March Madness 2013 Bracket: Predicting Exit Rounds for Cinderella Stories

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIMarch 28, 2013

Mar 24, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Florida Gulf Coast Eagles players huddle before the start of game against San Diego State in the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports
Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

The Sweet 16 round is just around the corner, and if you're like me, your 2013 March Madness bracket has already been decimated.

It has certainly been a year for Cinderella stories. Three Sweet 16 teams have double-digit seeds, and there's still a No. 6 and No. 9 seed in the field.

But now things are getting down to the best of the best, and the good mojo could be running out for these improbable runs.

Looking toward the future, here are some predictions for when the good times come to an end for the remaining Cinderella stories.

Oregon Ducks: Sweet 16

Oregon came into this tournament as a team much more deserving than its 12th seed. Anyone who doubts that just needs to look at what the Ducks have done so far in March.

Not only did they beat underrated Oklahoma State, they also walloped red-hot St. Louis—a team that looked unstoppable heading into the tournament.

Oregon's strong run could soon come to a halt, as it will stare down top-seeded Louisville in its Sweet 16 matchup Saturday.

The big difference for Oregon to this point has been defense. The Ducks have 83 rebounds, nine steals and seven blocked shots through their first two games. Opponents have been held to 56 points a game.

But then there's Louisville and Russ Smith. The junior guard is averaging 21 points a game in the tournament while shooting 54.8 percent from the field.

Senior forward Arsalan Kazemi has done great things for Oregon (33 rebounds in the tournament), but the Cardinals have the depth in the paint to eliminate his influence.

That's not to mention that Louisville is more rested after topping its first two opponents by a combined score of 57 points.

The Ducks are a great team, and they deserve to have gotten this far. With that said, Louisville is a team that's just as hot, just as confident and—at the end of the day—is just too good to beat.

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles: Elite Eight

Now that the tournament is in full swing, no one is sleeping on Florida Gulf Coast.

The Eagles have been one of the most fun teams to watch this March, as they continue to pull off improbable win after improbable win.

FGCU's biggest opponent has yet to come, as this year's biggest Cinderella story is set to take on the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16.

That matchup presents some interesting storylines. As reported by CBS Sports' Lyle Fitzsimmons, many of the players on FGCU's squad are Orlando natives who never drew the eye of Florida when it came to recruiting.

That definitely gives the Eagles some locker room material.

The big issue for FGCU will be scoring against Florida's defense. The Gators had the NCAA's third-best defense this year, allowing just 53.8 points a game. Opponents have averaged 55.5 in the tournament against the Gators' shutdown defense.

But the Eagles have already beaten top defenses, having topped Georgetown and San Diego State in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Needless to say, Florida does not represent that big of a challenge for a team as fired up and confident as Florida Gulf Coast.

As long as the Eagles do get to the Elite Eight, that's where things get tricky. Their opponent would be either Kansas or Michigan, two programs playing great so far.

Florida is a team that has been inconsistent this season and dropped big games. Kansas and Michigan are definitely more sound and pose a much bigger challenge for FGCU.

While the Eagles will find a way to top Florida, it's doubtful they make it into the Final Four.

La Salle Explorers: Elite Eight

La Salle has been another big Cinderella story, and you can definitely consider its Sweet 16 opponent (ninth-seeded Wichita State) in that same grouping.

Both teams have come up with huge wins in the early goings of the tournament.

La Salle topped Boise State, Kansas State and underrated Mississippi to get to the Sweet 16. Wichita State decimated Pittsburgh and escaped Gonzaga to get through its first two rounds.

Now both teams will square off on Friday, bringing one Cinderella story to a close.

The Shockers offense looked unstoppable against Gonzaga, going 14-of-26 from three-point range. That's a scary stat and one that could give La Salle troubles.

But the Explorers are no slouch on offense either. Senior guard Ramon Galloway has 64 points through La Salle's first three games and is shooting 52 percent from beyond the arc.

This should be an epic game offensively, and it will certainly be a close one. But even with Wichita State's win over Gonzaga, La Salle is more battle tested and will find a way to reach the Elite Eight.

After that it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Explorers continue their run. They would be staring down either Arizona or Ohio State in the Elite Eight, and both teams are just too talented to lose.

It's been a nice run for both La Salle and Wichita State, but there's no way either team makes it into the Final Four.

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