INSIDE THE BRACKETS

NCAA bracket winners and losers

The (Raleigh) News and ObserverMarch 18, 2013 

RALEIGH

JUST LIKE THE games they play, there are winners and losers when the NCAA builds the bracket.

No one lost more than Duke, which not only didn’t get a No. 1 seed but was thrown into a region with Louisville, St. Louis and Oklahoma State, not to mention a potential second-weekend matchup with Michigan State in Indianapolis. The Midwest Region is absolutely loaded.

No one is a bigger winner than Middle Tennessee State, which was very much on the bubble after failing to win the Sun Belt and played a difficult nonconference schedule, albeit without winning many of those games. But 28-5 is 28-5. The Blue Raiders have to play St. Mary’s in the First Four, but that’s better than being left out entirely.

While the ACC may have some gripes, the 68 teams selected for the field made a great deal of sense, and the teams left out had only themselves to blame.

As for the rest of the bracket…

TOUGHEST REGIONAL

Midwest: There’s no arguing this, with the No. 1 overall seed in Louisville, along with Duke, Michigan State, St. Louis, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Creighton and Cincinnati. That’s a lot of firepower.

DARK HORSES

Pittsburgh (West 8) – The Panthers may be that good, solid team from a strong conference that somehow gets overlooked and winds up in the Final Four as everyone says, “Oh yeah, they’re good, I should have picked them.” Louisville last year was one example. Michigan State in 2010 is another.

St. Louis: No less an expert than Butler coach Brad Stevens has been touting the virtues of the Billikens. They won’t lack for motivation, with Jim Crews taking over after the late, great Rick Majerus died before the season. Tough region though.

San Diego State: There’s going to be one team from the Mountain West that makes a run and it might as well be the Aztecs, who have tournament experience and legitimate stars in Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley.

OVERRATED

Michigan: The Wolverines will be playing home games in Auburn Hills, Mich., so pencil them in for the Sweet 16. Beyond that, they may be in trouble. They have a powerful offense and perhaps the national player of the year in Trey Burke, but they were the worst defensive team among the Big Ten elite.

Georgetown: Last year’s loss to N.C. State extended the Hoyas’ streak of failing to make it to the second weekend. They haven’t made it out of a subregional since 2007, going 2-4 in the tournament since then. Maybe star forward Otto Porter is good enough to change that. Maybe Florida Gulf Coast, which beat Miami, could extend Georgetown’s streak.

Marquette: 3-point shooting is the great equalizer in the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles are horrible at it. Not just bad, but one of the worst teams in the country. That inability to score in bunches makes Marquette particularly vulnerable to falling behind to a hot-shooting high-seeded team — and Davidson could fit the bill.

NO FAVORS

Louisville, Duke, Michigan State: Two potential No. 1 seeds and a would-be No. 2 seed packed into the same bracket. The Midwest Regional may feel like a Final Four, not least because both Duke and Michigan State have won national titles in Indianapolis.

UNLV: Not only did the Rebels play California during the regular season, typically verboten for a first-weekend matchup, the rematch will be played in San Jose, which is 40 miles from Berkeley.

Travel teams: As has become the case in recent years, the committee had to ship a few quality eastern teams to western sites by default, and that never ends well. This year’s losers: St. Louis and Syracuse in San Jose, and Pittsburgh in Salt Lake City.

TOUGHEST REGIONAL

Midwest: – There’s no arguing this, with the No. 1 overall seed in Louisville, along with Duke, Michigan State, St. Louis, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Creighton and Cincinnati. That’s a lot of firepower.

West – Some sneaky good teams here, including Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, although they’ll have to battle both geography and Gonzaga. New Mexico, which will be playing close to home, is also a threat.

South – The top seeds in this bracket get some home cooking, with Kansas in Kansas City, Michigan outside of Detroit, and Georgetown in Philadelphia. But it also may generate the most upsets, with teams like San Diego State, South Dakota State and Florida Gulf Coast lurking.

East – Indiana is the only top-10 team in the Ken Pomeroy efficiency ratings in the entire bracket, and there are only three in the top 20.

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