March Madness 2013 Predictions: Forecasting Friday's Best Clashes
Friday's slate of games in the 2013 NCAA tournament figures to provide some fireworks.
Not only do you have an underdog in Ole Miss led by the entertaining Marshall Henderson, but you also have a couple other teams that could shock higher seeds.
If March Madness has taught us anything, it's that underdogs are always lurking, ready to strike.
Here's a look at my picks for Friday's best clashes in the round of 64.
Ole Miss (12) vs. Wisconsin (5)
Highlighted by enigmatic three-point threat Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss got to the NCAA tournament this year by shocking Florida in the SEC championship game.
In the upset, Henderson dropped 21 points, while teammate and second-leading scorer Murphy Holloway scored 23 points. Given Florida ranks sixth in defensive efficiency this season, Ole Miss' performance on March 17 turned a lot of heads.
On the other hand, defensive-minded Wisconsin has looked good recently. Sure, the Badgers lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament, but that's not exactly anything to be ashamed of considering how Thad Matta's squad has been playing as of late.
Before losing to Ohio State, Wisconsin had won three straight games, including victories over Michigan and Indiana. Indiana scored just 56 points against the Badgers while shooting 38 percent from the field.
That wasn't a fluke. Wisconsin ranks 12th in defensive efficiency this season and has a shot at going deep in the tournament. It's going to be interesting to see if Ole Miss can pull off another shocker against a strong defensive team.
In the end, I'm valuing Wisconsin's overall campaign more than Ole Miss' victory over Florida.
Prediction: Wisconsin advances
Iowa State (10) vs. Notre Dame (7)
Notre Dame ranks 127th in defensive efficiency this season. Iowa State ranks 15th in offensive efficiency.
That has some thinking "upset" in this matchup.
Iowa State has four players—Will Clyburn, Tyrus McGee, Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim—averaging double-digit points this season. The tough matchup against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament aside, all four of these players have generally shot well during the 2012-2013 campaign.
On the other hand, Notre Dame ranks 24th in offensive efficiency this season, despite playing in the tougher Big East Conference. And while the Fighting Irish rank 100th in rebounds per game and the Cyclones rank 21st in the category, total rebounding rate—a more telling statistic—tells a different story. Iowa State ranks 46th in that category, while Notre Dame ranks 53rd. It's not as big a gap as it seems on the glass.
Also, Iowa State ranks even worse than Notre Dame in defensive efficiency (155th).
Prediction: Notre Dame advances
Minnesota (11) vs. UCLA (6)
Which high seed should be the most worried?
Jordan Adams' absence highlights this matchup.
UCLA's second-leading scorer won't make Friday's game after breaking his right foot on the last play of the Bruins' 66-63 victory over Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament.
Given UCLA ranks 104th in defensive efficiency and 137th in opponents' field-goal percentage, that's a considerable loss.
Minnesota is a decent offensive team (61st in offensive efficiency), which makes this an intriguing matchup now that UCLA may not be as effective on offense without Adams. Will the Golden Gophers score an upset? Some think so.
I don't, however. I still don't have enough faith in Minnesota's offense to outscore the Bruins, who still sport the electric Shabazz Muhammad, Travis Wear, Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew II (all four scored in double digits against Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game).
Prediction: UCLA advances
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