Well before the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship brackets were released, I told myself that I was going to have to find a Cinderella team to ride to the Final Four.
The 2012-13 college basketball season was one of the most topsy-turvy campaigns in recent history. It didn’t pay to be No. 1, because the top-ranked team usually got beat soon after it climbed to the top of that lofty ladder.
Heck, we had Oklahoma and Oklahoma State defeating Kansas in the same season, and the Jayhawks still managed a No. 1 seed.
So, after making a list of possible upset specials and checking it twice, I’ve decided that Butler is going to do it.
The Bulldogs enter the tournament as a No. 6 seed in the East after winning 26 games this year, and they have victories over my underseeded North Carolina Tarheels and top seeds Gonzaga and Indiana on their resumé. Plus, I can’t help but cheer for Oklahoma’s own Rotnei Clark, a former Verdigris High School star and one of the state’s top prep scorers of all time. Clark leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 16.7 points per game.
I have Butler squeaking past Miami in the Sweet 16 before defeating the Hoosiers once again in the Elite 8 to advance to the Final Four. The Indiana-Syracuse matchup in the Sweet 16 will be sweet.
The Hoyas will advance to the Final Four, knocking off the Sooners, Florida and Michigan along the way in what turns out to be a drama-filled South Regional. My beloved North Carolina Tar Heels knock off Kansas in the second round, but they can’t maintain their energy and lose to Michigan in the Sweet 16.
Louisville runs roughshod over the competition in the Midwest Region, getting tested only by Michigan State (which survives an epic Sweet 16 matchup against Duke). Five-seed Oklahoma State stumbles in the first round against one of the best 12 seeds in the Big Dance in years: the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks are Cinderella No. 2 in my bracket, but they lose their quack in a matchup with powerful Louisville in the Sweet 16.
I almost went with Big 12 sleeper Kansas State to survive in the West, but I gave the nod to the No. 2 seed, the Ohio State Buckeyes, instead. Ohio State scares me a bit, because Iowa State could pull off the upset in the second round if the Cyclones get hot from the outside, which they are very capable of doing. A dangerous Arizona club is waiting for OSU in the Sweet 16 as well.
Louisville clobbers Ohio State in the Final Four, while Georgetown ends Butler’s dream run. The Cardinals are playing well at the right time. They’ve won 10 straight games heading into the Big Dance, and they will keep dancing until the end.
It would be unadvisable to take these picks to the bank. So don’t.