NCAA Tournament 2013 Bracket: Predictions and Picks for Sweet 16 Matchups
The teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament have been about as unpredictable as one would have expected after the 2012-13 college basketball season.
Of course, a No. 15 seed advanced to the second weekend of the tournament for the first time in history, as Florida Gulf Coast rolled over Georgetown and San Diego State.
Then, for the second time in three years, a team which played in the opening round has won three games, with La Salle riding its stellar trio of guards to its first Sweet 16 in over 60 years.
From these Cinderellas to some big-time matchups like Duke vs. Michigan State and Kansas vs. Michigan, this Sweet 16 has it all.
Here are predictions and picks for all of the Sweet 16 matchups.
Midwest: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 12 Oregon
Louisville is the top overall seed in the tournament, and so far, the Cardinals have looked every bit the part.
Meanwhile, most believed Oregon was under-seeded as a No. 12 seed, and the Ducks proved it with double-digit wins over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis.
The Ducks will be heavy underdogs against Louisville, and it will be interesting to see if Oregon can give the Cardinals their first scare of the Big Dance.
Why Louisville Could Win
The Cardinals defense ranks second in the country in turnover percentage, forcing turnovers on 28 percent of opponents' possessions, according to KenPom.com.
Conversely, Oregon’s offense ranks No. 264 nationally, turning the ball over on 21.5 percent of its possessions.
The pressure from Louisville guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva can be suffocating.
Why Oregon Could Win
Some freshmen will hit a wall late in the year, but Oregon's Damyean Dotson is playing his best basketball of the season. He is averaging 20 points per game in the NCAA tournament and has made 8-of-17 from three.
If Dotson plays well and complements Oregon’s strong core of seniors, the Ducks could pull off the upset.
Louisville 68, Oregon 53
Midwest: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Michigan State
There is a small number of coaching matchups, if any, that can match Mike Krzyzewski vs. Tom Izzo.
The two coaches have combined for 17 Final Fours and five national titles. They have split two all-time meetings in the NCAA tournament, the last coming in the Sweet 16 in 2005.
Michigan State got a 78-68 win in Austin, Texas, and the Spartans eventually made the Final Four.
Why Duke Could Win
Led by Seth Curry, Duke's guards are playing at a high level during the most important time of the year. Curry is averaging 21.5 points in the first two tournament games while shooting 51.7 percent from the field.
Quinn Cook has been excellent running the team, with 17 assists compared to just three turnovers.
Why Michigan State Could Win
As always, the Spartans have a physical frontcourt.
Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne lead the way down low for Michigan State, combining for 20.4 points and 14 rebounds per game. They could take Mason Plumlee out of his game by pushing him around.
Michigan State 70, Duke 63
West: No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 13 La Salle
Outside of Florida Gulf Coast, these two teams are the most unlikely to have made the Sweet 16.
Wichita State was expected to take a step back this year after losing four senior starters from a team that earned a No. 5 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament.
La Salle made it to March Madness for the first time since 1992, and the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1955.
Why Wichita State Could Win
The Shockers win with toughness and experience, with four of their five starters being upperclassmen.
They rank in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage, according to KenPom.com, and they will crash the boards.
Why La Salle Could Win
Great guard play is essential to advance deep in the NCAA tournament, and that is what has carried the Explorers this far.
Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland all average at least 12.8 points per game, and they can put pressure on a defense by getting into the lane off the bounce.
Wichita State 67, La Salle 63
West: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Arizona
Ohio State coach Thad Matta and Arizona coach Sean Miller have a lot of history. Both were assistants at Miami (Ohio) in the mid-'90s on Herb Sendek’s staff.
When Matta took over at Xavier in 2001, he brought Miller on as an assistant. When Matta left for Ohio State in 2004, Miller took over for the Musketeers.
Why Ohio State Could Win
Deshaun Thomas is one of the biggest matchup nightmares in the country. He is averaging 23 points per game and shooting 61.5 percent from the field in Ohio State’s first two games of the NCAA tournament.
He should be matched up with Arizona’s Solomon Hill.
Why Arizona Could Win
The Wildcats have yet to lose a game outside the Pac-12, and they looked impressive dispatching Belmont and Harvard.
Mark Lyons is playing at a high level, coming off a season-high 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting against the Crimson.
Ohio State 73, Arizona 69
South: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Michigan
This is a matchup of two heavyweights and teams that were ranked No. 1 and 2 in the AP poll back on Jan. 28.
Kansas gets it done on the defensive end, protecting the rim better than anyone in the country with Jeff Withey manning the middle.
Michigan does its damage on offense, ranking second nationally in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
Why Kansas Could Win
Michigan has received quality post play lately from freshman Mitch McGary, but even with his emergence, Kansas will have a decided advantage down low.
Withey is a game-changer on the defensive end, blocking 12 shots in the first two games of the NCAA tournament. On offense in that span, he is averaging 16.5 points per game while shooting 65 percent from the floor.
Why Michigan Could Win
Kansas has struggled at times defending the perimeter, and Michigan is full of players who can light it up from the outside.
Trey Burke is the best point guard in the country, and he is surrounded by a number of shooters on the wing who can knock down threes.
Burke is capable of dominating his matchup with Elijah Johnson or Naadir Tharpe. If that happens, the Wolverines will be moving on to the Elite Eight.
Kansas 67, Michigan 65
South: No. 3 Florida vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed in NCAA tournament history to make it to the Sweet 16.
The Eagles have captivated the country with their high-flying offensive act and beaten their first two opponents each by 10 points.
Now they will face Florida, which is just 265 miles down the road on Interstate 75. Everyone will be tuning in to see whether Florida Gulf Coast’s magical ride will continue.
Why Florida Could Win
The Gators have been dominant against teams from non-power conferences.
In Florida’s eight games against non-BCS teams, the Gators are 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 26.3 points.
Florida is athletic and will be able to match up with Florida Gulf Coast on the perimeter.
Why Florida Gulf Coast Could Win
The Eagles will not be scared when they take the court against Florida on Friday in Arlington, Texas.
They are playing with a confidence that one would not expect from a No. 15 seed. However, that confidence did not come out of nowhere.
The Eagles beat Miami earlier this season. They are fully aware they can play with and beat the best teams in the country.
Florida Gulf Coast 77, Florida 75
East: No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 4 Syracuse
Two proud programs are looking to move one step closer to the Final Four, somewhere neither team has been for 10 years.
Indiana’s last trip came in 2002, when the Hoosiers lost to Maryland in the NCAA championship. Syracuse last went to the Final Four in 2003, when the Orange cut down the nets for Jim Boeheim's only national title.
Tom Crean, coincidentally, took Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, where the Golden Eagles were blown out by Kansas.
Why Indiana Could Win
Indiana is one of the most talented offensive teams in the country and will cause Syracuse’s zone defense a lot of problems.
The Hoosiers are shooting 41.1 percent from three and rank fifth in the country in offensive rebound percentage, according to KenPom.com. Those are both areas in which a 2-3 zone can be susceptible.
Why Syracuse Could Win
The Orange are big and physical.
Syracuse averages six blocks per game as a team, and its front line could be a handful for Indiana big man Cody Zeller, who has struggled against more physical teams.
Indiana 76, Syracuse 70
East: No. 2 Miami vs. No. 3 Marquette
Jim Larranaga has taken Miami to just its second-ever Sweet 16 in program history. Now he will return to Washington, D.C., for the Sweet 16, which is significant for two reasons.
The first is it is nearby George Mason, where Larranaga coached from 1997-2011. The second is the Verizon Center is the site where Larranaga and the Patriots completed their improbable Final Four run back in 2006.
Larranaga is hoping to have the same kind of success next weekend.
Why Miami Could Win
The Hurricanes have great balance offensively.
Shane Larkin has emerged as one of the best point guards in the country in his sophomore season, and Durand Scott is another ball-handler who can get to the rim.
Kenny Kadji is one of the more versatile big men in college basketball with the ability to score from the block or behind the arc.
Why Marquette Could Win
No matter what, Marquette simply keeps coming at its opponent.
The Golden Eagles trailed Davidson by nine points with 5:30 to play and pulled out a victory. They overcame a nine-point deficit against Butler to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year.
Miami 68, Marquette 61