NCAA Tournament 2013: Teams with Easiest Path to Final Four Following 2nd Round

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2013

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 22: Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes handles the ball against the Iona Gaels during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 22, 2013 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The first two rounds of the 2013 NCAA tournament have come and gone, but not without leaving a serious bruise on brackets around the country.

If 14th-seeded Harvard's shocking upset of No. 3 New Mexico on Thursday wasn't enough to shake things up, then No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast's impressive victory over No. 2 Georgetown on Friday night in Philadelphia certainly was. 

With two national championship favorites already heading home after the round of 64, it's time we reevaluate the tournament bracket and highlight three teams with the easiest path to the Final Four in Atlanta this April.


No. 1 Louisville Cardinals, Midwest Region

There may have been only one upset in the Midwest Region in the second round, with No. 12 Oregon defeating No. 5 Oklahoma State, but that doesn't change the fact that top overall seed Louisville has a rather easy path to Atlanta in comparison with the rest of the region.

Rick Pitino's scorching-hot Cardinals will take on one of the nation's best rebounding teams in Colorado State on Saturday. But that game will be played in Lexington, where a sea of Louisville fans will make it seem more like a home game.

Plus, regardless of whether Louisville faces No. 4 Saint Louis or No. 12 Oregon in the Sweet 16, the Cardinals would likely have the advantage of taking on No. 2 Duke or No. 3 Michigan State after the two teams have just played each other. The winner of that potential Midwest Regional semifinal would be beat up and have just one day of rest coming into an Elite Eight showdown with Louisville.

Vegas made the Cardinals the favorite to reach Atlanta before the tournament began. And despite a lack of madness in the Midwest, Louisville, winner of 11 straight, looks to be on a straight-line path to its second straight Final Four.


No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, West Region

There's a strong chance the Buckeyes wouldn't have to face a single-digit seed until the West Regional final and a good shot that Ohio State reaches the Final Four without even playing a team seeded higher than ninth.

The West Region was filled with upsets in the round of 64, as No. 3 New Mexico, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Wisconsin were all knocked out of the tournament.

Ohio State will play 10th-seeded Iowa State on Sunday and then the winner of No. 6 Arizona vs No. 14 Harvard in the Sweet 16 potentially. Although the Wildcats are huge favorites in that game, the Crimson's ability to knock down threes at a high percentage and maintain a slow pace gives them a great shot to land the upset.

Plus, if No. 1 Gonzaga loses before the West Regional final, Ohio State will face either a No. 9, No. 12 or No. 13 seed in the Elite Eight for a trip back to the Final Four. If you thought the Buckeyes' path to Atlanta was smooth on Selection Sunday, then you've got to love their chances following the second round.


No. 3 Florida Gators, South Region

With No. 2 Georgetown going out to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the round of 64 on Friday, the door has opened up for Billy Donovan's Florida Gators to roll into the Elite Eight.

The Gators, who were the favorite to win the South Region before the tournament began, will take on No. 11 Minnesota on Sunday and then the winner of No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16, assuming they beat the Golden Gophers.

If the Cinderella Eagles pull off another upset over the Aztecs, then, like Ohio State, Florida wouldn't have to face a single-digit seed until the regional final.

Even if the Hoyas were still in the picture, you would have to like Florida's chances of getting to Atlanta. This is a team with tons of NCAA tournament experience, a two-time national champion head coach in Donovan and a squad capable of dominating on the defensive end of the floor—as evidenced in Friday's win over Northwestern State, in which Florida held the nation's highest-scoring team to just 15 second half points.


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