This. Is. March.

First tournament game in 710 days will mark the first March Madness in two years


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Illinois’ All-American duo of guard Ayo Dosunmu and center Kofi Cockburn is deadly. The duo led the Illini to a big ten tournament championship and have been dominant for the last month, winning 11 of their last 12 games.

Carson Fox, Staff Reporter

The sports world was broken apart when COVID-19 postponed or cancelled all sporting events. Among the first sporting events cancelled was the 2020 March Madness tournament. The cancellation left millions of fans heartbroken, as the so-called “greatest tournament in sports” was put off for a whole year.

But now a full year later, and with the help of protocols and a bubble in Indianapolis, the tournament will go on in 2021. After a wild basketball season that saw tons of upsets and an unbeaten Gonzaga team, this year’s tournament will not only be unprecedented, but also unpredictable. 

The west region is led by the overall one seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga hasn’t lost a game this season, clocking in with a 26-0 record entering March Madness. The following three seeds for them are the #2 Iowa Hawkeyes, #3 Kansas Jayhawks and #4 Virginia Cavaliers, all teams that have been beaten by Gonzaga this year. The Bulldogs are led by a trio of All-Americans, in forwards Drew Timme and Corey Kispert along with guard and NBA prospect Jalen Suggs. The Bulldogs are dominant in the analytics, coming into the tournament with the top ranked offense and the tenth ranked defense in the country.

The two seeded Iowa Hawkeyes are led by Luka Garza and the second ranked offense in the country. The top player in the country for the last two years, Garza is the focal point for the Hawkeyes, and they’ll match up with the winner of the Oregon and VCU game. Kansas and Virginia don’t have easy paths, as both teams had COVID-19 issues before heading to the tournament. Virginia faces deadly Ohio guard Jason Preston on one day of practice, as they will arrive on Friday afternoon, just a day before their game.

Creighton has looked cold for the last month. The California Santa Barbara Gauchos are an interesting upset pick, as they have been playing their best basketball leading into March. If the sixth seed USC Trojans can take down the winner of the Kansas and Eastern Washington game, then we could see a Sweet 16 matchup between Evan Mobley and Luka Garza. The likely pick to run through the region is Gonzaga, but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as most people seem to pick it.

The East region could see the most shakeup early on. The one seeded Michigan Wolverines have been cold lately, and after their domination of Iowa at home, it seems like their best basketball could be behind them. They also have a scary first round matchup of LSU and St. Bonaventure. LSU has a top ten offense in the country, and the Bonnies have one of the most unique defensive schemes in the tournament.

Alabama can be a major boom or bust pick in the East. The two seed has had moments where they looked like an unbeatable team, but also moments where they look extremely vulnerable. Playing in one of the weakest SEC seasons of the century could be detrimental to them as well. They could match up against UConn star James Bouknight. Bouknight is high on draft boards and is an incredible two way guard for the Huskies, averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists.

Texas and Florida State are also final four caliber teams. The Seminoles will have to go through Michigan, but they can win the region if they play the way they were playing in mid February, when they were tearing apart the ACC. A Sweet 16 matchup between Texas and Alabama could be incredible. This is the one region where nearly anybody can reach the final four, because not only does everyone look like a great team, everyone also looks beatable.

Baylor is the popular pick for the South region. Led by Big 12 player of the year Jared Butler, Baylor has the deepest set of guards in the country. MaCio Teague, probably the third best guard on the team, dropped 35 points for the Bears just a couple weeks ago. The bracket is still tough for the Bears, who would have a second round matchup against the winner of the Wisconsin-North Carolina game. The 12 seeded Winthrop Eagles have an intriguing game against 5 seeded Villanova. The Wildcats lost their top player in Colin Gillespie just before the NCAA Tournament, and a 23-1 Winthrop team could be the one to knock them off. 

Purdue and Texas Tech are the final four sleepers in the south, with both teams having a sliver of brackets placing them in the final four. Purdue will have a tough road, but behind Trevyon Williams, they can take down Baylor. Arkansas will have a tough matchup with 14 seed Colgate, a 14-1 Patriot League team that seems to be highly favored by analytics. The sample size is small though, as Colgate has only faced a handful of teams, even playing Boston University five times. Ohio State is a strong two seed to cap off the region, and could make a deep run.

The final region is the Midwest, being led by the one seeded Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois has the top scoring duo in the country, a tandem of guard and national player of the year candidate Ayo Dosunmu and All-American center Kofi Cockburn. They will have a tough second round matchup, drawing the winner of the Loyola-Chicago versus Georgia Tech game. Tennessee and Oklahoma State could have a shootout in the second round, with Oklahoma State seemingly being underseeded as a four. 

Syracuse made a splash in the ACC tournament, essentially winning themselves into the last four in. They have the San Diego State Aztecs in the first round, a game that can go either way. The Aztecs were a likely two seed last season, before the tournament was cancelled. West Virginia is an interesting pick, as they can make a run yet have been playing their worst basketball as of late. Houston could be a dangerous two seed in the bracket, having arguably the top defense in the country and an offense that can score. Illinois can easily speed through their bracket, but they may have some incredibly tough matchups ahead.

This year’s tournament will be beloved by fans. We learned last year not to take sports for granted, and we can be positive that despite the outcome of the tournament, fans will take in every last moment of the bracket and savor it before it leaves us for another year.