NCAA Tournament 2013: Ranking the Toughest Regions

Sean Bielawski@@SeanBielawskiContributor IIIMarch 17, 2013

NCAA Tournament 2013: Ranking the Toughest Regions

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    The NCAA tournament field was announced Sunday evening, and as is the case every year, there was one region that stood out as the toughest.

    Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga all earned No. 1 seeds, and two of those teams drew some really tough matchups on their way to a Final Four berth.

    Here is a ranking of the toughest regions, based on which No. 1 seed has the most difficult path to the Final Four.

4. West Region

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    Gonzaga earned the top seed in the West Region after its 31-2 record. The Bulldogs clearly had the worst tournament resume of the four No. 1 seeds.

    Gonzaga only has one win over a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, and that came over Kansas State, which is the No. 4 seed in the West Region.

    Ohio State is the No. 2 seed, and the Buckeyes are probably the favorite to win the region considering the way they finished the season.

    New Mexico is the No. 3 seed and has an excellent RPI, ranking second. However, the Lobos do not have a win over a top-four seed in this year’s tournament.

    This could be the region where a team outside the top four seeds will make a run at the Final Four. Wisconsin as the No. 5 seed has to like its draw. Pittsburgh is the No. 8 seed, and Wichita State is the No. 9 seed. Either one could shock the Bulldogs in the round of 32.

3. South Region

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    Kansas earned the No. 1 seed in the South Region, and the Jayhawks’ potential road to the Final Four will go through Kansas City and Arlington, Tex.

    Georgetown is the No. 2 seed and has played well of late. The Hoyas, however, have not made it past the round of 32 since making the Final Four in 2007.

    Florida is the No. 3 seed, but the Gators aren’t scaring anyone these days considering their struggles in close games. Florida is 0-6 this season in games decided by single digits.

    The Jayhawks could have a potential matchup in the Sweet 16 with No. 4 seed Michigan or No. 5 seed VCU. The Wolverines are led by National Player of the Year front-runner Trey Burke. VCU beat Kansas back in 2011 in San Antonio to reach the Final Four.

    North Carolina ended up as a No. 8 seed, and the Tar Heels could pose an interesting matchup with Kansas in the round of 32. Obviously, there is the storyline of Roy Williams going up against his old team, but North Carolina has played well of late since inserting P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup.

2. East Region

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    Indiana did not earn the top overall seed in the tournament, and it cost the Hoosiers a chance to play their Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups in Indianapolis. Now, Indiana is the No. 1 seed in the East Region.

    The road to Atlanta is a tricky one for Indiana, which could be tested early with a possible third-round matchup against No. 8-seed N.C. State or No. 9-seed Temple.

    The No. 2 seed in the East Region is Miami, which is the first team in the history of the ACC to win both an outright regular-season title and conference tournament title yet not earn a No. 1 seed. The Hurricanes very easily could have been a top seed and are a legit threat to win the national title.

    The next three seeds are Marquette at No. 3, Syracuse at No. 4 and UNLV at No. 5. All three of those teams have their limitations and would really need some good fortune to make a Final Four run.

    Butler is the No. 6 seed, and Brad Stevens will be looking to recapture the March Madness magic that propelled the Bulldogs to two straight title-game appearances in 2010 and 2011.

1. Midwest Region

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    Louisville earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, and as its reward, the Cardinals drew, by far, the toughest region of any top seed.

    Duke is the No. 2 seed and looks to be back in early-season form with the return of Ryan Kelly. There was a legitimate argument that the Blue Devils should have been a No. 1 seed. Now, they are the most dangerous No. 2 seed in the tournament.

    Michigan State and Tom Izzo are sitting on the No. 3-seed line. The Spartans have a neutral court win over Kansas, and Izzo’s pedigree in March Madness speaks for itself. He has taken Michigan State to six Final Fours, the last of which came in 2010.

    Outside of the top three, No. 4-seed Saint Louis swept the Atlantic 10 regular season and conference tournament championships. Memphis, the No. 6 seed, did the same in Conference USA as did No. 7 seed Creighton in the Missouri Valley. Oregon is the No. 12 seed despite winning the Pac-12 tournament title.

    Even Oklahoma State, the No. 5 seed in the region, is as talented as any team in the country. Freshman point guard Marcus Smart could be the top pick in June's NBA draft.

    Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA Tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game