Although the opening weekend of March Madness is likely to provide several upsets, there will be a handful of teams immune from the disaster.
For some, the talent on the roster is far too superior to the opposition they will likely face early in the tournament. Meanwhile, others have a favorable draw that shouldn’t prove to be too difficult to maneuver.
All in all, these teams are pretty much guaranteed to be playing in the Sweet 16.
But before we zero in on three of these teams, let’s take a closer look at the bracket.
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South: No. 1 Florida (32-2)
Can anyone slow down the Gators?
Since Dec. 10, the team has been unstoppable. Florida has won each of its last 26 games, including running off a perfect 18-0 record in the SEC, toppling four Top-25 opponents along the way.
Don’t expect the team to impress offensively, as it only ranks No. 181 in scoring (71.0 PPG). However, defensively, the Gators are one of the best in the nation, ranking No. 3 in points allowed (57.9 PPG).
But although No. 1 seeds are a perfect 116-0 in opening games since 1985, don’t expect Florida to take its second-round matchup with Albany easy.
“They definitely can beat us,” forward Casey Prather said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). “Anybody can beat us in this tournament, so we got to be ready from the get go.”
Given that the Great Danes struggle offensively—they only rank No. 287 in scoring (66.0 PPG)—there’s a good chance that the team won’t become only the fourth opponent to crack 70 points against the Gators.
That will likely lead to an easy contest, setting up a third-round matchup against either Colorado or Pittsburgh. And with both teams having stumbled down the stretch, Florida should have no trouble topping either one of them and securing its place in the Sweet 16.
Midwest: No. 4 Louisville (29-5)
The defending-champion Cardinals are another team getting hot at the right time.
Since Feb. 1, Louisville has won 12 of 13 games. That includes wrapping up the AAC tournament title along with ranking in the Top Five in both the AP and Coaches Polls.
However, the team somehow still only managed to be given a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
But as USA Today’s Dan Wolken notes, the seeding could be a blessing in disguise:
Overlooked in all the furor over Louisville’s seed is this: They have a free pass to the Sweet 16 and I’d rather play WSU than UF or Ariz— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 17, 2014
The road to Indianapolis begins with a matchup against Manhattan in the second round. Although the team has won 11 of 12 coming in, the Jaspers also concede points in bunches (70.0 PPG).
That should be their downfall, as the Cardinals rank No. 8 in the nation in scoring (82.1 PPG).
Next up is a battle against the winner of the Saint Louis-North Carolina State contest. Neither team possesses the defense to slow down Louisville’s offense nor the firepower to keep up with it.
East: No. 3 Iowa State (26-7)
The Cyclones should be feeling confident after taking down the Big 12 tournament.
In a conference that is one of the deepest in the entire nation, Iowa State proved its worth as a contender. The team went 8-2 against Top-25 opponents this season and has won eight of 10 entering the tournament.
Sure, the Cyclones won’t stop too many teams defensively—No. 277 in points allowed (73.9 PPG)—however, the team has the offense to make up for it. Thus far, Iowa State has ranked No. 6 in scoring (82.9 PPG) and No. 1 in assists (18.5 APG).
North Carolina State shouldn’t be a problem in the second round. A likely matchup with North Carolina in the round of 32 might be difficult.
Then again, this is the same Tar Heels squad that dropped back-to-back games against Wake Forest and Miami earlier in the season.
Expect the consistency and experience of the Cyclones to take them through to the Sweet 16.