to the Final Four.



Midwest: Duke (2)

The Blue Devils haven't made the Final Four as any seed but No. 1 in 17 years, but this team is primed to break the mold as a two-seeded team in 2013. 

Duke struggled for a while during the regular season when forward Ryan Kelly went down with a foot injury, losing four of its five games during the stretch that he missed. Since Kelly's been back in the lineup, however, Duke has been clicking.

The Blue Devils will face Albany in the second round. Last year's loss to Lehigh hasn't been forgotten, and Duke should easily dispatch the Great Danes.

Round 3 will pit Duke against either Cincinnati or Creighton. The two teams present different challenges, as the Bearcats feature a stifling defense and the Bluejays are an offensive juggernaut. That said, Duke's offensive firepower and depth give it a chance in any contest.

If Duke is able to survive the Round of 32, the Sweet 16 will provide a stiff test. Michigan State rolled over Valparaiso to move on to the third round, while St. Mary's and Memphis are both worthy opponents.

Provided Duke wins its first three games, Louisville will likely be waiting for it in the Elite Eight. This matchup will be a tremendous battle, but Duke's depth and consistent scoring give it a chance against any opponent.



West: Gonzaga (1)

Gonzaga is the top team in the nation, according to all the major polls

The Bulldogs lost just two games all season long, the last of which was over two months ago to Butler. 

With forwards Kevin Olynyk and Elias Harris leading the way, Gonzaga features an elite squad capable of putting up points with the best teams in the nation. In addition to a strong group of big men, Gonzaga's guards, led by Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., are capable of putting up points in bunches.

The team's second-round matchup should be a walk in the park, as 16th-seeded Southern University features an offense that won't be able to keep up with the 'Zags' high-powered scoring.

In the third round, both Pittsburgh and Wichita State will struggle to keep up on offense, as well. Both teams score under 70 points per game, while Gonzaga is the 12th-ranked offense in the nation, scoring 77.6 points per contest.

The Sweet 16 would pit the Bulldogs against either Wisconsin, Mississippi, Kansas State or La Salle. All four teams feature strong rosters, but none as complete as Gonzaga's.

Should Gonzaga reach the Elite Eight, Ohio State will likely be the team to challenge. If not, Belmont could end up facing the Bulldogs, but any matchup in the West favors Gonzaga.



South: North Carolina (9)

This is certainly not a trendy pick, as the Kansas Jayhawks are widely considered the favorites to come out of the South, but the Tar Heels will shock the world this March.

Since February, North Carolina has only lost to two teams: Duke and Miami. Both of those teams are in other regions and won't be facing the Tar Heels until the end of the tourney, and North Carolina has the offensive firepower to win in the South.

Led by a trio of 14-points-per-game scorers, North Carolina has a balanced offense that can beat teams from anywhere on the floor. Sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo is a dynamic player in the post, while P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock are versatile perimeter players who can score inside and out. 

The team's first matchup of the tourney is against Villanova, which features an offense that will struggle to keep up with the Tar Heels. 

Should North Carolina defeat the Wildcats, Kansas looms large in the third round. The top-ranked seed in the South features an offense that can certainly keep up with North Carolina. Shooting guard Ben McLemore and center Jeff Withey are two of the top players in the tournament, but the team's lack of a point guard will ultimately be its undoing.

The Sweet 16 will be comparatively easy, as North Carolina will face either VCU, Akron, Michigan or South Dakota State. 

Should the Tar Heels win, they'll likely face Georgetown, which will test the team's depth up front. That said, the Hoyas don't have the firepower needed to keep up with the Tar Heels' high-scoring offense, which is why North Carolina will represent the South in the Final Four.



East: Indiana (1)

2013 is the year of the Harbaughs, and since Tom Creen is married to Joani Harbaugh, it's inevitable that his team will win the East on its way to the Final Four (artistic license included). 

All kidding aside, Indiana features as strong a team as any in the nation, with Cody Zeller leading the way. 

After Zeller, who scores nearly 17 points and hauls in over eight rebounds per game, the Hoosiers have three other players that score in double digits on a nightly basis, with one other player scoring over nine points per game.

The team puts up 80 points per contest and shoots at a 48.6-percent clip from the field. 

The Hoosiers don't have a single weakness, and it'll take a perfect game from one of their opponents to knock them out of this tournament. 

The team's first opponent should pose no trouble at all. James Madison struggles to put up points and doesn't shoot the ball well, and Indiana will easily win this contest.

The team's third-round opponent will either be North Carolina State or Temple. Both teams can put up points enough to make the game interesting, but neither team has an answer for Zeller.

UNLV, California, Syracuse and Montana will fight for the chance to face Indiana in the Sweet 16, but it won't be a shock to see both lower-seeded team win in Round 2, and all four teams will struggle against Indiana, regardless. 

The team that will likely be waiting for Indiana in the Elite Eight is Miami. This will be one of the best games of the entire tournament, as Miami has fared well against some of the top teams in the nation this year. 

In the end, however, Indiana's offensive firepower will overwhelm the Hurricanes, and the Hoosiers will play North Carolina in the Final Four.



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