NCAA Bracket 2014: Highlighting Top Picks to Make an Early Exit from Tournament

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NCAA Bracket 2014: Highlighting Top Picks to Make an Early Exit from Tournament
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Upon the conclusion of Selection Sunday, the field of the 68 teams that will compete in the 2014 NCAA tournament came to fruition. Some teams enter the tournament riding high after winning their respective conference tournaments. Others, however, may be lacking some confidence after recent losses.

The teams in the latter category are the ones that could be on upset alert in the early rounds of March Madness. Recent struggles could pave the way for inferior teams to come away with a big upset, which could potentially bust many brackets.

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Let's take a look at some top teams primed to make an early exit from the NCAA tournament.

 

East Region: No. 2 Villanova Wildcats

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The Villanova Wildcats are officially on upset alert. The team entered the Big East tournament riding a six-game winning streak; however, they were producing rather unimpressive wins over that span.

Villanova's struggles were very apparent during an early Big East tournament loss to Seton Hall.

The Wildcats got off to a sluggish start, as Seton Hall outscored them 34-26 at the half. Nova came surging back in the second half to take the lead, but lost on Sterling Gibbs' buzzer-beater in the final seconds.

Simply put, the Wildcats should have never put themselves into this situation.

It wasn't due to a lack of effort, as Villanova head coach Jay Wright explained during a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

You've all heard me say this before: This was not about 1 seeds, 2 seeds. This was about we wanted to come to Madison Square Garden and win the Big East tournament. Winning the Big East tournament would mean much more to us than a 1 seed. The NCAA tournament seedings, my belief is 1, 2, 3, it doesn't matter that much. You're going to play great teams.

Falling to the No. 2 seed could come back to haunt the Wildcats.

It is highly likely that Villanova will face No. 7 Connecticut in the third round of the tournament. The Huskies rode their defense to impressive wins down the stretch of the regular season. They did lost to the surging Louisville Cardinals in the AAC tournament; however, they proved that they can still hang with top teams.

With Nova struggling with shotmaking against better defenses, the Huskies will have a great chance to send them home early.

Prediction: Lose in Round 3 to UConn

 

West Region: No. 3 Creighton Bluejays

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Creighton was one of the nations' high-flying teams during the end of the regular season and throughout most of the Big East tournament. After a 65-58 loss at the hands of Providence in the Big East final, however, the Bluejays' weakness was exposed.

Doug McDermott has been fantastic this year. He is easily one of the most electrifying players in college basketball. Unfortunately, he does not have the necessary supporting cast to help him carry the team past tougher opponents.

To put things into perspective, in the loss to Providence, McDermott outscored the rest of the team's starters 27-15.

In the third round of the NCAA tournament, Creighton will likely face a very good Baylor team. Baylor's offense has come alive recently, scoring at least 74 points in five of its last six games.

The team is very well-rounded. Big men Cory Jefferson and Royce O'Neal dominate the boards. Isaiah Austin is great on the interior, while Brady Heslip has been solid from downtown. These players may be too difficult for Creighton to contain, and McDermott may not be able to keep up with them on his own.

Prediction: Lose in Round 3 to Baylor

 

South Region: No. 3 Syracuse Orange

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Syracuse didn't have much of a spectacular finish to the regular season, dropping four of its last six games. The team's downward trend continued in the ACC tournament, as they were bounced early by N.C. State.

The Orange have been relying on their defense for most of the season. Ranking ninth in the nation and allowing an average of 59.5 points per game, they have been solid on this side of the ball.

But the offense just hasn't been good enough. In the team's loss to N.C. State, the Orange offense only shot 32.7 percent from the field, including going just four of 17 from downtown. If Syracuse can't find a way to improve that production, it will exit the NCAA tournament early.

The Orange will probably face No. 6 Ohio State in Round 3 of the tournament. Ohio State has been producing some very solid wins of late. In the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes knocked off Purdue and Nebraska before falling 72-69 to Michigan in a very closely contested final.

Despite taking the loss, the Ohio State offense shot 48.2 percent from the field and made seven of 19 three-point attempts. The team's size was also on display, out-rebounding Michigan 31-26.

Syracuse's defense will provide a big test for the Buckeyes; if the team still can't produce offensively, however, they will fall earlier than expected in the NCAA tournament.

Prediction: Lose in Round 3 to Ohio State

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