March Madness 2013: No. 1 Seeds with Easiest Paths to the Finals

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIMarch 19, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16:  Wayne Blackshear (C) #20 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates with teammates after they won 78-61 against the Syracuse Orange during the final of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 16, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Selection Sunday is over, meaning 2013 March Madness is officially underway. Whether you're a fan of bracketology, or just a fan of the game, this is hands down one of the best times of the year.

Looking toward this year's field of play, there are four very deserving No. 1 seeds. Ranging from Kansas in the south to Louisville in the Midwest, each top seed faces its own unique set of challenges on the way to the finals.

With nothing secure, and inevitable upsets aplenty, here's a look at which No. 1s have the easiest—and hardest—paths on the way to the NCAA tournament Final Four.

4. Kansas

Having closed out the regular season on a three-game win streak—including the Big 12 conference tournament finals victory over Kansas State—Kansas finds itself as the No. 1 seed in the south.

And even though the Jayhawks are one of the most well-rounded teams in the tournament, their path to the finals is all but clear.

This year's southern region has some of the biggest underdogs of the tournament, and Kansas is bound to pass through some of them.

Immediately its path to the Sweet Sixteen could be marred by highly underrated No. 8 UNC, or big time sleeper No. 5 VCU.

Not to mention the south is filled with some of the tournament's toughest defenses, from No. 2 Georgetown down to No. 11 Minnesota. All of which are capable of derailing Kansas' season.

The Jayhawks have won some big games this season, but nothing is certain in the southern region. If their fire starts to cool down at all, it will make them one of the most upset-prone teams in the tourney.

3. Gonzaga

When it comes to tying a bow on the end of the regular season, Gonzaga did just that. It enters the NCAA tournament on a 14-game winning streak.

While some may argue the West Coast conference leaves the Bulldogs untested, they did have big out-of-conference wins over Davidson, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

But even so, the path to the Finals is filled with trap games for Gonzaga. Any road to the Elite Eight will likely run through No. 8 Pittsburgh, No. 5 Wisconsin, or even No. 12 Ole Miss, all of which are huge tournament sleepers.

Looking for a spot in the Final Four, the Bulldogs could have to face the hot handed No. 3 New Mexico, or the defensively savvy Big Ten conference tournament champion Ohio State.

At first glance, the west doesn't appear too challenging, but it's filled with plenty of pit holes. If Gonzaga takes its opponents likely, the team is destined for an early tournament exit.

2. Indiana

It hasn't been the most graceful end of the season for Indiana, but the Hoosiers enter the tournament as a No. 1 seed in the east.

Looking toward their path to the finals, the Hoosiers seem a virtual lock for the Elite Eight.

Their most difficult opponents could be No. 5 UNLV, or No. 4 Syracuse. But the Rebels don't have nearly the firepower to keep up with the Hoosiers, and the Orange have been too inconsistent against top-level teams.

Attaining Final Four status will be the big challenge in the east.

Ever dangerous is No. 2 Miami, whose blend of stout defense, youthful energy, veteran leadership and shining confidence could be too much to handle for any team.

And assuming Miami gets knocked out early, there are still plenty of tough underdogs, so nothing is certain for Indiana. No. 6 Butler, No. 7 Illinois or even No. 14 Davidson could all see to that.

Still, the Hoosiers have the ability to put up a lot of points against anyone, which makes them a dangerous team in the east. If unchallenged by Miami, a trip to the Final Four is very likely.

1. Louisville

The Cardinals enter the tournament the top seeded team in the country, and they could have a cake walk into the NCAA finals.

Louisville's biggest challenge could come in the Sweet 16, where a showdown with No. 4 Saint Louis seems inevitable.

The Billikens look unstoppable, going undefeated over the season's final two months. They dominated the Atlantic 10 conference tournament, winning all three games by an average of 11.3 points.

However, as long as the Cardinals can get through that game, it's likely they'll be Final Four bound.

The biggest threat in the Elite Eight would be a team like No. 3 Michigan State, whose defense has been giving teams real fits lately.

But the Spartans have had issues closing out big games this season, which is why they have two losses to both Ohio State and Indiana.

While No. 2 Duke also poses a threat—the Blue Devils beat the Cardinals earlier this season—it has struggled throughout the season's final month, while Louisville has the hot hand.

It's not a surefire bet, but if any No. 1 seed is going to make the finals—or at least the Final Four—it's bound to be Louisville.

Keep up with all the NCAA action using these printable and live brackets.

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


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