With the NBA playoffs set to tip off on Saturday, 16 teams remain with their goal staying the same as it was to start the year: Win the NBA championship.
But how many of the 16 teams left have a realistic chance of doing so? And how many will actually escape the first round?
The Eastern Conference appears to be very top-heavy, led by the defending champions Miami Heat.
The Western Conference, on the contrary, looks to be very balanced, with each matchup having the possibility of going either way, a rarity in most professional sports leagues' playoffs today.
Let's take a look at who will advance to the "Elite Eight" of the 2013 NBA playoffs.
To say the Miami Heat should cruise through this series is an understatement.
Much like last year, the Heat have proven they are on a mission.
The Heat have beaten the Bucks three out of four times this season, with the last victory coming on April 9 in Miami.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be too much to handle for the under-manned Milwaukee Bucks.
The only way the Bucks can pull out a win in this series will start with them playing on their home floor. It would also take monster efforts from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. The Bucks can't afford to have one or the other clicking on a certain night, it needs to be both of them lighting it up together.
Still, even if they are scoring in bunches, their supporting cast is not talented enough to stabilize the Bucks.
The Heat will want to finish this series as quickly as possible, and if they focus and come to play each night, all of these games will be blowouts, with the exception of a close one in Milwaukee in Game 3 or Game 4.
But it will be all for naught for the over-matched Milwaukee Bucks.
Prediction: Heat in four.
In an intriguing Atlantic-division matchup, the Knicks look to prove to the NBA that they are a legitimate title contender this year.
The Knicks have beaten the Celtics in their last three games, with the last coming on March 31 in New York.
Fresh off a scoring title, Carmelo Anthony will have to shoulder the load for this Knicks team—something he is very capable of doing.
The loss of Rajon Rondo has devastated the Celtics' hopes and deservedly so. Other than Paul Pierce, their backcourt just isn't scary anymore, attacking with Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry.
If those three can step up, the series will get interesting. If not, the Knicks will run away with it.
For New York, J.R. Smith is a crucial piece of the puzzle. If Smith takes efficient shots and makes them consistently, the Knicks will put up points at a rapid rate.
In the end, New York has too much firepower while Boston lacks said firepower. With that being said, the Knicks should control most of this series, but the always-savvy Celtics won't go down quietly.
Prediction: Knicks in six.
The Pacers and Hawks split their season series at 2-2, with every win going to the home team.
This series will be won on the glass and will not exactly be pretty to watch.
The Pacers, led by Roy Hibbert, lead the NBA in rebounds per game. They also have Tyler Hansbrough and David West, who are relentless rebounders with endless motors.
Not to be outdone, the Hawks offer Al Horford down low, who averaged 10.2 rebounds per game this season.
Expect an extremely physical series down low with the importance of limiting opponents' second chances heavily stressed.
On the perimeter, the Pacers are just too much with Paul George. George has the ability to come off of screens and dribble drive or simply pull up and knock down jumpers.
For the Hawks, Josh Smith is their leading scorer. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Smith doesn't knock down jumpers consistently enough to continually run its offense through him.
Ultimately, the Pacers are too balanced and should dominate inside to comfortably advance into the second round.
Prediction: Pacers in five.
In this defensively oriented matchup, the Brooklyn Nets will battle the Chicago Bulls in what is probably the most even series in the first round,
Expect these two half-court efficient, defensive-minded teams to play games under 100, stressing the importance of every possession even more so.
In the frontcourt, the Nets leading scorer Brook Lopez will have to deal with the tenacious defender that is Joakim Noah, if the Bulls big man isn't sitting out due to injury. If Noah can get inside Lopez's head with some physicality and blocks, it turns the tables on the inside advantage the Nets have.
In the backcourt, Deron Williams for the Nets will have to control the tempo of the game and bail his team out if the offense gets stagnant, something he has proven he can do.
Look for Luol Deng of the Bulls to have a big series. The Bulls don't exactly have another consistent scoring threat, so Deng must get to the paint, draw fouls and knock down jumpers when given the opportunity.
Joe Johnson for the Nets is the make-or-break player in this series, specifically in end-of-game situations in what are sure to be close games. If he knocks down clutch shots late, look for the Nets to prevail, although this series could easily go either way.
Prediction: Nets in seven.
This has potential to be the most exciting series in terms of scoring the basketball.
In three matchups this season, the winner has scored 120, 124 and 122 points. The first two were victories by the Thunder with the last one being a Rockets win back in February in Houston.
The problem for the Rockets is engaging in a shootout with one of the most dangerous players in the league in Kevin Durant. He can literally take over games and score the basketball at will.
It is a simple formula for the Rockets to win this series: Make three pointers and then make some more.
They will live and die by the three ball, and it will all go through former Thunder-star James Harden.
Look for Harden to be an absolute beast in this series. It is up to Harden's teammates—like Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons—to knock down shots when Harden and his beard are bottled up.
For the Thunder, while it may seen obvious that the show runs through Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka must dominate inside to open up lanes for their two stars.
Ibaka's inside presence will force defenders to help at moments, leaving Durant and Westbrook to do their thing. And you can't forget Kevin Martin, who can also knock down jumpers.
The Rockets should make enough shots to win a couple of games but the reigning Western Conference champions Thunder will be just too much to handle.
Prediction: Thunder in six.
The San Antonio Spurs will take on the Kobe Bryant-less Los Angeles Lakers in what has the potential makings for an upset.
Key word: Potential.
The Spurs always seem to find themselves in the thick of NBA title chatter due to their veteran experience and leadership surrounded by younger players who feed off of the older players.
The Spurs and Lakers have battled three times this season, with the Spurs getting the best of the Lakers twice, one in a low-scoring game in the 80-point range and the other in a game with each team scoring over 100.
This goes to show the Spurs can adapt to on-the-fly game situations, with the tempo being controlled by point guard Tony Parker, a key factor for the Spurs in this series.
For the Lakers, Dwight Howard will have to live up to his nickname of Superman. He must be an absolute beast, asserting his dominance in the paint on both ends of the court.
Tim Duncan will give you consistency if you're the Spurs, but the Lakers need something more than consistent play from Howard if they want to keep games close.
The Lakers backcourt is where they lack potency. They will be hard pressed to rely on a single player to make the right decisions or to give the ball to in late-game situations.
Experience reigns supreme yet again.
Prediction: Spurs in five.
In what is sure to be another entertaining series, the Denver Nuggets will take on the Golden State Warriors in a matchup which should feature plenty of high-scoring affairs.
Both teams come into this series having averaged over 100 points per game in the regular season.
The Nuggets are flat out fun to watch. They can shoot, dish and finish acrobatically above the rim.
The Warriors shoot extremely well and will have to do so to compete in this series.
The key matchup to watch will be in the backcourt, with Ty Lawson of the Nuggets going against Stephen Curry of the Warriors.
The entire league knows Curry can make it rain form downtown, but he still continues to do so and leads the Warriors in scoring. Lawson, on the other hand, is a creator, both for himself and teammates. He drives and kicks the ball exceptionally well but he can also finish around the rim.
If you're the Nuggets, make someone other than Curry beat you. Sure, he will get his, just make sure "his" aren't enough to carry his team.
For the Warriors, David Lee then becomes a vital element to their success. The veteran forward is creative down low and should be able to take advantage of the sometimes over-aggressive Nuggets center JaVale McGee.
Overall, Denver is too balanced, and the weight of the Warriors offense will be too heavy a burden for Curry to carry.
Prediction: Nuggets in six.
The Los Angeles Clippers take on the Memphis Grizzlies in a rematch of last year's first-round matchup which saw the Clippers win the series in seven games.
And if this series is anything like that one was, we are all in for a treat.
This time around, though, the Clippers control the home-court advantage.
Los Angeles has taken three out of four from the Grizzlies this season, with the last one coming just recently on April 13 in Memphis.
At the point guard position, Chris Paul of the Clippers and Mike Conley of the Grizzlies going head-to-head has the makings of a great matchup.
Both guards can create offensively, but it is what they do defensively that make them so unique and special.
Paul and Conley both have active hands and read passing lanes brilliantly. Winning this series will depend a lot on which guard can make the other predictable, especially at the right times late in games.
Down low, it is Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan vs. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The edge here has to go to the Grizzlies on the sole basis that their frontcourt has a better shooting touch.
With Randolph and Gasol's ability to shoot well fairly evident, it should open up the lane for one of the two to attack via isolation and one-on-one play close enough to the rim where it will even be a nightmare to defend for the two Clippers' shot-blockers.
In the end, Conley will bottle up Paul enough to force the Clippers to force jumpers while the Grizzlies control the tempo and work the ball inside consistently enough.
Still, this is a must-watch and sure to be exhilarating series.
Prediction: Grizzlies in seven.