OPINION: An explanation of the top seeds and possible upsets in the first round of March Madness

2021+NCAA+Division+I+Men%27s+Basketball+Championship+bracket.+

NCAA

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship bracket.

     After 710 days, March Madness finally returns. 

     The last crowned champion of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament was the Virginia Cavaliers. The year before, they were a one seed and got shocked by the 16 seed UMBC Retrievers. 

     This year’s top seeds are the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Baylor Bears, Illinois Fighting Illini, and Michigan Wolverines. Gonzaga, Baylor, and Illinois all won their conference tournaments. Michigan, however, won the regular-season title for the Big Ten. 

     Gonzaga (26-0), the champions of the West Coast Conference, are going into this tournament seeking their first championship. The Bulldogs will face off against the Norfolk State Spartans. Statistically, the Bulldogs are the favorite to win the tournament. Many fans and critics say otherwise, though. Due to the lack of quality opponents throughout the whole year, they did play top teams at the beginning of the season, but after that, they played conference play. Kenpomery Rankings has the Bulldogs playing the 95th hardest schedule. 

     The Bears of Baylor University came off a very strong season, finishing with a record of 22-2. Their only losses were to the West Virginia Mountaineers and Oklahoma State Cowboys, both of which are top 15 teams in the country. The Bears come into the tournament with the third-ranked offense in the country, but their defense is ranked 44th. Baylor will play Hartford University in their first game of the tournament. 

     Illinois comes into the tournament with a Big Ten Tournament championship under their belt. The Big Ten was regarded as the best and hardest conference this season. The Big Ten consists of 14 teams and every team’s schedule in the Big Ten was ranked in the top 15 for hardest schedule. Illinois had a record of 23-6 to cap off the season. The Fighting Illini will play the Dragons of Drexel University. Illinois has two of the top players in the nation, Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, on their team. It will be interesting to see if they will be the victim of an upset in these next couple of rounds or if they will be cutting down the nets. 

     The last one seed team is the University of Michigan. Their last championship was in 1997 when the present head coach of the Wolverines won the national championship as a player. Michigan has one of the most dominant freshmen in the country, Hunter Dickinson, but benches players who can come onto the floor and make plays on both ends of the court. Isaiah Livers, the most versatile player on the starting five, was ruled “day to day” after suffering an injury to his foot in the Big Ten Tournament. This is a huge loss for the Wolverines. On the other side, they have so much depth and culture, thanks to Juwan Howard. This indicates they won’t be slowing down. The Wolverines (20-4) will play the Tigers of Texas Southern University. 

     Now to talk about UPSETS! 

     Normally when filling out a bracket, you will always look to pick upsets because that is what happens in March. One thing we might possibly see this year is all 12 seed teams winning in their first-round games. University of California Santa Barbra will play Creighton. UCSB has been on fire recently. Creighton struggled against Georgetown in the Big East Championship. I picked UCSB to win this matchup. The next 12 vs. 5 game we will take a look at is Georgetown (12) vs. Colorado (5). Georgetown was not expected to win the Big East, but they did. Colorado has an all-around good team, but if the Hoyas keep playing how they were in the Big East Tournament they will be a threat to Colorado. 

     In the midwest region, Oregon State (12) will play Tennessee (5). Oregon State won the Pac-12 Tournament which was not expected at all. Tennessee has been a very inconsistent team this season. The Beavers look to take full advantage of that and advance to the next round. Winthrop (12) and Villanova (5) will face off for the chance to advance to the round of 32. Villanova has to reach into their depth chart due to the injuries the team is facing which is why Winthrop may be a good pick. 

     After the rounds of 64 and 32 conclude, we will break down the sweet sixteen and possible elite eight matchups for the Sweet Sixteen.