The 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament continues to surprise. Ole Miss, LaSalle and Harvard all pulled off huge upsets in the evidently mis-seeded West region, but the Ole Miss Rebels’ rebellion is over. 13 seed La Salle hung on for a two point win over 12 seed Ole Miss, and advances to the Sweet 16. Also in the West region, 9 seed Wichita State upended #1 Gonzaga, and takes on La Salle, with the 2 seed Ohio State and #6 Arizona also in Sweet 16 action Thursday, March 28. With an average remaining seed of 7.5 for those 4 teams, this is easily the region that saw the most upsets, and could still provide a shocker. But the Arizona – Ohio State early game Thursday looks like an instant classic.
As bad as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament selection committee was in the West, they look like geniuses in the East. The top 4 seeds have all advanced through the first two rounds of play to make it to the Sweet 16. Every second round game was close however, and when the 1 seed Indiana Hoosiers take on #4 Syracuse Thursday, we are sure to be treated to a last-second decision. Marquette and Miami face-off Thursday as the #3 and #2 seeds in the East respectively, and this region no doubt has two colossal games set to decide two of the Elite 8 teams.
In the South, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles became the first-ever 15 seed to make the Sweet 16, beating the 2 seed Georgetown Hoyas by 10, then duplicating that victory margin against #7 San Diego State. They take on #3 seed Florida Friday, March 29 in Sweet 16 action, the same night #1 Kansas faces the 4 seed Michigan Wolverines. And as dominant as Florida has been thus far, The Eagles are playing loose and having fun. That could spell disaster for a Gators team that has failed to put teams away after holding a late lead in big tourney games the last two years.
In the Midwest the #1, #2, #3 and #12 seeds made it to the Sweet Sixteen, as Louisville, Duke, Michigan State and Oregon respectively get ready for their next games Friday. With the friendliest match-up against Oregon, Louisville looks in the best position of the 3 remaining #1 seeds to make it to the Elite 8. They have rolled off 12 straight wins since dumping a 5-overtime loss to Notre Dame during Big East action, won the Big East title, and won this year’s first two March Madness tournament games by a nearly 30 point average.
That having been said, Vegas odds on NCAA Basketball Tournament play will certainly have #1s Louisville, Kansas and Indiana as the favorites to win the whole thing on April 8. And those teams will no doubt be favored in Sweet 16 action, but La Salle and Florida Gulf Coast will offer brave bettors huge odds in their upcoming Sweet 16 games. Duke, Michigan, Michigan State and Florida all have plenty of experience in big game action, and could all find themselves in the Elite 8 after their Sweet 16 games as well. We are getting down to nitty-gritty, “gut check” games where only the strong survive, and after the dust settles Friday night, we will know our Elite 8 teams.