The Brackets Are Set, Let The Madness Begin
One of the most exciting sporting events every year didn’t occur in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but luckily in 2021 the NCAA Tournament is back and should provide more memorable moments than ever before in such a crazy season! There was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 college basketball season because of the ongoing pandemic. Many teams had a rough start of their season because of positive COVID-19 tests and not playing full schedules. It’s amazing that we have gotten to this point.
For the first time every game played in the NCAA Tournament will occur in one state, which will be Indiana. Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The schedule is a little different this year too. The First Four will be played on Thursday with the Round of 64 taking place Friday and Saturday. The Round of 32 will occur on Sunday and Monday.
Another thing to keep an eye on is substitute teams for any teams that unfortunately get positive tests. There are four teams on stand-by (Louisville, Colorado State, Saint Louis, Ole Miss). The deadline for the replacement is 6 p.m. Tuesday. Fingers crossed that none of this happens.
Now it’s time for the analysis! Here are the two most interesting matchups from each region that fans should be clamoring to watch.
#5 Creighton Bluejays vs. #12 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
You know there would have to be at least one 5-12 matchup on this list, when in fact there are three total. In recent years the 5-seed has largely taken care of business, but in this matchup, Creighton better be on the lookout. Creighton had horrible showing in the Big East Championship (73-48 loss to Georgetown). They will be led by Senior Guard Marcus Zegarowski and he may have to carry the team on his back. The Gauchos have three players averaging double figures and their up-tempo style could give the Bluejays some fits.
#11 Wichita State Shockers vs. #11 Drake Bulldogs
This is one of the First Four matchups on Thursday and there was much skepticism about both of these teams being in the field and that alone might mean this game could be a classic. It’s very well possible that one of the First Four teams could win multiple games or even reach the second weekend. Drake has been solid all year and started 18-0, while Wichita State actually won the AAC regular season title. The difference in this game could be the 3-point shooting of the Bulldogs.
#8 LSU Tigers vs. #9 St. Bonaventure Bonnies
The 8-9 matchups are always a toss up and this one has a great offense in LSU against a great defense in St. Bonaventure. LSU had a nice run in the SEC Tournament and gave Alabama all kinds of trouble. The Bonnies proved how scrappy they were in a tough win over VCU in the A-10 title game. LSU wants this to be high scoring and if it isn’t than St. Bonaventure might be moving on.
#5 Colorado Buffaloes vs. #12 Georgetown Hoyas
Another 5-12 game and this has quite arguably the hottest team over the last week in the Hoyas. Georgetown had to win four games in four days to win the Big East Tournament and that was the only way they would be in the Big Dance. Freshman Guard Dante Harris was the MVP of the tournament and he has the potential to keep the Hoyas momentum going. Colorado was upset by Oregon State in the Pac-12 Championship, but their star Senior Guard McKinley Wright IV could single-handedly win this game for the Buffaloes. Plus, it’s a battle of great coaches, Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) and Tad Boyle (Colorado).
#5 Villanova Wildcats vs. #12 Winthrop Eagles
It was only about three weeks ago that Villanova was still being considered as a 2-seed then some bad losses followed by the injury to Collin Gillespie. They’ll be going up against a Winthrop team who lost just once in the regular season. The Eagles rely on a slew of upperclassmen and this moment will not be too big for them.
#3 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. #14 Colgate Raiders
The winner of this game might need 100 points! Both Arkansas and Colgate love to move up and down the court and can easily fall in love with the 3-point shot. The Raiders are #1 in the nation when it comes to defending the perimeter too. The Razorbacks have the edge though in causing more turnovers which could be the ultimate factor.
#4 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. #13 Liberty Flames
If Oklahoma State makes a deep run in this tournament Cade Cunningham will be a big reason why. Also don’t sleep on Avery Anderson III who could also carry this Cowboys team. Coach Mike Boynton has gotten the most out of his players and the offense is the driving force. The defense will need to be better if it wants to get past Liberty. The Flames have won 12 consecutive games and the last time they were in the tournament in 2019 they made it to the Round of 32.
#6 San Diego State Aztecs vs. #11 Syracuse Orange
This will be a telling game for the Aztecs as they haven’t faced a 2-3 zone the entire year which Syracuse is famously known for. It’s real simple, Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel have to hit the opens shots in the middle of the zone if they are there. The Orange played really well in a three-point loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament thanks in large part to Buddy Boeheim 31-point effort. He’ll need to have a big game if the Orange want to get past a stout defensive team in San Diego State.