NCAA Brackets 2013: Picking Each Elite 8 Winner

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 29:  Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals reacts as he coaches against the Louisville Cardinals during the Midwest Region Semifinal round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you take a look at the bracket as it is now, you'll notice that the Elite Eight features games that are not to be missed under any circumstances. The sad part is that when it comes to picking a winner, one might as well flip a coin.

From a matchup of Big East powerhouses to an upset-minded mid-major program to teams that just want to win badly, this year's Elite Eight will lead to one of the best Final Fours in recent history.

Even better is that each game features players that have wowed the fans throughout the tourney, and this next round is just another stage on which they can shine.

But the question remains: Who is going to make the Final Four? Well, taking a short look at each game, I think we can determine that.


No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 2 Duke

The Cardinals and Blue Devils will bring two coaching giants together once again, as Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino have met before in an infamous Elite Eight game. Just who walks away the winner, however, is anyone's guess.

Duke ranked sixth in the nation in scoring and 17th in field-goal percentage and has ridden the effectiveness of shooter Seth Curry up to this point. Thus far, he has posted 24 points per game in the tournament.

However, Louisville is not to be counted out. The Cardinals led the nation in steals per game, not to mention that they won the Big East Tournament.

Moreover, star guard Russ Smith has been outstanding all tournament long after being streaky during the regular season. Through the Cardinals' three games, Smith has averaged 27 points per game and shot 55 percent from the field, plus 3.6 steals.

Seeing as how Duke relies more on three-point shooting to carry it and Louisville plays great on-ball defense, I have to hand this game to the Cardinals. Russ Smith is just too good, and unless Duke can find a way to slow him down, it's destined to be bounced out of the Final Four in 2013.


No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 3 Marquette

Two conference rivals will face off in this game, as Syracuse will look to continue its final Big East season with a trip to the Final Four. Both squads faced off back on Feb. 25, with Marquette rallying to a 74-71 victory.

The Orange will be out for revenge, and based on how the team has performed thus far, that goal will be achieved. This is because, when it comes to experience, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim just has the experience advantage.

He has been on this stage many times, and Marquette head coach Buzz Williams has not. Thanks to superior athleticism and Marquette's streakiness, Syracuse will have this one in the bag from the get-go.


No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Florida

Two of the tourney's hottest teams meet in this game. Michigan is coming off an epic Sweet 16 victory against top-seeded Kansas, while Florida managed to end the Cinderella run of Florida Gulf Coast. In terms of picking a winner, this one is beyond tough.

However, in a game that will definitely come down to the wire, I'm going with the Wolverines. Trey Burke has proven to be more and more of an X-factor, and the fact that under-the-radar teammates Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III stepped up the way they did against Kansas says it all.

That isn't to say that Florida will be dominated by any means. Head coach Billy Donovan's balanced attack has helped the Gators get this far, and the team will definitely put up a hell of a fight against Michigan.

Unfortunately, seeing as how Kansas couldn't slow down Trey Burke when he was fully locked in, it's hard to believe that Florida will be able to either.


No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 2 Ohio State

The Shockers have been one of the stories of the tourney, having defeated No. 1 Gonzaga in the round of 32. Next up on their hit list are the Buckeyes, but just how well they'll do in the Elite Eight remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, the plug will be pulled at this point. The Buckeyes have proven time and time again that even when it seems like they are done, they can rally back on the performances of Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas. Even guys like LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. have started to step up their efforts.

As much as we would like to see Wichita State advance, they're from the much-less-competitive Missouri Valley Conference. Ohio State is from the tough-as-nails Big Ten, and that's going to make a difference.

Thanks to a balanced attack and superior athleticism, the Buckeyes will roll and make the Final Four for the second straight year.