Last-minute bracket help: These teams, names, figures will decide champion

2013-03-22T00:00:00Z Last-minute bracket help: These teams, names, figures will decide champion Arizona Daily Star
March 22, 2013 12:00 am

The NCAA tournament will not have a repeat champion for the sixth straight season. Kentucky made sure of that by failing to make the field of 68.

Beyond that, nothing's for certain in this year's version of March Madness after a season a parity that saw the top teams swap positions as if it were a hoedown. The full madness starts today, when what's expected to be a wilder-than-usual bracket gets rolling.

Here's a few things to look for as you get the snacks and drinks lined up around the couch:

TOP TEAMS

• Louisville: Coach Rick Pitino is one of the best minds in the game, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are capable of taking over any game, Gorgui Dieng swats shots and grabs rebounds, and the Cardinals went to the Final Four a year ago. No wonder they're the No. 1 overall seed.

• Gonzaga: The Zags are big up front, love to play defense and have few weaknesses. After Final Four runs by Butler and VCU in recent years, top-ranked Gonzaga has a chance to become the first mid-major to win a title.

• Indiana: Preseason No. 1 earned the East Region's top seed despite losing the Big Ten title game. With size, talent and depth, the Hoosiers will be hard to bet against.

• Kansas: Bill Self led the Jayhawks to the Final Four last season. He has them in position to make another run despite having an almost entirely different team.

• Duke: Return of forward Ryan Kelly makes the Blue Devils a tough matchup for anyone.

• Florida: The Gators have one of the nation's best backcourts, some beef up front and love to play defense. Sounds like a winning combination.

TOP PLAYERS

• Cody Zeller, Indiana. The versatile, 7-foot sophomore center can be unstoppable.

• Doug McDermott, Creighton. A leading candidate for Player of the Year, the rugged forward would be s sure bet for MRP (most relentless player).

• Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga. The long-haired, long-armed 7-footer from Canada is long on talent. He will have a highlight dunk or two, count on it.

• Mason Plumlee, Duke. Had a superb regular season and was a big reason the Blue Devils survived Ryan Kelly's injury.

• Jeff Withey, Kansas. Shot-swatting 7-footer is a difference-maker at both ends.

• Trey Burke, Michigan. Big Ten Player of the Year in the running for national Player of the Year.

• Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss. The Mouth from the South can shoot to back up his trash talking.

BY THE NUMBERS

• 9-to-2 - Opening odds for tournament favorite Louisville to win the title.

• 35 billion-to-1. Odds of having a perfect bracket by picking all better-seeded teams, according to the website bookofodds.com.

• 1.55 - Nation's-best assist-to-turnover ratio for Michigan.

• 6 - Players from Missouri who are averaging double-figure scoring this season.

• 16 - Consecutive seasons Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to the NCAA tournament, longest in Big Ten history.

• 21 - Years since La Salle had made the NCAA tourney field.

• 23.1 - Scoring average of Creighton's Doug McDermott, highest among NCAA tournament players and second nationally to Virginia Tech's Erick Green (25.0).

• 80.1 - Free-throw percentage of Davidson, best in the nation.

• 81.0- Scoring average of Northwestern State, tops nationally.

• 115 - Weight difference between New Mexico State's Sim Bhullar, a 7-foot-5-inch, 360-pound freshman and 6-11 Saint Louis forward Rob Loe.

• 5,600 - Combined career points by Bucknell starters Cameron Ayers, Mike Muscala, Bryson Johnson and Joe Willman.

John Marshall, The Associated Press

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