The round of 64 is over, and now that the field at the 2013 NCAA tournament has been cut in half, there are new twists and turns on the road to the Final Four.
There have been several impressive performances thus far in the tournament, and most of the title contenders have proved exactly why they were so highly regarded heading into the tournament.
But other teams have not looked impressive, and although they are still alive, another poor performance will likely send them home.
Here is the road to the Final Four in each region.
Round of 32 Matchups
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 8 Colorado State
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 4 Saint Louis
No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 3 Michigan State
No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 2 Duke
The Road Goes Through Louisville
The top-seeded Cardinals are the popular pick to win the national title this year, but with a daunting No. 2 seed in Duke at the bottom of this region, the Blue Devils have a chance to take over the role of Final Four favorite if Louisville slips up.
For the top two seeds, the round of 64 is all about making a statement. Both teams did this, but Louisville’s statement was much louder. Rick Pitino’s team has the best defense in the country, and the Cardinals proved it with a tournament record of 20 steals against North Carolina A&T.
Duke had a typically efficient offensive performance, but the Blue Devils were not impressive enough to suggest that they have a better chance to get to Atlanta than the Cardinals. For now, Louisville is still the favorite in this region.
The Dark Horse is Saint Louis
After the top-two seeds, the two teams with legitimate shots to make a run to the Final Four are Saint Louis and Michigan State.
The Spartans have the advantage on the bench due to Tom Izzo’s remarkably impressive résumé, but on the court, the Billikens have a better team. Jim Crews’ team plays incredible defense, and it also has a balanced offense.
Michigan State relies on freshman Gary Harris for points, and he was not impressive in the team’s first game. Saint Louis is the better bet to get to Atlanta at this point.
Round of 32 Matchups
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 North Carolina
No. 5 VCU vs. No. 4 Michigan
No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. Florida
No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
The Road Goes Through Florida
Kansas lost its status as the favorite in the South after waiting far too long to pull away from Western Kentucky. This was a poor start to the tournament for the Jayhawks, and the offensive struggles that have plagued them at times this season were apparent in Friday's game.
The Gators, however, showed off their ability on defense and looked like the well-balanced and disciplined team that advanced stats show they are. Florida has been KenPom.com's top-rated team for much of the season and is still at the top of Ken Pomeroy's list.
With Kansas' poor shooting night and Georgetown's flop, the South's road to the Final Four goes through Florida.
The Dark Horse is Michigan
The label of dark horse in this region is nearly a toss-up between Michigan and VCU, who will face off in the round of 32.
The Rams' 46-point demolition showed how explosive this team can be on offense. However, Shaka Smart should have reservations about engaging the Wolverines in a shootout.
Michigan is incredibly talented offensively, and although star point guard Trey Burke took a knock against South Dakota State, he will be fine for his team's next game. While the winner of the upcoming game between these two teams will ultimately prove who the true dark horse is, the Wolverines get the slight edge for now due to their talent advantage over VCU.
Round of 32 Matchups
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Wichita State
No. 12 Ole Miss vs. No. No. 13 La Salle
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 14 Harvard
No. 10 Iowa State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
The Road Goes Through Ohio State
There were serious doubts about Gonzaga’s ability to reach the Final Four since they played a soft schedule this season, and those doubts were confirmed in the team’s opening game.
While other No. 1 seeds were busy beating up their opponents, the Bulldogs struggled against Southern and came away with just a six-point victory. This leaves Mark Few’s team with plenty to prove, and until they deliver a better performance, No. 2 Ohio State is the favorite to win the region.
The Buckeyes pounded No. 15 Iona in their tournament opener, and although their offense struggled at times during the regular season, they managed to score 95 points. This team has the best chance to be the West’s representative in Atlanta.
The Dark Horse is Arizona
This was already the weakest region in the field, and the potential contenders dropped like flies in the round of 64. No. 3 New Mexico fell to No. 14 Harvard, No. 4 Kansas State was ousted by No. 13 La Salle and No. 5 Wisconsin was upset by No. 12 Ole Miss.
If Gonzaga and Ohio State are unable to take care of business, Arizona has the best chance to get out of the West. The Wildcats have a talented squad after bringing in a loaded freshman class, but the young players have yet to make their mark.
If this team plays up to its potential, it is entirely capable of making a surprise run to the Final Four.
Round of 32 Matchups
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 9 Temple
No. 12 California vs. no. 4 Syracuse
No. 6 Butler vs. No. 3 Marquette
No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 2 Miami
The Road Goes Through Indiana
Other than Louisville, Indiana is regarded as the best team in this tournament. The Hoosiers did nothing to dispel that notion in their opening game.
Tom Crean’s team went about its business in a calculated and efficient way, shooting 52.7 percent from the field against James Madison. While No. 2 Miami has a strong team, Indiana needed to slip up in its tournament opener for the Hurricanes to become the favorite.
There were no signs in the round of 64 that would suggest that the Hoosiers’ Final Four hopes are in jeopardy.
The Dark Horse is Syracuse
The Orange had their ups and downs during the regular season, but the team could not have started the tournament any better. No. 4 Syracuse delivered the beatdown of the tournament thus far with a 47-point victory over No. 13 Montana.
No. 3 Marquette did not look ready for a deep run when it just barely squeaked by No. 14 Davidson in its tournament debut, and No. 5 UNLV was upset by No. 12 Cal.
No. 6 Butler should not be counted out as long as Brad Stevens is on the sideline, but after Syracuse’s incredible performance to start the tournament, the Orange have the edge among the dark horses in the East.
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