NCAA: A Look Into March Madness

On March 12th, 2020, the NCAA announced the cancellation of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Fans, spectators, and programs alike had to walk away from the post-season run that they had been anticipating all year long. The decision to put an end to all men’s division 1 events stunned and disappointed the sports community.

Claimed to be one of the largest events in American sports, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament had been played ever since 1939, until 2020. Fans were on their toes planning their brackets for the annual event, but that excitement would just have to wait… until now.

The Month You’ve All Been Waiting For- Bracketology

This year’s NCAA basketball season has been anything but predictable. Teams have had to reroute their schedules and take what they can get from this unorthodox season. This year, there might be some unexpected contenders and surprises coming your way as the divisions wrap up their regular season schedules and look into the month you have all been waiting for.

The ultimate prize for the winning team- is the NCAA trophy. And for a lucky fan with the perfect bracket –  well you can just guess what that is, but it might not be as easy as you think to correctly guess the winners of all 67 games.

Let’s break down the buzz around college hoops throughout the 2020-2021 NCAA season leading into the long, anticipated return of brackets and madness in Indianapolis.

Dominating Programs

NCAA: A Look Into March Madness

The discussion is centered around two teams who have played a consistent game throughout the season. No.1 and No.2 in the Associated Press Poll have not changed since the start of college hoops this year. Gonzaga and Baylor, respectively, have been on the top since the preseason, leaving them as the only undefeated division 1 team. Gonzaga has been good for over a decade under head coach, Mark Few. They are consistently producing favorable results in and out of their conference. Baylor, another front-runner, has not hit the court since February 2nd. This Baylor team has a talented roster, with four guys averaging over 10 points a game. The Bears have never been in the No.1 or No.2 seed spot, nor have they ever been seeded higher than their BIG 12 neighbor, Kansas. Will the Baylor Bears be able to run the table and stay undefeated going into the tournament?

BIG 12 Success and Downfalls

On the topic of the BIG 12, this league is dominating the first four lines. Three teams from the state of Texas are seeded in the top 16, but there’s one familiar name from this conference that you do not see up there this year – Kansas Jayhawks. Baylor’s success has hurt Kansas, who has been a No. 1 seed in the tournament since 2000. After being knocked out of the top 25 on the AP Poll, the Jayhawks rejoin the ranked programs in week 13.

The Teams That Fell Flat 

Duke March Madness
Nat LeDonne/Duke Athletics

A lot of show-stopping teams that are in contention for top seeds going into the tournament have the potential to not make it at all this time around. For some of these teams, their opponents cannot win a game in their arenas, but without a triumphant home-court advantage, and a lack of fans in the stands, the tables have turned this year for these household names.

The Duke basketball program is 8-8 on the season going into the 13th week of play. The Blue Devils, who started at No. 9 in the preseason poll, are on the path to missing their first NCAA tournament since 1995. Coach K’s young team has just a handful of games left. If they win all of the matchups, the Blue Devils might be brought into the conversation. The news of their top player, Jalen Johnson, opting out of the remainder of the college basketball season to enter the NBA Draft might have an effect on the status of Duke’s post-season.

Normally around this time of year, we see the Tarheel’s neck and neck with another ACC program to be in the top spot of the conference. UNC is a developing, unranked program this year. They have a lot of top recruits but haven’t been able to execute at the standard of Tarheel NCAA basketball. The last time none of the four ACC schools from the state of North Carolina were seeded in the top four was… never.

Michigan State lost a lot of talent. The Spartans are without their leader, Cassius Winston, this season. The lack of maturity has shown on the court with the young roster consisting of only two guys averaging 10 or more points a game. MSU started on a 6-0 run but has not been able to keep up with the competition. In the BIG 10, you cannot afford to take a day off and expect to be a front-runner in the conference.

You cannot go without mentioning the Wildcats from Kentucky. The top-notch SEC program has no superstars this year; they have a roster of newcomers. Rookie, Brandon Boston, is one to look out for in the upcoming years, but to regain potential, the team needs more experience.

Unfamiliar Names in the Spotlight

On the other hand, there are unfamiliar teams that have impressed the crowd this year. SEC frontrunner, Alabama, is normally in the headlines when it comes to  NCAA college football, but this year we are seeing the Crimson Tide on the hoops AP Poll. This team was unranked mid-January and is now well in first place in the SEC. The Crimson Tide have the best three-point accuracy in the conference and hold the top spot in defensive efficiency in the country.

Missouri’s roster exemplifies college hoops this year. The usual suspects that we typically see on the board are not there this season because they are young and inexperienced, but Missouri has developed a mature program.

Texas is a program that has been on the rise this season, but they have hit a speed bump. The Longhorns have the size and depth to carry them through the month of March. With great athleticism, they are a team to keep an eye on.

BIG 10 Watch List

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of the most productive division in college basketball, NCAA the BIG 10 comes to mind. This March there are a few names to look out for. The fighting Illini are just now starting to play their best basketball. That momentum could boost them into the tournament for a successful run.  Also, a pair of Big Ten teams are on the watch deck- Michigan and Ohio State. These rivals are exceeding expectations this season. While Michigan has been benched, other BIG-10 squads are playing their best ball games. Even with an extended COVID-19 layoff, the Wolverines are putting up a tough fight this season, but the Blue will have to face Ohio State in a top 5 matchup to close out the regular season. Ohio State, who was not even ranked at the beginning of January, is projected as a No.1 seed going into March. The Buckeyes have a number of talented transfers and veterans who have the potential to lead the team against the competition in Indianapolis.

Road to the Final Four

The question everyone is asking is – who will cut down the net this year? 68 NCAA men’s college basketball teams will have the chance to face the best in the country throughout March. For some, they get to rematch their opponents from the season and others will finally face the team that they were hoping to play before the cancellations and postponements. Get ready for one of the most thrilling post-season events in college sports. Start making your predictions and setting up your brackets for the month of madness and basketball.

The action unfolds in a condensed bubble in Indianapolis in mid-March. Here’s a look at the schedule for this year’s March Madness tournament: 

Selection Sunday: March 14th

First Four: March 18th

First Round: March 19th -20th

Second Round: March 21st – 22nd

Sweet 16 & Elite 8: March 27th– 30th

Final Four: April 3rd
National Championship: April 5th

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