March 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

John Niyo

Parity makes picking an NCAA Tournament favorite no easy feat

Peyton Siva and Louisville are the top overall seed in the Tournament, and a good bet to win it all in Atlanta. (Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press)

The Giant Killers are everywhere.

But …

Where are the giants, anyway?

Cinderella's ready to have a ball. But …

Ohmigod, look at her over there: She's wearing the same dress!

Pick a Final Four? Please. I'm still stuck on that Butler-Bucknell game. And now I've got Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Mr. March Madness himself, trying to blow up my bracket before I've even finished.

"You know and I know, the disadvantage of being a 1 seed right now is, there's gonna be a 16 that beats a 1, it's gonna happen," Izzo said, which is easy for him to say, since he won't have $5 riding on those Bucknell Bison. "I mean, it's just gonna happen."

Oh, great. So nothing is a given anymore? I mean, other than major conference teams complaining about their seeding and everyone rooting for Lehigh, er, Albany to knock off Duke, and Tom Crean yelling at somebody about something.

But if this is parity, then this is the party everyone's been waiting for, right? The Big Dance where an aging mid-major like Gonzaga finally gets the VIP treatment at the door — a No. 1 seed — and a blue-blood like Kentucky sits home wondering whether its invitation got lost in the mail.

Won. And done? Well, I'm guessing there's not much sympathy out there for John Calipari. Likewise, I'm guessing there's not much chance I've got any of this figured out. But here goes ...

Four things about … The Midwest

Rick Pitino and a veteran, Tournament-tested Louisville team looking like the team to beat? This is a Kentucky fan's worst nightmare.

Yes, Duke's 18-1 with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. But has anybody noticed Coach K has more first-round exits (two) than Final Four trips (one) the last eight years?

Until Josh Pastner (0-2) wins a Tournament game I'll keep picking against his team. I've got Memphis losing to a play-in winner, but I'd be stunned if he got past Izzo, who's 17-3 in weekend games in the NCAAs.

Rick Majerus isn't here anymore, and it's our great loss. But his team sure is, and there'll be no shame in losing to the Saint Louis Billikens. They pick the pace, and you play along.

Four things about … The West

One of these years, Belmont's going to beat somebody. This year, Arizona just might be that somebody.

Showboating Mississippi star Marshall Henderson meets Wisconsin's Bo Ryan in the round of 64? Good to see the selection committee has a sense of humor.

In this, the year of the Big Ten, here's a matchup of coaches who fled the conference not long ago: New Mexico's Steve Alford vs. Harvard's Tommy Amaker.

No team took more 3-pointers this season than Iowa State. No team made more, either. Notre Dame better be ready.

Four things about … The South

The selection committee didn't agree, but the stat gurus will tell you Florida's the team to beat. One reason: All 26 wins were by double digits, and six of seven losses were by six points or fewer.

Everyone's got their handkerchief ready for Roy Williams and that North Carolina-Kansas game in the round of 32. But Villanova's got three wins over top-five teams this season.

Ben Howland's job might be on the line at UCLA. Tubby Smith certainly can relate. Somebody has to win that game, right?

Virginia Commonwealth is back for more "Havoc," and Michigan's likely going to be the team stuck preparing for Shaka Smart's manic pressure on a one-day turnaround. Enjoy.

Four things about … The East

Indiana hasn't been to a Final Four since 2002, but this bunch better get there or it'll be viewed as a failure. Best offense in the country, a hard-driving coach and two bonafide stars.

Jim Larranaga took Cinderella to a Final Four with George Mason in 2006. The challenge this time with No. 2 Miami is a roster that has a ton of talent but zero NCAA Tournament experience.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim couldn't stop the Big East breakup, and he can't stop the retirement speculation. But that 2-3 zone better stop Montana or he'll be golfing early.

This isn't Brad Stevens' best team. But Butler owns victories over a pair of No. 1 seeds in Indiana and Gonzaga, so who's to say the Bulldogs can't make a third straight trip to the Final Four?

john.niyo@detroitnews.com

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