March Madness 2021 Preview: Roll with the Favorites?

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March Madness kicks off on Wednesday, March 18.

Nick Holt, Editor-in-Chief

Once again the best time of the year for sports fans across America is upon us: March Madness.

Last year, we were robbed a great time of nonstop basketball due to COVID-19, but now, in 2021, all things are a go for the tournament.  Taking place in a bubble in Indianapolis, Indiana, players will be tested and kept isolated to assure the safety and health of all players, coaches, and media personnel involved with the tournament, a very similar situation to the NBA bubble during the playoffs this past season.  With that being said, if all goes well, there should be some fantastic games in store for us this March.

The Favorites:

According to Vegas, the four teams with the highest odds to win the championship are of course the No. 1 seeds with Gonzaga +200, Baylor +600, Illinois +600, and Michigan +800.  Per usual, the Zags are one of the best teams in the country but always seem to fall a little bit short historically, never winning a National Championship.  The closest the Zags have gotten was in 2017, when they were taken down by the No. 1 UNC Tar Heels, 71-65.  Though, the talk of the media is that it may finally be Gonzaga’s year.  Led by 5-Star recruit, Jalen Suggs, the Zags are the team to beat and could bring home the title this year.  For the rest of the No. 1 seeds, the media seems to be pretty null on the remaining teams, except for the Illinois Fighting Illini, who are a national fan favorite.  A complete team with potentially the best, most star studded roster in the country, Illinois has a more than a chance to win the National Championship.  Led by two top 5 players in the country, Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, no team is deeper and complete than the Fighting Illini.  Handling the ball for Illinois is freshman guard André Curbelo, who should be up there with the likes of Ayo, Kofi, and Jalen Suggs, a true point guard who could make the difference for this team.  Illinois and Gonzaga seem to be the two most elite teams in the tournament, but then again, it is March, anything can happen with a sneaky 12 seed or 15 seed.

The Sleepers:

The best part of March is getting your bracket busted by a Cinderella 16 seed, similar to the likes of UMBC or seeing a magical run like Loyola Chicago from a couple years ago, and this year, the upset potential is through the roof.  A few teams to keep an eye on are Georgetown, UCSB, Iona, and Winthrop.  Coming off of a Big East Championship, Georgetown is a very sneaky 12 seed that has Sweet Sixteen potential.  Led by coach Patrick Ewing, former Knicks legend, Georgetown could bust some brackets and take down the No. 5 Colorado out of a weak Pac-12.  For UCSB, the Gauchos are a fun pick who could take down Creighton who were just dominated by Georgetown in the Championship as mentioned before.  UCSB isn’t an easy pick, but it’s March, the upsets will come.  My personal favorite sleeper, Iona, coached by Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, raises chances that a fraudulent Alabama team gets exposed by an elite coach in Pitino.  Finally, Winthrop is a true competitive team that may attack an injury plagued Villanova team who lost their best player in Collin Gillespie.  Nova definitely are misseeded with the loss of their lead man.

Obviously, nothing is a guarantee in March, it is virtually unpredictable with a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance to pick a perfect bracket, but hey, that’s the fun of it.  Happy March Madness to all.