top of page

March Madness returns and lives up to name 

THURS. | 03-25-21 | SPORTS

      The Men’s and Women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 Basketball Tournaments are underway as March Madness is back for the first time in 710 days. Both tournaments are action packed and have been worth the wait.

      The men’s tournament is being held in and around Indianapolis, Indiana in a controlled environment for players and coaches due to COVID-19. The tournament’s 67 games will be spread across six venues over the span of 19 days. All 68 teams are housed across four hotels in downtown Indianapolis where the teams have been encouraged not to leave their “bubble,”which includes four hotels, the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium. The stadium will hold 15 of the tournament's 67 games. The convention center has been adapted to hold twelve practice courts and six weight rooms. Each team has also been provided with a meeting room in the convention center and in their designated hotel. All of these buildings are connected through skywalks or underground tunnels to ensure players and staff are limited from outside contact. COVID-19 testing will be carried out daily and all teams were required to test negative multiple times prior to arriving.

     The week before the tournament, positive tests interfered with multiple teams' seemingly easy road to Indianapolis. Both four seed University of Virginia (UVA) and three seed Kansas University (KU) had members of their teams test positive. UVA had to quarantine on their campus and did not arrive in Indianapolis until the day before their first game. KU had three players with positive tests who would have been able to join the team late if they tested negative during the tournament. This group included David McCormack who is KU's second leading scorer. He made it to Indy in time for Kansas’ first round game against 14 seed Eastern Washington University where he scored 22 points before losing to six seed the University of Southern California (USC) in the second round.

     Along with Kansas, there are many other teams in the tournament with championship expectations. The four number one seeds are Gonzaga 

University, the University of Michigan, Baylor University and the University of Illinois. These four teams have a combined record of 91 wins and 12 losses on the year, with Gonzaga going undefeated with 26 wins and zero losses. Gonzaga is the favorite to win the tournament but they have been doubted as they play in a very weak conference and they are ranked 34th in strength of schedule. 

     In addition to the men's tournament, an often overlooked but just as exciting event this time of year is the Women's NCAA tournament.
      There are no undefeated one seeds in the women’s tournament but the University of Connecticut (UConn) is 24-1, and looking to win their first 

Keller - March Madness Graphic.png

Graphic by Keller Fraley

NCAA championship since 2016 which capped off their run of four national titles in a row. Their fellow one seeds are Stanford, the University of South Carolina and NC State State University, who each won their respective conference tournaments. The women’s tournament is following protocols very similar to the men’s with games being played across five arenas in and around San Antonio, Texas over 14 days. UConn is playing through more adversities than most teams as their head coach Geno Auriemma tested positive for COVID-19 and had to self-isolate until Wednesday, Mar. 24. Losing Auriemma was a big hit as he has the second most wins ever for a women’s basketball coach. Not having their head coach may create an easy chance for them  to be beaten by an underdog Cinderella team.

      These Cinderella teams are coined so because they are often very difficult to predict and usually come out of nowhere. Headed into the Sweet 16 round of the tournament there are four double-digit seeds still alive. The group includes 15 seed Oral Roberts University (ORU), eleven seed Syracuse University, eleven seed the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and twelve seed Oregon State. Oral Roberts has become the most prominent as they defeated two seed The Ohio State University (OSU) in the first round and then took care of seven seed Florida in the second round. ORU is led by the NCAA’s leader in points per game, their guard Max Abmas. ORU takes on three seed Arkansas on Saturday, Mar. 27 as they look to become the first 15 seed to ever make it to the Elite 8. Oregon State plays the same day as they take on eight seed Loyola-Chicago. On the women’s side, 11 seed Brigham Young University (BYU), 12 seed Belmont and 13 seed Wright State each won their first round games. Wright State University defeated fourth seeded University of Arkansas and now face off against fifth seeded Missouri State Universtiy. Every Cinderella story that develops gives a good chance of a heartfelt story like what was displayed in 2018 with the then eleven seed Loyola-Chicago.

     That year, the Ramblers made it all the way to the Final Four before being beaten by Michigan. During their run the nation fell in love with Loyola’s 99-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean. Loyola-Chicago made the tournament once again this year, and the now 101-year-old who was recently vaccinated made the trip with them. Another prominent individual returning to the tournament is Iona College head coach Rick Pitino. Pitino made history by becoming the third coach in NCAA history to coach five different teams to the NCAA tournament. Unlike Sister Jean and Pitino, there are two teams who appeared in their first tournaments. These teams are Grand Canyon University (GCU) and Hartford University. You may recognize GCU from the commercials that they have aired nationally for the past few years. A player to watch was Cade Cunningham, who plays at Oklahoma State University, and was in his first and probably last tournament as he is projected to be the number one overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Cunningham’s season is over as he and his team were knocked out by 12 seed Oregon State University in the second round.

     Through the first two rounds of the men’s tournament there are both surprising and expected teams still alive. Among the one seeds, Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan each won their first two games while Illinois fell to Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago. Remaining two seeds include  University of Houston and The University of Alabama who are both facing off against 11 seeds in the Sweet 16. Houston is taking on Cinderella Syracuse who is guided by the Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim and his son Buddy Boeheim. The younger Boeheim scored 25 points and made six threes in their second round upset win against three seed West Virginia University. Another surprising pair of teams to still be alive are USC and University of Oregon who are meeting in the Sweet 16.

The tournaments kicked off Friday, Mar. 19, and have lived up to their hype so far. We have just cracked the surface of these tournaments and they should remain entertaining for the next couple of weeks until we crown this year's NCAA champions on Monday, Apr. 5 for the men and the women’s Sunday Apr. 5. The men’s Sweet 16 and Elite 8 will be played out from Saturday, Mar. 27 through Tuesday, Mar. 30 before the Final Four on Saturday, Apr. 3.

bottom of page