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GOULD: Indiana will advance to NCAA Tournament final but will drop to Louisville

Louisville coach Rick Pitino center talks Luke Hancock (11). PeytSiv(3) Montrezl Harrell (24) Russ Smith (2) another player during second

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, center, talks to Luke Hancock (11). Peyton Siva (3), Montrezl Harrell (24), Russ Smith (2) and another player during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big East Conference men'stournament Saturday, March 16, 2013, in New York. Louisville won the championship game 78-61. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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Updated: March 19, 2013 10:50PM

If there’s a theme heading into this year’s NCAA tournament, it’s that any number of small schools can stick around. And I believe that, up to a point.

And if there’s a season-long truth that has a chance to be validated in this NCAA tournament, it’s that the Big Ten is the best darn conference in the land. I also believe that, up to a point.

That’s why I like one little guy and two Big Ten teams to reach the Final Four.

But when it’s time to cut down the nets, give me the team with the best backcourt and a coach who’s been there, done that. That would be Rick Pitino’s Louisville, which will bring down the curtain on the Big East As We Know It with a flourish.

That said, the parity in college basketball this season leads to any number of cringe-worthy, fingers-crossed calls.

The toughest pick for me is VCU over Michigan in Auburn Hills, Mich., That seems to be the most compelling round-of-32 game. It’s not often that two popular Final Four picks meet that early, and I suspect it will be decided in the final seconds.

The Wolverines are awfully good. But the Rams are looking like a worthy successor to Butler in carrying the upstart banner. Even though Gonzaga earned its No. 1 seed, the fierce A-10 prepared VCU better than the Zags’ West Coast Conference.

In another close call, I like Wisconsin to get that no-Final-Fours stigma off of Bo Ryan’s back, in an Elite Eight showdown with Ohio State. Indiana will handle some serious challenges in the East, but its national championship journey will flame out in this I-65 final.

My picks

Second-round winners: Louisville, Missouri, Oregon, St. Louis, Memphis, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Duke, Gonzaga, Pitt, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Belmont, New Mexico, Iowa State, Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina, VCU, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, Oklahoma, Georgetown, Indiana, Temple, California, Syracuse, Bucknell, Marquette, Illinois, Miami.

Third Round: Louisville, St. Louis, Michigan State, Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio State, Kansas, VCU, Florida, Georgetown, Indiana, Syracuse, Bucknell, Miami.

Fourth Round: Louisville, Duke, Wisconsin, Ohio State, VCU, Georgetown, Indiana, Miami.

Final Four: Louisville, Wisconsin, VCU, Indiana.

Championship: Louisville defeats Indiana.

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