The NCAA Tournament more times than not provides us with thrilling Cinderellas teams, with the hope that one will break through, bust brackets and captivate millions.
Through Thursday’s slate a few underdogs have emerged, including multiple 12 seeds advancing to the Round of 32. One No. 12 seed, in fact, played like a No. 5 seed in their first-round matchup, prompting many to acknowledge their sleeper potential.
Which Cinderellas have the best chance to advance next round? Take a look.
No. 9 Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Shockers will have their hands full going up against an inside-laden Gonzaga squad that likes to take teams out of their comfort zone.
Wichita State controlled the tempo against Pittsburgh on Thursday and turned that into a double-digit win. Still, Gonzaga and Pittsburgh are different opponents in game plan.
Pittsburgh was fine slowing down the game and playing into the Shockers’ hands. In this next matchup, Gonzaga will try to force the action inside through Kelly Olynyk and in turn take Wichita State out of their comfort zone.
Unless Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead can continue their extreme production into the Round of 32, I don’t see this being close.
Pick: Gonzaga 73 Wichita State 62
No. 12 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 4 St. Louis Billikens
Oregon looked like they were playing with a chip on their shoulder against Oklahoma State, taking a double-digit lead and never looking back.
In many eyes, it didn’t seem like a big upset; the Ducks were underseeded as the Pac-12 Tournament champion and performed like they were truly perceived.
Nevertheless, a matchup with St. Louis would not be their first choice for a Round of 32 matchup. The Billikens play tough and won’t be fazed by the Ducks' inside presence Arsalan Kazemi.
This matchup will come down to their final five minutes, but ultimately Dominic Artis will have to play to midseason form for the Ducks to have a chance.
Pick: St. Louis 75, Oregon 71
No. 12 California vs. No. 4 Syracuse
The Bears performed better than advertised in San Jose, channeling the “home” crowd to a close victory over UNLV.
They go from playing against the unorganized Rebels to a date with the 2-3 zone of Syracuse. Not exactly an easy adjustment. They’ll need some fortunate three-point shooting to get past the Orangemen, which is hit or miss for this Bears squad.
Cal has four players who shoot over 31 percent, but only Allen Crabbe has shot over 100 three-pointers on the year.
It will be tough to stay with Syracuse unless they shot a high percentage, but somehow I think the Bears will hang around with Crabbe playing at a high level.
Pick: Syracuse 70 California 67
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his March Madness coverage on Twitter.
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