With the selection show releasing the teams and bracket this past Sunday, March Madness is upon us. March Madness is always near the top of sports entertainment, and everyone is looking forward to this year’s tournament after the cancellation of last year’s tournament due to the pandemic. The field is looking strong this year, especially with the teams near the top looking to claim a national championship.
This year’s March Madness may look a little different as the tournament is being played in a bubble in the state of Indiana. The tournament venues in Indiana include two courts inside of Lucas Oil Stadium, Mackey Arena, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, and Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Final Four will be played in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Not only will the venues look different, but the schedule looks a little different this year. In regular years the schedule starts with the First Four games on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by the first round on Thursday and Friday and the second round on Saturday and Sunday. This year’s schedule has all of the First Four games being played on Thursday. The first round will be held on Friday and Saturday, and the second round will be played on Sunday and Monday.
The top seed of the tournament is the Gonzaga Bulldogs who come into the tournament undefeated at 26-0. Gonzaga has beaten teams like Kansas, Auburn, West Virginia, Iowa, Virginia, and BYU in the conference championship this season. Gonzaga has three Player of the Year candidates on the team that includes senior forward Corey Kispert, who is leading the team in points with 19.2 per game. Next is freshman guard Jalen Suggs who was ranked as the number-6 ranked player in the 2020 class. Suggs is averaging 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and leading the team in assists with 4.5 per game. The last Player of the Year candidate from Gonzaga is 6’10” sophomore Drew Timme who leads the team with 7.1 rebounds per game.
Coming out of the Big Ten is the Illinois Fighting Illni. Illinois is coming into the tournament as Big Ten Tournament champs, as they defeated Ohio State in the title game. This team is not just one or two good players, as they have a whole lineup of great players. Illinois has two of the top Player of the Year candidates with Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. The rest of the starting lineup includes Trent Frazier, Jacob Grandison, Adam Miller, and they also have Andre Curbello and Da’Monte Williams coming off of the bench. Illinois plays in arguably the best conference in college basketball in the Big Ten. They defeated Iowa (twice), Ohio State (twice), and Michigan by 23 points. The Fighting Illini kick off their tournament with Drexel on Friday.
Oklahoma State has been playing great all year in the Big 12 conference. Oklahoma State fell to Texas in the Big 12 title game in a close hard-fought game after they had beaten one of the top teams in the country, Baylor, in the semifinals. Projected number 1 pick in the NBA draft and Player of the Year candidate, Cade Cunningham, has led this team only as a freshman, averaging 20.2 points per game. The thing that makes Oklahoma State different this year even with a star player like Cunningham is they have more than just him. This team has players like Isaac Likekele, brothers Kalib and Keylan Boone, Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Bryce Williams, Rondel Walker, and Avery Anderson III. The Cowboys bring in a lot of depth with them, which is what they will need if they want to make a run in the tournament. Oklahoma State starts their tournament on Friday with a game against Liberty.
Georgia Tech is a team who has been playing at a very high level, riding an 8-game win streak. The Yellow Jackets just beat Florida State in the ACC championship game to claim the ACC Tournament title. Georgia Tech is led by ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright who leads the team with 17.4 points per game. ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jose Alvarado has provided a spark for the team with his high energy and 3 steals per game, but on the offensive side he is still averaging 15.3 points per game. Senior guard Jordan Usher is giving the team 11.5 points per game and shooting 49 percent from the field this year. Lastly, junior guard Michal DeVoe is providing 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will take on Loyola Chicago in their first game of the tournament on Friday afternoon.
The Hoyas of Georgetown are another team who has been playing on fire and a type of basketball to get to the tournament. The Hoyas made the tournament by winning four games in four days, beating the best team in the Big East in Villanova, and winning the Big East Tournament to earn an automatic bid. In the conference championship, Georgetowm went on to beat the number 2 seed in the Big East, Creighton by 25 points to claim the title. Georgetown is coached by NBA legend and former Hoya, Patrick Ewing. Senior guard Jahvon Blair is leading the team in point and assists with 15.8 points and 3.8 assists. The Hoyas’ first game of the tournament is on Saturday against Colorado.
Senior Charlie Caryl is one of many students looking forward to March Madness.
“I am extremely excited for the tournament this year,” Charlie said. “I feel like last year’s disappointment really gets me ready to watch the games. Just watching the selection show Sunday night brought back a sense of nostalgia. I feel like this year‘s tournament is wide open. It all depends on who’s hot going into the tournament. In my opinion, LSU can go very far if they surpass Michigan. This is because Michigan has not been looking too hot lately, unlike LSU. Their performance in the conference championship against powerhouse Alabama really gave them a confidence boost going into the tournament.”
The First Four games start Thursday at 5:10 p.m. with 16 seeds Texas Southern going against Mount St. Mary’s. On Friday, the tournament tips off at 12:15 p.m. on CBS with #7 Florida taking on #10 Virginia Tech. Friday kicks of four straight days of nonstop college basketball with a ton of madness to be expected. March Madness will not disappoint this year, and everyone is looking forward to the tournament.