The 2013-14 college basketball season was one filled with attrition at the top of the polls, numerous upsets seemingly every weekend and a team from the Missouri Valley Conference, of all places, steamrolling to an undefeated campaign.
Safe to say, the NCAA tournament, which is always one of the most entertaining roller-coaster rides in all of sports, will be unpredictable as well.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
Here is a look at how the overall tournament odds stack up after the bracket was released.
|Odds to win the 2014 NCAA Tournament|
|San Diego State||75/1|
|North Carolina State||1,000/1|
|North Dakota State||1,000/1|
Now that we know who the favorites are, let’s dig into some Final Four predictions.
Final Four Predictions
East Region: Michigan State
Michigan State is a trendy pick to reach the Final Four as the No. 4 seed in the East Region.
In fact, every single person on ESPN’s bracket special selected the Spartans to take home the national title. While that should raise some red flags immediately, there is a reason so many think Michigan State will advance deep in the tournament.
When healthy, there are few teams in the country with the type of talent Tom Izzo has at his disposal. The problem has been health all year, but Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson are all finally together on the court again.
The Spartans cruised to a Big Ten tournament title in Indianapolis, beating Wisconsin and Michigan (who are both No. 2 seeds) along the way, and appear primed to do the same in the Big Dance.
With excellent guards on the perimeter, Payne in the middle and Dawson playing the athletic and versatile stretch forward, the Spartans have impact players at every level of the court. They also play a physical brand of defense that will wear on opponents over the course of 40 minutes.
Expect Michigan State to emerge from the East region.
Midwest Region: Louisville
The defending national champions have won 12 of 13 and rolled to an American Athletic Conference tournament title.
As a result, the fact that Louisville was only given a No. 4 seed on Selection Sunday was certainly surprising to many. Ron Wellman, the chair of the NCAA selection committee, addressed this concern, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
We look at the total body of work, everything they did from November to March. Every time we scrubbed that seed, Louisville ended at the same place every time when compared to the people above them. ... They pass everyone's 'eye test.' They're playing as well right now as anyone in the country. If you look at the last three or four weeks, they probably would've been seeded differently. When you look at the entire season, then it's a little bit different.
Expect the Cardinals to use that momentum from the past three or four weeks to escape from the Midwest region. Jon Greenburg of ESPN Chicago feels this will happen as well:
Between Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell, Rick Pitino has one of the best tandems in the tournament. Louisville also has a championship pedigree, which will show during the tight games that are to come.
South Region: Florida
The Florida Gators have not lost since Dec. 2. That’s 26 wins in a row, a stretch that includes victories over the likes of Kansas, Memphis and Kentucky, three separate times.
What’s more, Florida lost to Wisconsin and Connecticut in closely contested games that it was far from full strength during, thanks to injuries and suspensions.
If there was a favorite heading into this tournament, it would be the Gators.
However, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today points out that it won’t be easy for Billy Donovan’s squad:
That being said, Florida has already proven it can beat Kansas, the No. 2 seed in its bracket, this year, and the No. 3 seed Syracuse Orange are in somewhat of a tailspin. Plus, the combination of Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Michael Frazier III, Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill and Will Yeguete isn’t even fair for opponents.
There is so much talent on the Gators roster that it would take an off night from a handful of players to see an upset occur before the Elite Eight at the very least. That simply isn’t going to happen.
West Region: Wisconsin
Even though Wisconsin is a No. 2 seed, it feels like somewhat of a stretch to pick the Badgers to make the Final Four.
After all, Arizona, Creighton, Oklahoma State and even Oregon litter the West region with talent.
However, the Badgers actually beat two of the No. 1 seeds in the field (Florida and Virginia) and also count victories over Saint Louis, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan to their resume.
What’s more, Bo Ryan has six players who can put the ball in the basket with consistency when called upon, giving him plenty of depth to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Much like Michigan State, the Badgers have talent at every level of the floor. Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes bang around down low (although each is more than capable of coming outside the paint), Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser control the perimeter and Sam Dekker is the athletic forward who can go outside or inside.
The thought here is that Oklahoma State upsets Arizona at the top of the West region, further clearing the path for the Badgers to reach the Final Four.
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