The 2021 March Madness tournament bracket is finally here. The Madness is about to begin. The First four will tip-off on Thursday with the first round tipping off Friday. After the Selection Sunday show on Sunday, the tournament felt somewhat normal. Its actual format was changed slightly by the NCAA.
After taking 2019 off due to COVID-19, March Madness is back roaring. With all teams taking up Indiana as their home base, less travel will be involved. Each team will have its own transportation and own hotel floor. The changes may seem minimal, but the atmosphere will be slightly different than what the players are used to. Especially in a win-and-go-home scenario, teams must play their best basketball every single game. This year, the emphasis on coaching is greater than ever. Being able to motivate your guys with minimal fans is not an easy task. This is especially true with 1 or 2 seeds playing 15 or 16’s. In basketball, it is easy to play down to the competition. This cannot happen and the coaches can prevent this.
With the tumultuous regular season coming to an end, reflection on the season will find a great deal of hardship. Successful teams like Duke and Kentucky both missed the tournament for the first time since 1976. The Big Ten seemed to be the star conference this year as they boast 9 teams in the field with 4 having either a 1 or a 2 seed. The normally dominant SEC has six teams present in the tournament with the highest seed Alabama who is number 2 in the east.
Repeating in March Madness is nearly impossible. The Florida Gators team did this last in 2006-07. Defending champions usually end up dropping out in the first or second round. The defending champion Virginia Cavaliers won the tournament in 2019. The Cavaliers are the number 4 seed in the West and play Ohio in the first round.
With the buzz of the tournament among us, here is a preview of the 1-3 seeds in the tournament.
Kansas Jayhawks (West): As of late, the Kansas Jayhawks have looked like a 2 seed or even a 1 seed. They are 8 and 1 in their last 9 games, only losing to the eventual Big 12 champion Texas Longhorns. With a greater emphasis on coaching in this off-year, Bill Self will have his teams on the right track as one of the best in the business. The Kansas Jayhawks are playing great basketball of late and that is what matters. Look for Kansas to easily take care of 14 seed Eastern Washington and make a deep run in this tournament.
Texas (East): The Texas Longhorns won their first Big 12 title in school history this season. Coach Shaka Smart has failed to win a single tournament game in his four tries. This team looks set up to win more than just one. The Longhorns will start the tournament off against Abilene Christian. Many people have the upset alert going off here as Abilene Christian has the ability to shoot and cause turnovers. The Texas team has been reckless but should dispatch them easily with their talent.
Arkansas Razorbacks (South): Future NBA Lottery pick Moses Moody has the Razorbacks in a great position to go far in this tournament. After a blowout loss in mid-January to Alabama, Arkansas has been playing lights out. The Razorbacks have offensive power like no other. They put up 100 points 3 times this year and had another 99-point game. While some have predicted a first-round upset against Colgate, the Razorbacks should have no problem simply outscoring their opponent.
West Virginia Mountaineers (Midwest): The Mountaineers have the greatest number of losses of 3-seeds with 9. Coach Bob Huggins had his team playing good basketball heading into the Big 12 tournament but were unable to get past Oklahoma State. Again, many are predicting an upset here as the Mountaineers face off against 12-seed Morehead St. If the Mountaineers can win their first game, they may have an easy path to win a couple more games.
Iowa Hawkeyes (West): Iowa has one of the best players in college basketball in Luka Garza. The Hawkeyes also boast the second-best offense in college basketball, only behind number 1 overall seed Gonzaga. The Big 10 was out of this world good this year, likely the only reason Iowa could not swing a 1 seed. The Hawkeyes team is poised to make a deep run, starting the tournament off with Grand Canyon in the first round.
Alabama Crimson Tide (East): The Crimson Tide have just one loss since Feb. 6 and that was to Arkansas. While the SEC was down this year, Alabama found a great deal of success winning both the regular-season title and the SEC Tournament. The Crimson Tide face off against a dangerous Iona team.
Ohio State Buckeyes (South): On February 12th, the Buckeyes were thought to be a number 1 seed after beating teams like Illinois Iowa, and Wisconsin. That did not last long as they would drop 4 straight games to finish the regular season. If the Buckeyes are in top form, not many teams, if any, can stop them. They square off against Oral Roberts in the first round.
Houston Cougars (Midwest): Coach Kelvin Sampson has a short-handed team playing great basketball. The Cougars lost most of their scoring from a season ago but that has not slowed them down. They have a top ten offense and a top ten defense. Their style looks a little odd as they take the bully ball to a new level, but it works. They face Cleveland St. in the first round.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (West): As the number 1 overall seed, the Bulldogs need little introduction. They have won every single game this year and look unbeatable. Even in the scare against BYU, the team finished with a comfortable win. Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers were the last team to finish off an undefeated season with a national championship. The odds look good for Gonzaga to pull that feat off.
Michigan Wolverines (East): If superstar Isaiah Livers is healthy, the Wolverines going to go far. If not, that changes a lot about this team. Regardless, all sports are the next-man-up mentality, and nothing will change that for Michigan. Hunter Dickerson is the real deal and allows Michigan to play ball above the rim. Michigan will face one of the play-in winners in the first round.
Baylor Bears (South): Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell are both superstars and have this Bears team playing exceptional basketball. Baylor simply looked worlds better than most of their opponents this year. They suffered a bad-looking loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament but that will not stop their confidence going into the tournament.
Illinois Fighting Illinois (Midwest): After a Big 10 tournament win, the Fighting Illinois look like the real deal heading into March Madness. They continually dispatched stellar Big 10 teams night in and night out. The team has 12 Quad 1 wins, meaning they beat the big teams in college basketball. Look for Illinois to make a deep tournament run.
2021 March Madness Bracket found at: https://www.ncaa.com/brackets/print/basketball-men/d1/2021?ko_click_id=ko_c6vewzrjt39l5ow7f