2013 NCAA Tournament Bracket Predictions: Midwest Region
by Robert Ferringo - 3/18/2013
The Louisville Cardinals earned the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed By virtue of being the best team from the best conference in college basketball. But that top seed is certainly a paper crown. And, if the Cardinals want to earn back-to-back Final Four appearances, they will have to fight their way through potential matchups with Top 10 staples Duke or Michigan State.
Here are Doc’s Sports NCAA Tournament bracket predictions for the Midwest (Indianapolis) Region:
No. 1 Seed: Louisville (29-5 Straight-Up, 20-14 ATS)
I scoffed at the Cardinals when they began the year as a Top 3 team in just every preseason ranking. After all, the Cardinals were a middle tier Big East team last yearbefore getting hot in March en route to the Final Four. But this team has definitely opened my eyes over the last two months. The best thing about the Cardinals is that they can match up with any type of system or style. They have two very good guards in (overrated) veteran Peyton Siva and explosive (for good or ill) Russ Smith. They can hold up inside against anyone with a frontcourt of Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan and Montrez Harrell. And they have athletic wing Wayne Blackshear to counter up-tempo teams and savvy wing Luke Hancock to provide outside aggressiveness. The Cardinals are outstanding defensively, they are amorphous offensively, and they have the experience and confidence of a team that played in the Final Four last year. They are not unbeatable – although they have won 10 straight – but they are the most complete, balanced team in the field.
Louisville Prediction: I have a hard time seeing the Cardinals falling prior to the Elite Eight, although Colorado State could be tricky in the second round. But, if Louisville wins three games, they will likely have to topple Duke in a rematch of a game the Blue Devils won 76-71 in November, or Michigan State, whom the Cardinals manhandled 57-44 last year in the Sweet 16. Regardless, I like Louisville’s odds of making it to Atlanta.
No. 2 Seed: Duke (27-5 SU, 17-15 ATS)
College basketball fans, both diehard and fair-weather, still expect greatness from the Blue Devils. But people just refuse to accept that the Duke teams of the 2000s are simply not as dominant as the ones from the 1990s. This year’s group is no exception. Mason Plumlee is an all-American, Seth Curry is a veteran scorer with pedigree, and Ryan Kelly is one of the best stretch-four players in the nation. But neither that trio of Devils, nor their underclassmen counterparts, are capable of physically dominating opponents. Duke is, essentially, a four-out, one-in offensive team that has an unbalanced amount of its offense generated from the three-point line. In a sense, they are a slightly different version of Florida. That’s not a bad thing. Duke has been a Top 5 team all year, and they have wins over Louisville, Ohio State and Miami. But the Blue Devils are still ripe for an upset against more athletic opponents or foes that can either outshoot them from the perimeter or thump them on the inside.
Duke Prediction: Last year I predicted an early exit for the Blue Devils, and they were humiliated in Round 1 in a loss to Lehigh. I won’t make the same prediction because this year’s team has the benefit of a healthy Kelly. But Duke likely will not cut down the nets in Atlanta this year even though a lot of people will get roped into picking them in their brackets.
No. 3 Seed: Michigan State (25-8 SU, 12-16 ATS)
The Spartans have been a bit under-the-radar all season long. Or at least as “under-the-radar” as a Top 10 team can be. Teams like Indiana and Michigan got more love in the Big Ten, and Ohio State won the league title. But Michigan State was just a step behind the entire season, and they beat two of those three opponents. The Spartans have a massive frontcourt led by dump trucks Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix. They have excellent wings in Gary Harris and Branden Dawson, and Sparty enjoys the wiles of coach Tom Izzo. But this team is almost solely dependent on point guard Keith Appling to run the show. Appling is good but not great, and he has been hot and cold all season. He is really the only ball handling option on the team. The Spartans are 0-4 the last four times he has scored less than 10 points in a game, and they are 11-1 the last 12 times he notched 10 or more. There may not be more of a bellwether player in the nation.
Michigan State Prediction: The Spartans reached the Sweet 16 last season and should do so again this year. But the tournament is won and lost on the strength of guard play, and Michigan State simply doesn’t have a good enough backcourt. There is just one senior (Nix) in the rotation for this team. So this year’s tournament disappointment may set up something big for next season.
No. 4 Seed: St. Louis (27-6 SU, 21-10 ATS)
The Billikens have been the best bet in college basketball for the past two months. St. Louis is 15-1 straight up and 14-2 against the spread in their last 16 games, and this team has been riding one of the most emotional waves of any program in the country. The death of former coach Rick Majerus midseason has really galvanized this team. And the veteran Billikens have been playing with abandon ever since. St. Louis has a bevy of upperclassmen talent, including streaky seniors Cody Ellis and Kwamain Mitchell. The Billikens are a little light on the interior and not very fast. But they have outstanding chemistry and know their systems and schemes inside and out. Dwayne Evans has been a breakout player for them, and they have speedy guards that can defend anyone. If Mitchell and Ellis are hot, this team will be around for a while.
St. Louis Prediction: I am always wary of mid-major teams that receive seeds of No. 4 or higher. St. Louis is no different. They are playing exceptional basketball and are impossible to bet against right now. But I have a hard time predicting their upside as anything better than a Sweet 16 berth.
No. 5 Seed: Oklahoma State (26-8 SU, 15-14 ATS)
The Cowboys are one of the youngest teams in the NCAA Tournament field, ranking No. 327 in the country in terms of experience. But they are supremely talented and are a dangerous team in this bracket. Freshman point guard Marcus Smart and sophomore wing Le’Bryan Nash are both future NBA players and combine for 29.5 points per game. Junior leaper Markel Brown chips in another 15.2 points for a Cowboys attack that averages 72.4 points per game. Size has been a problem for years for OSU. But Phil Jurick and Michael Cobbins have done yeoman’s work propping up a thin frontcourt. They hold down the paint so the trio of guards can control the game. Oklahoma State throttled Akron, Tennessee and N.C. State in San Juan to win a neutral site tournament this year. They nearly beat Gonzaga, won at Kansas, and they haven’t had a bad loss since early December.
Oklahoma State Prediction: It’s tough to really gauge what this team is capable of. They have an extraordinarily difficult draw in their opening pod, and their two projected opponents, Oregon and St. Louis, have infinite more experience than the Cowboys. Either the youth or the limited frontcourt should keep this team from advancing past the opening weekend.
No. 6 Seed: Memphis (30-4 SU, 15-16 ATS)
Memphis had about as quiet of a 30-win season as you can have. And I can almost guarantee that if John Calipari were still coaching this team they would’ve been in the Top 10 or 15 most of the season. Instead, this Tigers team has lurked outside the Top 25 most of the year thanks to a nondescript schedule that was devoid of any big wins. Memphis plays fast and loose and leans heavily on sensational lead guard Joe Jackson. He averages 13.6 points and 4.8 assists on a team with four double-digit scorers and three players with 100 or more assists. This is a balanced team that ranks in the Top 35 in scoring, field goal shooting and three-point shooting. But the Tigers were not tested in Conference USA this year and went 0-3 this year against teams in the Top 50, including blowout losses to VCU and Minnesota in the Bahamas back in November.
Memphis Prediction: I’m not a huge fan of this Memphis team and I think they have the potential to be upset in their first game. CUSA was a joke this year. And any time Memphis stepped up in class this season, even if it was just a road game against middling Xavier, they fell short. My expectations for this group are exceedingly low.
Best first-round matchup: No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon
Oregon is the most underseeded team in the entire tournament. It is an absolute joke that the team that finished No. 2 in the Pac-12 regular season and won the Pac-12 Tournament as a double-digit seed. That sets up a battle in Round 1 between two of the top freshmen point guards in the nation: OSU’s Smart and Oregon’s Dominic Artis. The Ducks should dominate the paint with a talented veteran frontcourt of E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Arsalan Kazemi – all seniors. But guard play rules March, and Oklahoma State has the edge there. I expect this one to be played end-to-end, and I expect it to be one of the most competitive games of the round.
Best potential second-round matchup: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Creighton
As I scan the bracket, there really aren’t a ton of great potential matchups in the second round. But I will go with Duke-Creighton just because it would be fun to see two all-Americans go toe-to-toe with Plumlee against Creighton’s Doug McDermott. McDermott is a flat-out hero, and I think that this game would be entertaining and high-scoring. Both Duke and Creighton want to get up and down the court, and there isn’t a big disparity in athleticism between the ACC team and the Missouri Valley squad. Duke would likely pull away late, but it would be fun to see McDermott drop 35 on the Blue Devils on the way out.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee/St. Mary’s
I think that the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between Middle Tennessee and St. Mary’s will have some momentum going into Thursday afternoon’s game at Detroit. St. Mary’s has one of the nation’s top point guards in Matt Dellavadova, and he can go man-to-man with Memphis’ Jackson. Middle Tennessee should not be in the field. But they are. And now that they have new life, this supremely veteran club – they are No. 2 in the nation in terms of experience – could shoot its way through a round or two. And MTSU would be salivating for a chance to knock off an in-state rival in Detroit.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 8 Colorado State
Yes, I know I predicted Louisville would make the Elite Eight and most likely head to Atlanta for the Final Four. But this could end up being their toughest matchup in their first three games. Colorado State has a load of experience, they made the NCAA Tournament last year and aren’t scared of the big stage, and they have five senior starters that will be playing for their careers. Colorado State utilizes three savvy guards, and they should be able to handle Louisville’s pressure. If the Rams are hitting from the outside they could make this game a lot less comfortable than the Cardinals are hoping for.
Dark Horse team: No. 5 Oklahoma State
Again, I really don’t see a dark horse team from this bracket. And, while I think several other regions will be thrown into chaos, I can see the Midwest Region being pretty static. Louisville, Duke and Michigan State are all top tier, and St. Louis is playing as well as anyone. I said I don’t see Oklahoma State making it out of the opening weekend. And I don’t. But, if there is a team that has some potential to blow up this bracket, it is these Cowboys. The Smart-Brown-Nash contingent is as good as it gets on the perimeter. And if they do survive the opening weekend this is an athletic team that will be playing with a load of confidence. If you can beat Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse you can beat anyone, anywhere, any time.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 3 Michigan State
I just don’t know what to do with the Spartans. No man ever made a mint betting against Tom Izzo in March. And their frontcourt is among the most powerful forces in the sport. But so much hinges on Appling, and that’s just not a spot I’d want to be in. The Spartans will play their first two games against teams that play a completely opposing style to them. And, even if you include Duke in the Sweet 16, the Spartans will have to dodge bullets from several teams that just chuck-and-duck from behind the three-point line. This team could go to the Final Four, or they could flame out in the opening weekend, and they are making me very nervous as a result.
Robert Ferringo keeps proving himself to be one of the best college basketball handicappers in the nation. His college basketball picks have earned $100 bettors over $16,000 in the last twoseasons. Another strong card is coming today and you can get his pick HERE for only $30.
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