March Madness 2021: Everything You Need to Know About the Illustrious Tournament

March Madness: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!


Credits to Associated Press

Paul Brady

It is the second week of March, and that means the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is right around the corner. This year, however, games will only be played in Indiana. “Selection Sunday”, which  should be celebrated as a national holiday, is set to kick off on March 14th at 6:00 pm. The first games will be played on Thursday, March 18th. Until then, we have championship week, where each conference winner will be granted a spot in the big tournament. For example, the Big Ten (with five ranked teams) will start its tournament today, March 10th. 

The game of basketball has changed astronomically in the past few decades with players getting faster, stronger, and simply better at what they do. The 2021 college basketball season had many ups and downs between COVID shutdowns, player opt-outs, and unexpected results. Yet it seems that come April 5th, one team will cut down the nets and be crowned as national champions. If you’ve been slacking off in terms of following college basketball this year, you’re in the right place. Here is everything you need to know in order to fill out a respectable bracket this Sunday.


Teams to trust 

1. Gonzaga

Do I even have to explain myself here? Irrefutably the best team in the country, the Bulldogs remain as the last and only undefeated program. In the past four years, head coach Mark Few has experienced a whopping total of only eleven losses. Much of this success can be attributed to senior forward Corey Kispert. ESPN basketball commentator Jay Bilas has called Kispert a near-perfect shooter. His shoulders are always square to the basket, he gets good rotation on the ball, and he is constantly hunting for his shot. Next, when talking about the ‘Zags, it would be a disservice to not mention sophomore center Drew Timme. Kispert and Timme, the so-called “headband bros,” have developed great chemistry on the floor that has transferred to newcomers Jalen Suggs and Andrew Nembhard. Gonzaga has the potential to take itself to the Final Four, but it’s uncommon to see the #1 overall seed win it all.

2. Baylor

In the past two years, the Baylor Bears have emerged from the depths of the Big 12 into a top 10 caliber team. Coach Scott Drew has instilled a culture focused on defense and sharing the basketball. Baylor has the best bench in college basketball, and some may even say the Bears have eight starters in Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague, Adam Flagler, Mark Vital, Matthew Mayer, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and Flo Thamba: all of whom are high-impact players. 

3. West Virginia

When Oscar Tshiebwe announced his departure from West Virginia in early January, it appeared that all hope had been lost for the Mountaineers and head coach Bob Huggins. On the contrary, West Virginia went on an absolute tear in February winning six of seven games. Derek Culver has stepped up big time to fill the big shoes of Tshiebwe as the team’s center. Miles McBride, Taz Sherman, and Sean McNeil have been lighting it up from three-point land while playing stellar defense. If I’ve learned anything in my years studying March Madness, it’s that momentum is key to making a deep run. Stopping West Virginia will be as hard as stopping a moving truck on a highway. 

4. Iowa

The Iowa Hawkeyes have the most efficient, relentless, and unstoppable force on their squad. His name is Luka Garza, and he is a candidate for the national player of the year award. Garza is a 6’11” 265 pound beast who certainly draws a crowd when he gets the ball in his hands. It’s quite common to see Garza get double or triple-teamed. He transforms this adversity into an advantage by dishing the rock out to three-point shooters Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp. That said, they are at a disadvantage after losing forward Jack Nunge to a torn meniscus a couple of weeks ago. Still, that didn’t stop them from taking down fourth-ranked Ohio State on the last day of February. Iowa, if healthy, will be a legit contender.

5. Kansas

For my 15th birthday, I was gifted a huge dry erase board with the 64 team bracket on it. Unfortunately, last year’s season was interrupted and soon after canceled by the coronavirus, and I was never able to use it. Prior to that, I had every intention of picking Kansas to win the championship. For me, that same optimism about Kansas has sustained into 2021. Senior point guard Marcus Garret has the intellect and patience to facilitate Bill Self’s offense, led in particular by David McCormack. McCormack, the Jayhawks’ center, serves as Udoka Azubuike’s successor. He is in the conversation for the most improved player as his shooting and scoring ability has improved dramatically between his sophomore and junior year. Kansas also has viable substitutes in Mitch Lightfoot and Dajuan Harris. Let me save you some brainpower filling out your bracket: automatically put Kansas in the sweet sixteen. 

Honorable Mentions: Florida State, Houston, Virginia Tech


Teams to worry about

1. Ohio State

Although they have a high octane offense, the Ohio State Buckeyes have recently struggled on defense, giving up 92 points to Michigan on February 21st. To make matters worse, they don’t have a true big man. EJ Liddell has played fantastic basketball, scoring 16 points per game, but he’s closer to being a small forward than a center. This team also lacks the experience necessary to compete in March. 

2. Villanova

Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Cole Swider, Jermaine Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Sounds like an impenetrable starting five, right? Wrong. Nova has had their woes this year in regards to their three-point shooting at least. On February 28th against Butler, the Wildcats went 2 for 27 behind the arc. 7% from deep doesn’t sound like a reliable offense to me. To make matters worse, Collin Gillespie, who averages 14 points per game, suffered an MCL tear and will be out for the rest of the season. Will Villanova be the same team without Gillespie? 

3. Texas Tech

Good old Mac McClung. Everybody loves the Georgetown transfer, but what nobody acknowledges is that he shoots way too much. At the end of February, Texas Tech had a conference record of 7 and 7. With the likelihood of them facing off against a Big 12 opponent in the tournament very high, I do not trust them. They are much too inconsistent and weren’t able to make mid-season adjustments against rival teams such as Kansas and Oklahoma State.

Others: Virginia, Purdue, Tennessee, Colorado, USC



1. Arkansas

I’m not sure if the AP ranked 8th team qualifies as a sleeper, but Arkansas was on nobody’s radar in the preseason. The Razorbacks are feeling it lately, demolishing southeastern conference adversaries Alabama and LSU. If they can beat Bama once more to win the SEC tournament, consider Arkansas a high-profile team, likely to win two or three games.

2. Oklahoma State

At the moment, Oklahoma State is the most hyped-up team out there, and for good reason. Even with senior leader Isaac Likekele resting with a foot injury, OSU is in great hands in Cade Cunningham. The most highly esteemed freshman, Cunningham is a 6’8” point guard with an unmatched offensive repertoire. He had a grand total of 40 points against Oklahoma, which is a rare feat in college, especially for a freshman. 

3. Loyola Chicago

Do you know the mustache man? If not, you should watch Cameron Krutwig’s highlights—they’re pretty spectacular. Four years ago, Krutwig helped the Ramblers reach the final four. Does a similar fate for this year await them? 

4. Clemson

Clemson is for real with wins over Purdue, Maryland, Alabama, Florida State, Louisville, UNC, and Georgia Tech. If you can look past the blowout losses against Virginia and Duke then you should have full confidence in the Tigers. They also are undefeated against non-ACC opponents. Assuming Clemson receives an 8, 9, or 10 seed, pencil them in for a victory or two. 

5. Liberty

Besides having an awesome mascot, the Liberty Flames already clinched the regular season ASUN title. They don’t get too much good competition, but Liberty held its own against Missouri and even beat out Mississippi State. Three days ago, Liberty won the ASUN tournament, so I expect them to get a #12 seed similar to 2019.

Honorable Mentions: UCLA, Xavier, Drake, UCONN


My Personal Top-10 Rankings

  1. Gonzaga (AP #1)
  2. Baylor (AP #2)
  3. Michigan (AP #4)
  4. Illinois (AP #3)
  5. Iowa (AP #5)
  6. West Virginia (AP #10)
  7. Houston (AP #7)
  8. Ohio State (AP #9)
  9. Arkansas (AP #8)
  10.  Alabama (AP #6)


I think every college basketball fanatic would agree that the beauty of March Madness is that anything can happen. Unless we have money on the line, we humans love to watch a Cinderella story unravel. When I was in middle school, I was a die-hard Duke fan who even wore customized Blue Devils sneakers. My fondest basketball memories consist of playmakers like Grayson Allen, Jahlil Okafor, and Jabari Parker. Nevertheless, on the night of March 19, 2017, South Carolina upset Duke in the Round of 32. If my memory serves, I threw out the shoes the next morning believing them to be a bad luck charm. This moment of devastation turned into an exciting outcome as South Carolina made it all the way to the Final Four. Moral of the story: when you fill out your bracket, don’t pick the better-skilled team but the team you can visualize winning and celebrating afterward. 

This bizarre season with limited fans has been made even more strange by the struggles of some of the most prestigious programs. These include Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, and Kentucky, two of which are projected to not even make the tournament. Speaking of, my last point of advice would be to listen to the projections of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi (A.K.A “Joey Brackets”). All this guy does is analyze college basketball and make seeding predictions, and he gets paid for it! As a last-minute form of preparation, I recommend reading Lunardi’s recently published book found here. I believe you will find some similarities between the reasoning of him and me. Simply put, great minds think alike.