2013 NCAA Tournament: The Top 16 Teams

final4The last 25 NCAA Tournament Champions have been seeded 1-4, so odds are, one of the sixteen teams with a four seed or better will cut down the nets in the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Atlanta. Here, we analyze each of the 16 top teams in the 2013 field.

 

MIDWEST REGION

#1 Louisville (29-5, Big East Champions)- Led by senior guard Peyton Siva and All-American candidate Russ Smith, the Cardinals again have a #1 seed in the Tournament. Louisville has won ten straight and thirteen of their last fourteen, and their dynamic second half against Syracuse in the Big East Championship could give the Cardinals the extra momentum they need to make it to their second straight Final Four.

#2 Duke (27-5, ACC at-large)- Duke is again primed for a deep NCAA Tournament run this year. Their senior trio of Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry provide the Blue Devils with a balanced, dynamic offense and invaluable leadership. Duke defeated four Top-5 teams this season, but lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament to Maryland. Nevertheless, as long as Duke plays consistent, look for the Blue Devils to make the Final Four.

#3 Michigan State (25-8, Big Ten at-large)- If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the NCAA Tournament, it’s to never doubt Tom Izzo. He has coached six teams to Final Fours at Michigan State, and his teams consistently compete well in March. Maybe there’s not as much firepower on this year’s team, but the Spartans could turn some heads.

#4 Saint Louis (27-6, Atlantic 10 Champions)- There was some uncertainty when former coach Rick Majerus announced a leave of absence to care for his health, but the Bilikens surprised many this season. Playing in a difficult Atlantic 10 Conference with Butler and VCU, Saint Louis went 13-3 in conference play and won the A-10 Title on Sunday. Rick Majerus isn’t to see his team play this postseason, but his spirit and memory will certainly motivate Saint Louis in a difficult Midwest Region.

WEST REGION

#1 Gonzaga (31-2, WCC Champions)- Head coach Mark Few has built a perennially strong program at Gonzaga, regarded as the best among mid-major schools. This season was one of the most successful for the Bulldogs, with 31 wins, an undefeated conference record, and multiple wins against power conference schools. Led by 7-foot junior forward Kelly Olynyk, the Bulldogs earned their first number one seed in school history. Look for Gonzaga to go far in this tournament.

#2 Ohio State (26-7, Big Ten Champions)- Ohio State continues its string of successful seasons in 2013 by capturing the Big Ten Championship. Led by juniors DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes have quietly been a stifling team on the defensive side of the ball. Each of Ohio State’s seven losses were to AP Top-20 teams, so the Buckeyes have faced their fair share of competition. Ohio State gets its first two games in the state of Ohio, but then travels a long way to the West Regional site in Los Angeles.
#3 New Mexico (29-5, Mountain West Champions)- New Mexico is this year’s big mystery in the NCAA Tournament. You can’t argue with a 29-5 record, nor with a 3-0 record against Top-25 teams. They have the second best RPI ranking in college basketball as well. But they didn’t play an overly difficult schedule (their biggest wins are UConn and Cincinnati), and that could hurt them in March.
#4 Kansas State (27-7, Big 12 at-large)- As long as the Wildcats don’t play Kansas (0-3 vs. Kansas), they should be fine this March. Coach Bruce Weber has coached a team to the Final Four (Illinois, 2005) before, and could do it again this year with  veteran leadership in senior guard Rodney McGruder. They will play their first two games close to home in Kansas City, MO.

 

EAST REGION

#1 Indiana (27-6, Big Ten at-large)- Indiana perhaps has the most dynamic player in the nation in guard Victor Oladipo, but also have All-American caliber players in Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. Indiana has a top-five offense in Division I basketball, and is 7-2 against Top-25 foes this year. Indiana has depth, poise, and all the pieces necessary to win a national championship.

#2 Miami (27-6, ACC Champions)- What a season for the Miami Hurricanes! Led by seniors Kenny Kadji and Durand Scott and sophomore Shane Larkin, the Hurricanes won the ACC Championship in 2013, and went 6-1 against Duke, North Carolina, and NC State this year. Jim Larranaga will hope to return to the Final Four once again (he coached George Mason in 2006), and if Miami had any season to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, it’s right now.

#3 Marquette (23-8, Big East at-large)- Marquette has to be one of the most underrated programs in college basketball. They quietly went 14-4 in the Big East this year, earning a share of the conference crown. However, the Golden Eagles have some very bad losses (at Green Bay, Florida by 33) and have a sub-.500 record away from home. But you can’t root against a player with the name Vander Blue, can you?
#4 Syracuse (26-9, Big East at-large)- Syracuse is a team with many puzzling characteristics. Jim Boeheim is one of the best coaches in history, but has led a Syracuse team to the Final Four since 2003. The Orange lost four starters from last season to the NBA, but their 2-3 zone defense still earned them 26 wins this year. There might not be enough offensive power on this Orange squad to make the Final Four, however.

 

SOUTH REGION

#1 Kansas (29-5, Big 12 Champions)- Senior forward Jeff Withey and freshman guard Ben McLemore give the Jayhawks a dangerous one-two punch. But outside those two players, there isn’t much depth for Kansas. But they rank fifth in RPI, and have made the Sweet Sixteen in six of Bill Self’s nine seasons as coach. Lock in Kansas for at least two wins.

#2 Georgetown (25-6, Big East at-large)- They don’t play the most exciting or dynamic style of basketball, but you can’t deny John Thompson III’s system works at Georgetown. The Hoyas are 6-2 against Top-25 teams, and Otto Porter Jr. is one of the best guards in the country. Georgetown is looking for their first Final Four appearance since 2008.

#3 Florida (26-7, SEC at-large)- Four Gators are averaging ten points per game this season, and Billy Donovan has regained control of the SEC with Kentucky struggling this season. Florida is ranked 6th in RPI, and hasn’t left the Top-15 in the AP Poll this year. With depth and great team chemistry, the Gators could make the Final Four in 2013.

#4 Michigan (26-7, Big Ten at-large)- The Wolverines impressed many this season with the best backcourt combination in college basketball (Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.), and even earned a #1 ranking in February.They are 13-1 in non-conference games this year, but only 9-6 away from Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have a tough road to Atlanta, but could make it to the Final Four if Burke and Hardaway step up.

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