NCAA Tournament 2013: Underdogs with Realistic Elite 8 Dreams

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIMarch 28, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 23:  Solomon Hill #44 of the Arizona Wildcats stands in the middle of the huddle before the Wildcats take on the Harvard Crimson during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena on March 23, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As we approach the Sweet Sixteen of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, it appears as if fans and analysts have decided upon the potential winners. While some games have been left open for discussion, others have been viewed as just shy of elite.

The question is, which underdogs have realistic Elite Eight dreams?

To be clear, underdogs are not limited to having a low-seed. There are numerous teams that are seeded at an elite level, but their greatness is underestimated by the masses.

Fortunately, there are underdogs with a realistic shot at the Elite Eight.


No. 13 La Salle Explorers, West Region

Is there any team garnering less hype than the La Salle Explorers? Despite owning three consecutive victories over Big 12 champions Kansas State, SEC champion Ole Miss and at-large favorite Boise State, the Explorers are the most undervalued team remaining.

The fact of the matter is, La Salle is more than capable of making it past Wichita State and reaching the Elite Eight.

The Explorers are led by a high-quality backcourt with former South Carolina standout Ramon Galloway and clutch maestro Tyreek Duren. Against Ole Miss, the two combined to score 43 points.

That's a performance they are more than capable of duplicating against the Shockers.

Furthermore, the Explorers are one of the best shooting teams left in the tournament. They convert at a clip of 37.7 percent from beyond the arc and move the ball as well as any team in the nation.

In other words, La Salle has all the tools necessary to defeat Wichita State.


No. 6 Arizona Wildcats, West Region

The Ohio State Buckeyes are a trendy favorite to appear in the Elite Eight. Their bracket has been underwhelming on paper, which is a continuing trend with the undervalued Arizona Wildcats.

Just don't sell Arizona short—they're more than capable of taking down the Buckeyes.

Arizona is a deep team with overwhelming size. Four players average at least 4.9 rebounds per game, with do-it-all forward Solomon Hill at the forefront of their success.

Hill is presently averaging 13.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals on 38.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

This is the story of Arizona's roster, as they are one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation. Seven different players average at least 5.0 points and four are converting 38.9 percent or better from distance.

Ohio State is elite, but few teams are as balanced as Arizona. Even fewer have as great of a coach as Sean Miller.


No. 12 Oregon Ducks, Midwest Region

The common college basketball mind is well-versed in just how talented a team the Oregon Ducks have proven to be. Not only are they the Pac-12 tournament champions, but they were much better than a No. 12 seed.

Their past three wins have come against UCLA, Oklahoma State and Saint Louis.

The Louisville Cardinals are the best team Oregon has played all season. With that being said, the Ducks have six separate players who average at least 8.4 points per game.

Their explosive offense should be enough to contend for a victory—even if it seems as if Louisville is too monstrous.


No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, South Region

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles are the first No. 15 seed in NCAA history to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They are one win away from becoming even more legendary.

In order to reach the Elite Eight, they must defeat their in-state rival Florida Gators.

The Gators clearly hold an advantage over Florida Gulf Coast. They're coached by two-time NCAA champion Billy Donovan and have as much depth as any team in the tournament.

With that being said, we've all learned a valuable lesson—never bet against Florida Gulf Coast.

The Eagles have a chance to boost their recruiting profile in a significant manner by defeating the Gators. They would own victories over Miami and Florida in the same season, thus establishing their status as a school on the rise.

Shockingly, this is just two years into their Division I tenure.