The 2013 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is about to commence and it’s another year of March Madness.
Last year’s national champion, the Kentucky Wildcats, failed to make the tournament this year, ending with a dismal 21-11 record. The Wildcats were without star player in Nerlens Noel, who tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in a game against the Florida Gators.
The overall number one seed this year has been awarded to the Louisville Cardinals (29-5) who had a furious comeback against the Syracuse Orange in the Big East Conference championship to secure the top seed. According to the Bleacher Report, a top sports website, grants a 3-1 odd for the Cardinals winning the National Championship, but of course, that’s what March is for.
The Oregon Ducks (26-8) made the tournament for the first time since 2008 and were given a 12 seed by the NCAA committee; a disappointment to Duck fans throughout the nation. Oregon will take on Oklahoma State (24-8, five seed) in San Jose, California Mar. 21 at 1:45 p.m.
Oregon fans have a good reason to be upset with their seeding. The Ducks beat UCLA (25-9) both times this season, including the Pac-12 Championship game. They also beat Arizona (25-7) and both teams were awarded a six seed. Oregon did have a few bad losses at home to the University of Colorado, University of California and a road loss to Utah.
In fact, Oregon is 3-0 against top 25 teams and is considered to be one of the most balanced scoring offenses in the country. Oregon does have a good chance against Oklahoma State though; in the last 27 years, a fifth seed has beaten a 12th seed 24 times.
Many around the country have been questioning the Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-2) number one seed, as they did not have a very difficult conference schedule. Losses to Illinois and Butler aren’t disastrous, but definitely cause concern considering Butler is a six seed (26-8) and the Fighting Illini are a seven seed (22-12). The Bulldogs have reached the NCAA Tournament for the 15th year in a row, and is tied for the seventh longest streak in NCAA history.
The Ohio State Buckeyes (26-7, two seed) join the Bulldogs in the West Region after winning the Big Ten Championship game 50-43 over the rival Wisconsin Badgers (23-11). It was the Buckeyes’ third Big Ten title in four years. Nothing Ohio State does blows people away, but the defense hasn’t allowed their opponents to score more than 60 points in over a month, and we all know “defense wins championships”. The Buckeye’s leading scorer is junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who averaged 19.5 points per game along with 6.2 rebounds per game.
A team that took the country by surprise is the New Mexico Lobos (29-5) and were awarded a number three seed in the West Region. They won the Mountain West Conference title but face a difficult schedule in the tournament. A win against fourteenth seed Harvard (19-9) would most likely lead to a game against the sixth seed Arizona Wildcats (25-7), who played inconsistent throughout the season, with wins against Florida (26-7) and Miami (27-6).
It’s impressive until you see the Wildcats lost to UCLA three times (on the road and at home and in the Pac-12 Tournament), USC on the road and against California at home. Back to New Mexico, if they beat Arizona, they have to play against Ohio State but will play in Los Angeles; prime-time for an upset considering New Mexico is much closer to LA than Ohio is.
The Kansas Jayhawks were awarded the number one seed in the South region which is predicted to be one of the more difficult sections. Who could say otherwise? The region includes North Carolina (24-10, eight seed), Villanova (20-13 nine seed) who has been known to upset a lot of teams in the past, Virginia Commonwealth (26-8, five seed) who can upset just about anyone in the country, Michigan (26-7 four seed), Florida (26-7, three seed) and Georgetown (25-6, two seed) who is entering the tournament winners of the last 13-15 games.
One of the more intriguing matchups in the South region is between the Michigan Wolverines and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (25-9, 13 seed). In terms of mascots, the Wolverines win easily; but fortunately, it’s determined on the hardwood, not students in oversized Halloween outfits. The Jackrabbits are led by senior guard Nate Wolters who averaged 22.7 points per game along with 5.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Michigan on the other hand is led by sophomore guard Trey Burke. Burke averaged 19.2 points per game to go along with 6.7 assists. The Wolverines are ninth in the country in field goal percentage (48%) and 27th in scoring (75.2 points per game). The game will be held in Auburn Hills, Michigan, giving the Wolverines a virtual home game. Despite that, it should be a fun game to watch.
Preseason number one, Indiana, was granted the number one seed in the East but didn’t quite live up to nation expectations. Indiana lost to Butler, Wisconsin, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Wisconsin again in the Big Ten tournament. The losses aren’t devastating considering the fact that all of those teams made it to the tournament.
One of the matchups to keep in mind is the Colorado Buffaloes (21-11, ten seed) and the Illinois Fighting Illini (22-12, seven seed). The Buffaloes had good wins against Oregon (twice) and Arizona (at home) but had other head-scratching losses to Oregon State (not in the tournament) and Wyoming (also not in the tournament). Colorado has a very tough, grind-it-out type of game and can definitely beat Illinois. The Fighting Illini have proven they can perform in late game situations against big teams such as Indiana, but that was one of their few good wins. This game could be close, and it will surely be interesting to see who comes out on top.
As confusing as this all may be, that’s what March is for; to determine a champion. Being able to beat someone on paper means nothing, this is win or go home.