March Madness will be in full swing this week, as the 2013 NCAA Tournament officially gets underway on Tuesday.
Sixty-eight teams have a chance to win the national championship, starting with the four first-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Several teams seem to have a good chance of reaching the Final Four due to an absence of dominant teams this year. The Top 25 has changed week to week, with the No.1 team losing every week for over a month.
Below are predicted winners for each region, as well the Final Four in April.
It’s not hard to see why the Cardinals were chosen as the top overall seed in the tournament. Louisville finished the regular season tied with Georgetown and Marquette for the best record in the Big East, which is probably the best conference in the country.
Other than a three-game losing streak in late January, the Cardinals have been virtually unbeatable. All of their losses came to tournament teams, and none of their five defeats came by more than nine points. Duke was the only non-conference loss on Louisville’s schedule.
Not only is Louisville’s overall body of work as impressive as anybody’s, but it would be hard to find a team that is currently playing better. The Cardinals have won their last 10 games, including six in a row against teams in the field of 68.
Louisville is comprised of mostly veterans, led by juniors Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith. Senior Peyton Siva is second on the team with 31.4 minutes per game, and unlike last year’s Kentucky team that won the title, they don’t rely on any freshman.
The Cardinals don’t have an easy draw to the Final Four. With teams like Duke, Michigan State and Saint Louis in their bracket, Louisville could have a few close calls on their way to Atlanta. However, Rick Pitino’s club probably has the best chance to cut down the nets on April 8.
West: New Mexico
The No.3 seed Lobos have been one of the most consistent teams in the nation all season long. At 29-5, New Mexico never suffered two losses consecutively, and fell to Air Force by one point in their only loss to a team that didn’t make the tourney.
Despite not playing in one of the major conferences, New Mexico showed that they can hang with the best teams in the country. They won all of their games against ranked opponents, defeating Connecticut, Cincinnati, UNLV, and Colorado State when they were ranked in the top 25. The lobos are also undefeated when playing on a neutral court.
New Mexico is very deep, with nine players averaging over 14 minutes per contest. They also have seven-footer Alex Kirk in the middle, with whom most teams will have trouble matching up against.
Gonzaga has the top seed in the region, but the club has shown in recent years that it is prone to upsets. Usually one of the best teams in the country, Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1999, but always failed to reach the Final Four. Ohio State may stand in the Lobos way, but New Mexico has a good chance to represent the West in Atlanta.
Before their overtime loss to Syracuse in the Big East Tournament, the Hoyas had been playing just about as well as anyone. Suffering just two losses in the past two months, Georgetown has proven that they are a legitimate threat to win their first title since 1984.
Georgetown certainly isn’t without its weaknesses. They are just 247th in Division 1 basketball in both scoring and rebounding, and lost to 12-19 USF. Still the Hoyas are a tough matchup for any team.
Otto Porter Jr. is one of the best players in the tournament. The sophomore is averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on 49 percent shooting from the field. At 6’8, he’s extremely athletic and probably the team’s best defender. He helps lead a defense that allowed 50 or fewer points on 10 different occasions.
Along with Porter, Markel Starks can be deadly from behind the arc, hitting 42 percent of his three-pointers. Since the suspension of Greg Whittington, only six Hoya players play a significant number of minutes each game. Georgetown may not be the deepest team in the South, but their core is as good as anyone’s.
The region may be the second-most difficult. No.1 seed Kansas and No.3 seed Florida are considered two of the favorites to be crowned champions. Being the No.2 seed, though, should give them a fairly easy draw to, at least, the Sweet Sixteen.
The Hoosiers have hovered around the top of the polls for the entire 2013-2013 college basketball season. The club has had a few missteps of late, losing three of their last six, but their wins against the likes of North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State make their resume as good as any in the country.
Indiana has proven to be an offensive juggernaut, averaging 80 points per game. They have deadly shooters in Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. Junior Victor Oladipo is as efficient as they come, scoring 13.6 points a game on 60 percent shooting.
Cody Zeller might be the top player in the country. Averaging 16.9 points and 8.2 rebounds, few teams will be able to contain the seven-foot sophomore.
Miami may be the biggest threat to Indiana’s quest for a championship. The Hurricanes, seemingly, played well enough to earn a No.1 seed, finishing with the best record in the ACC and winning the conference tournament.
Still, Indiana has proven all year that they are one of the best teams in the country. The may have the most talent of any team in the field, and will have a good chance to make their first national championship game in a decade.
Final Four Prediction: Indiana 70, Louisville 63