Apr 8, 2013

March Madness: What to Expect from the 2013 Tournament

The phrase “expect the unexpected,” dates back almost 2500 years through human history. It may have first been uttered before mankind had the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but there is no more fitting phrase out there to describe the annual event that is March Madness. As workplace productivity prepares to take a huge hit over the next two weeks, millions of people across the United States are wondering what to expect from the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

What to Expect
In short, viewers should expect the unexpected when they view the tournament on local and cable TV in the coming weeks. March Madness is renowned for high expectations of #1 seeds, and devastating defeats as Cinderella’s pop up out of the blue as #11 seeds or worse and spoil the party for the big boys.

Some analysts will tell viewers ahead of time that a certain #8 or #9 seed can shock their section of the bracket and bust into the Elite Eight or Final Four, but each year there seems to be a new team ranked #11 or worse that manages to bust brackets and no one sees it coming. Expect the unexpected.

Why You Should Expect the Unexpected
A one word answer will suffice here; history. The NCAA tournament has a rich history of upsets and unexpected victors, but this isn’t just a thing of the long forgotten past. One need only go back to the 2012 tournament when #15 Norfolk State (a 21-point underdog) defeated #2 Missouri in the first round. A #15 managed to defeat a #2 later that same day when Duke was defeated in the first round of the tournament.

The list goes on with each passing year. In 2006 the #1 ranked UConn men were defeated in the Elite Eight by #11 George Mason University. George Mason’s tallest player was 6’8” and there was no NBA talent on this team. UConn, by contrast, was ranked no worse than #3 all season, went 30-3, and featured four first-round NBA draft picks.

2012/13: The Unpredictable Season
As if there wasn’t enough drama wrapped into college basketball through March Madness, the regular season was a longer, drawn out version of the tournament with upsets galore. Holding onto the number one seed this season was a bit like trying to hold onto a greased pig. Some of college basketball’s biggest programs failed, some numerous times, with the #1 ranking on the line during the regular season.

There were several upsets during the regular season that left people scratching their heads. Florida’s late season loss to Arkansas (13-8) was shocking for a number of reasons. Ranked #3 at the time, Florida was winning SEC games by an average of 26.5. Their closest road contest was a 64-47 defeat of Georgia that was close on the heels of a 31-point dismantling of then #17 Missouri.

Also stunning at the time was #1 Duke’s 90-63 loss at the hands of the University of Miami on January 23rd. Indiana was the victim of upsets twice during the season. First there was a 74-72 loss to unranked Illinois on February 7th when the Hoosiers were ranked #1. A little over two weeks later the Hoosiers lost again, this time 77-73 to Minnesota with Indiana ranked #4.

Perhaps the ugliest upset of the season, and most unexpected, was TCU’s 62-55 defeat of then #5 Kansas. The Jayhawks are one of the nation’s most legendary programs, while TCU is barely on the basketball scene. Kansas hadn’t lost back to back games in seven seasons, while TCU has just two winning seasons in the past decade. Nevertheless, the Horned Frogs held the Jayhawks to 13 first half points and 55 total, both season lows, on the way to the most unexpected victory of the season.

Programs and Players to Keep an Eye On
At this very moment millions of students and office workers are filling out brackets, trying to determine which powerhouses will live up to expectations, and which Cinderella’s will go dancing on the dead hopes of larger programs. The easy answer here is to say “watch the number ones in Kansas, Indiana, Gonzaga, and Louisville,” but is there ever a year where viewers ignore the number one seeds?

The first round of games will offer some interesting matchups of players and programs. Two of the nation’s best guards, Michigan’s Trey Burke and South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters, will square off when #4 Michigan and #13 SDSU meet in the first round. Both players lead the offense for their respective squads and enjoy scoring in bunches.

Then there are the first round matchups featuring Butler vs. Bucknell and UNLV vs. Cal. Butler and Bucknell have a history of upsetting larger, powerhouse programs in the tournament. Bucknell stunned #3 Kansas as a 14-seed in the 2005 tournament’s first round, and Butler made back to back appearances in the finals in 2010 and 2011.

Lastly, yes we said to look past the number one seeds but let’s be serious, they are often the most ripe for upsets. Kansas is the #1 seed in the South region and could face former coach Roy Williams if his North Carolina squad can get past Villanova in the 8 vs. 9 matchup. Good Ole Roy famously ditched Kansas for North Carolina despite great success in Lawrence, but won back a few Kansas hearts when he sported a Jayhawk pin at the 2008 final between Kansas and Memphis in San Antonio after the Jayhawks eliminated his Tarheels.

Smith is a self-proclaimed college basketball fanatic. In his spare time, he writes about college and NBA basketball to post on various blog sites.

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