2013 March Madness Predictions: Vulnerable Higher Seeds
by Trevor Whenham - 3/18/2013
The NCAA Tournament can crush the souls of fans better than almost anything else on the planet. A team can play all season to secure a good seeding only to see their season evaporate in seconds thanks to a lucky shot, bad play, or an upstart Cinderella. The fans of these four teams should brace themselves for potential frustration earlier in this tournament than they are hoping for.
2013 March Madness predictions: Vulnerable higher seeds
Duke Blue Devils
I don’t like this Blue Devils team at all. Why? Let me count the ways. First, this is the team that lost to Lehigh the last time they were a No. 2 seed in this tournament — just last year. More recently, they had everything in front of them waiting to be claimed — the ACC Championship, a No. 1 seed locked down tight, momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament, and more. All they had to do was to beat Maryland — a team that just isn’t very good this year. Not only did they lose the game, they got dominated. That’s a big concern — just like the first loss at Maryland and the losses at Virginia and N.C. State were. Perhaps most significantly, they are lousy offensive rebounders, and that can haunt teams in March. I just don’t believe that this team is built to win, and the prospect of running into Creighton and Michigan State within their first three games makes it very hard for me to believe that the squad is going to make the second half of the tournament.
I love the Wolverines more than anything beyond my wife and son, so it kills me to put them on this list. There’s no avoiding it, though. They have been just plain terrible recently. They lost to Penn State — a team that was 0-14 in conference play heading into the game. They made a rematch against the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten Tournament look much tougher than it should have been. Their loss to Wisconsin in the second round of that tournament was just a disgusting mess. The team looked so incredibly good early in February. Since then, though, they have forgotten how to play defense, their shooting has become mind-numbingly inconsistent, and outside of Trey Burke there isn’t a player who can be counted on for a consistent effort. They hit a wall. If they were to play like they are capable of, then the South Region is theirs for the taking. As easily, though, they could lose to South Dakota State and freakish guard Nate Wolters in the opener or to tournament savant Shaka Smart and his VCU squad in the second game. I just don’t trust them. After all, they were a four seed last year as well, and they lost to Ohio in their opener.
Defensively this team is about as good as any in the tournament. Otto Porter is a great player who is really coming into his own, too. Still, I don’t trust this team. For starters, they lost two of their last four games — at Villanova and against Syracuse — and I wasn’t a fan of the way they lost either game. Of more concern, they can’t score reliably and they can’t rebound. That means that they can find themselves in a hole that can be tough to climb out of. They are obviously talented — they beat Louisville, and that’s the best team in this tournament in my eyes. Florida Gulf Coast, San Diego State or Oklahoma, and Florida are all tough matchups, though, and success against any of them isn’t guaranteed. There are other teams I like much better than this team, though.
New Mexico Lobos
Let me say up front that I love this New Mexico team, and I think they really have the potential to be a Final Four team. They are really, really good. They also have an absolutely brutal slate of potential opponents. Siyani Chambers of Harvard is a very good freshman point guard who is rapidly improving. Arizona is slumping but wildly-talented. Belmont is extremely dangerous. Ohio State is the last team standing from the brutally-tough Big Ten. Notre Dame is good. Iowa State is probably even better. There just isn’t an easy game on the horizon. There isn’t a game there that the Lobos can’t win. There are several that could trip them up if they aren’t on their game, though. Remember, as good as this team is, they did lose at home to South Dakota State, so they can be vulnerable to a decent time with a stud player that gets hot at the right time.
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