NCAA Basketball Tournament 2013: Title Contenders That Will Dominate in Openers

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 20:  Deshaun Thomas #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes talks with teammate Lenzelle Smith, Jr. #32 in the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on February 20, 2013 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Minnesota 71-45.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Normally, the first game of the NCAA Tournament for the top teams doesn't receive much fanfare. After Gonzaga was nearly shocked by Southern and Harvard upset New Mexico, however, the remaining contenders are on high alert.

If there's any advantage of playing on the second day of the round of 64, that's it. The first day usually provides at least one marquee upset coaching staffs can point to as an example of what can happen if their team overlooks what should be an overmatched opponent.

Let's examine three championship contenders playing during the night session on Friday that should cruise to victory, thanks in part to the teachable moments from yesterday's games. You can track all the action on March Madness Live.


Kansas Jayhawks

The top seed in the South region gets its journey to Atlanta started with a matchup against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers went 0-4 in games against tournament teams during the regular season, losing by an average of 21 points.

Kansas enters the tourney having won 10 of its last 11 games, including five wins over tournament teams, illustrating the large disparity between the two sides. The well-rounded Jayhawks should have the game completely under control by halftime.

Not only do they have four players averaging in double figures, led by Ben McLemore at 16 points per game, but they also excel on the defensive end. That's mostly due to the low-post presence of Jeff Withey, who should have a big game against the Hilltoppers.


Ohio State Buckeyes

On paper, Ohio State would appear to be in at least marginal danger. The West region's No. 2 seed faces an Iona squad that ranks second in the country in scoring at over 80 points per game and enters on a five-game winning streak.

Luckily for the Buckeyes, for as good as the Gaels are on offense, they are equally weak on defense. They also haven't faced a team anywhere near the caliber of Ohio State. So there are a lot more factors working in Ohio State's favor than against the contenders.

Deshaun Thomas should have no problem getting open looks. Aaron Craft will make sure Lamont Jones, Iona's top scorer, remains under control. And Ohio State's vastly superior depth and talent level should allow it to coast into the round of 32.


Florida Gators

The Gators are one of the nation's most complete teams. The roster features multiple scoring threats, multiple terrific on-ball defenders and a couple different players who can run the offense. Florida also has the senior leadership necessary to make sure it doesn't lose focus on Northwestern State.

Like Ohio State's opponent, Iona, the Demons love to push to pace and rack up a lot of points. In fact, they lead the nation at 81 PPG. Again, defense and level of competition are major issues working against the underdog.

Florida's dynamite trio of Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario should be able to score almost at will. The Demons just don't have enough to stick with all three of them for an extended period of time. From there, the Gators will slow the pace and pick up the easy win.


To keep up with all the NCAA tournament action check out the live bracket or grab the updated printable bracket. Follow all the exciting NCAA tournament games with March Madness Live.