Favorite to Win the NCAA Tournament?
On Thursday at 12:15, the 2013 men's NCAA basketball tournament—aka March Madness—kicks off with No. 3 seed Michigan State vs. 14th-seeded Valparaiso. It's a wide-open tournament this year, and lots of teams have a good chance at the title.
Top overall seed Louisville got a bit unlucky by landing in the toughest region, the Midwest, with Duke and Michigan State and plenty of other solid teams. The Pac-12 champion, Oregon, is seeded 12th, which gives you an idea of the region's depth. Rick Pitino's Cardinals are still probably a slight favorite here, and if they can just get out of their region, they've good a really good shot at taking the title.
President Obama picked Indiana to win it all, and the commander-in-chief knows his hoops. (He correctly picked eventual champion North Carolina back in 2009, after all.) Nate Silver, the statistical wizard who runs The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog, gives the Hoosiers about a 20 percent chance of winning it all.
Gonzaga finished the regular season at the top of the polls, but fans and analysts don't seem to be giving them much love this year. They were a popular Cinderella team in numerous tournaments past, but perhaps their top seeding has people questioning them.
The final top seed, Kansas, doesn't even seem to be the favorite in its own region. Most people have second-seeded Georgetown or Florida, the No. 3 seed, coming out of the South. The Jayhawks have a tough road and may have to face North Carolina in the second round. That would be quite the intriguing matchup, as Tar Heel coach Roy Williams would be facing off against his old team for the first time in the Big Dance.
Maybe this is the year we see a much lower-seeded team claim the championship. It's not entirely unprecedented: In 1985 Villanova was a No. 8 seed when they upset Georgetown in the final. No. 6 seeds like Kansas in 1988 and North Carolina State in 1983 have won it all, but it's still a rarity. Teams seeded first, second or third win almost every year, but hey, you never know. Maybe this is Cinderella's year to win the whole darn thing.