by, Michael Bottiglieiri, Contributor
It has been 710 days since we last saw March Madness in full swing, but who was counting? Practically everything, including last year’s NCAA tournament, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic gaining traction throughout the entire world.
Sports fans nationwide are ecstatic to see this hype-driven tournament back in action Thursday night with the play-in games, otherwise known as the ‘First Four’. These games kick off the Madness consisting of the bottom eight qualifying teams looking to earn a spot in the field of 64.
This year brings a very unique March Madness with the exclusion of the usual powerhouses like Duke, Kentucky and Arizona. However, we also get to see some new squads like Georgetown and Winthrop in the spotlight, which could lead to potential cinderella stories that make March Madness such a wild tournament. It is a guarantee we will see some upsets throughout the entire tournament; the question is whether we will be expecting some of them or not.
Let’s dive into some teams that you may want to consider in the Round of 64, followed by some teams I can see going deeper as the tournament goes on.
Georgetown (12 seed) vs. Colorado (5 seed):
If there’s one thing I know about March Madness, momentum can determine a win or a loss. Georgetown, led by head coach and Knicks legend Patrick Ewing, are back to playing old school Georgetown basketball. They are coming off their first Big East Tournament Championship since 2007 with a full head of steam, with notable wins against Villanova, Seton Hall and then a dangerous Creighton team in the Big East championship. Colorado is a tough team, but do not be surprised if Georgetown rides this momentum into Saturday afternoon, especially since the Buffaloes are coming off a tough loss in the Pac-12 Championship. Am I confident in a Sweet 16 appearance? Probably not. But I’m riding with the hot hand in the opening round against Colorado.
Ohio (13 seed) to the Sweet 16:
This may be the Cinderella story of this year’s March Madness. Junior guard Jason Preston has established himself as a household name given his fundamental play on the court and his incredible journey to get to where he is today. Preston led his squad to averaging around 81 points-per-game across a 16-win season in which they were crowned Mid-American Conference Champions after beating Buffalo in the title game. Additionally, they gave Illinois a run for their money earlier in the season in a game they only lost by two points. This is a tough, very well-rounded offensive team whom you should consider while filling out your bracket.
Alabama to the Final Four:
Alabama has never advanced past the Elite 8, but that will change this year. This is an Alabama squad that we have never seen, as they embrace modern analytics with their three point shooting success and second ranked defensive efficiency. This is a team that is built for the tournament, as they will approach situations where they will need to hit clutch threes and defend the perimeter. If they catch they’re rhythm, don’t be surprised to see them playing against Gonzaga later on.
Florida State (4 seed) vs. Michigan(1 seed) in Sweet 16
Florida State is a dangerous team. They average roughly 79 points-per-game, which is one of the best in the country. If they catch a lead early on, it may be hard to catch up. Also, Michigan’s senior forward Isiah Livers has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. This is a devastating blow to the Wolverines as they lose their undisputed best player and leader on the court. While Michigan is still as well-rounded as just about anyone in this tournament, losing Livers at this stage may be detrimental to their chances of cutting down the nets.
This tournament has so much unpredictability, but that is what makes it such a special sporting event. Don’t be surprised if we see something no one expected because anything can happen in March.