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NCAA Tournament Scores 2013: Elite Teams Showing Defensive Poise Early

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 21:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Derrick Nix #25 against the Valparaiso Crusaders during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at at The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 21, 2013 in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Ryan DavenportContributor IMarch 23, 2013

We're two days in, and there have been a number of stunning upsets at the 2013 NCAA Tournament. At the same time, there have been even more displays of stingy defense from some of the nation's elite teams, making them daunting challenges for their next opponents. 

Everyone loves a high-scoring nail-biter of a game, but watching a team play smart, disciplined defense in the biggest pressure-cooker of a tournament in all of amateur sports is something any basketball fan can appreciate. 

Yes, it's true that few of these teams have faced elite offensive talent this early in the tournament, but that doesn't mean their round of 64 performances won't force their next opponents to take notice.

Here's a look at some of the best defensive performances from the first two full days of March Madness play. 

 

No. 4 Syracuse 81, No. 13 Montana 34

With a collection of impressive athletes, the Syracuse Orange have always had the potential to be among the most potent defensive teams in the country, but the results haven't always shown that. 

Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh and even Temple have shown that the Orange aren't always the most committed or disciplined defensively, but when they come ready to play, Jim Boeheim's team is tough to put up big numbers against. 

Against Montana, Syracuse never gave the Grizzlies even a second to think they might be in the game, as the Orange poured on 38 points while allowing just 15 in the first half. 

By the time the second half was at its midway point, Syracuse had already begun emptying the bench, because if Boeheim hadn't, the Grizzlies would've been lucky to break 30. 

 

No. 1 Louisville 79, No. 16 North Carolina A&T 48

There's a reason Louisville is widely considered to be a co-favorite to win this tournament, and that's because the Cardinals boast the 13th best opposing points per game in the country and have enough talent to compete with almost anyone offensively. 

Against No. 16 North Carolina A&T, the Cardinals gave up 31 points in the first half but still lead by 16. In the second half, though, Rick Pitino's boys shut the Aggies down completely, giving up just 17 en route to at 31-point victory. 

Russ Smith, the Cardinals' unquestioned most dynamic offensive force, put up 23 points in just 25 minutes, and, more importantly, he grabbed eight steals out of Louisville's record-setting 20 on the night. 

 

No. 3 Michigan State 65, No. 14 Valparaiso 54

In this one, the Michigan State Spartans put on a defensive clinic in the first half, limiting the Crusaders to just 17 points, but it seemed like Tom Izzo's team went on cruise control after halftime. 

The Spartans still managed to win by 11 despite being outscored by Valpo in the second half, but one has to think that this sort of let-up wouldn't happen against a worthy opponent. 

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