March Madness Bracket Busters
March Madness 2021 starts tomorrow with the four play-in games, Round 1 kicking off on Friday. If you haven't filled out your bracket yet or plan on doing another one, keep these potential bracket busters in mind. These teams have a real shot at advancing this year. Will there be another Cinderella Story?
BYU enters the Tourney with an overall record of 20-6, going 10-3 in conference play. To be fair, they had to play undefeated #1 overall seed Gonzaga 3 times, so aside from those matchups they only lost 3 other games all season. They’re in as a 6 seed, with a 1st Round matchup against the winner of Michigan State vs UCLA in the First Four play-in round. The Cougars come in with the 29th best BPI in the country & 21st best Strength of Record. The SOR factors in the team’s strength of schedule & their win-loss record to assess how difficult and impressive every team’s current standing is. BYU hasn’t really had any big time wins but they’ve played well against good teams. Gonzaga has beaten their opponents by 23 points per game on average, but BYU has only lost to them by an average of 12.5 points in their 3 games. In the WCC Championship Game, the Bulldogs almost stunned Gonzaga, taking a 53-41 lead into halftime. This was the first time the Zag’s have been really tested since some of their opening games against top teams in the country. They held their lead until under 8 minutes when it began to get away from them, ultimately losing 88-78. As a 6 seed who has shown they can play well in big games & against the best team in the country, BYU could be a sneaky pick to win some games in this tournament. With a first round win, they’d potentially play Shaka Smart’s 3rd seeded Texas in the Round of 32. If they win that, they might see #2 Alabama next. Don’t be too surprised if they pull off a couple upsets here.
This is an interesting situation brewing in the First Round. The 13th seeded Ohio Bobcats are scheduled to play the 4th seeded Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday for their First Round game of March Madness.
Here’s why this is interesting:
Virginia's ACC Tournament run came to an abrupt stop & they didn't even have to lose for that to happen. They came down with a case of the cooties, or as mainstream calls it, Covid-19. In an unprecedented year of March Madness, this is just an extra factor that no team needs to be dealing with heading into the 1st Round. Will Virginia be at full strength? The answer to that question could very well decide this game.
Virginia is coming into this tournament as technically the defending champs, due to last year's tourney being cancelled. However, we must acknowledge that the Cavaliers are not unfamiliar with early exists in upset fashion. We all remember them becoming the first 1 seed to ever lose to a 16 seed, UMBC. Many don't remember that they almost did it again the next season when they were down 36-30 at halftime against 16 seed Gardner Webb, before going on to win the National Championship. I was actually at that game so I'll never forget it. I couldn't believe Virginia was about to lose to a 16 seed again, but I was surely cheering it on! In 2016, Virginia was a #1 seed & lost in the Sweet 16 to 10th seeded Syracuse. Point is, Virginia is definitely liable to be on the wrong end of an upset in March Madness.
Ohio has already proven that they can compete with the best of the best. Early in the season, they nearly upset a then #2 ranked & now #1 seed Illinois. They ended up losing by just two points but that proves they can turn it on when it matters the most.
Jason Preston vs Virginia defense: Virginia's defense has been elite for years now, so any team that doesn't have a great playmaker usually doesn't see too much success. Fortunately for Ohio, they've got one of the best playmakers in the country in Jason Preston. He's averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds & 7.2 assists per game heading into this game. In that game against Illinois early in the year, he dropped 31 points, 8 assists & 6 rebounds. If Ohio pulls this off, Preston will have to have a huge game & lead the way for the Bobcats.
Georgia Tech & Loyola Chicago
Watch out for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. No seriously, they just won the ACC Championship, they're on fire. It's their first ACC Championship in 28 years. They are being led by a coach who has tourney experience in Josh Pastner. He won a National Championship as a player with Arizona in 1997 & was an assistant coach under Lute Olson as well as John Calipari. The Georgia Tech team essentially has no underclassmen in the rotation & an older, more experienced rotation is always helpful come March. They've got three sharpshooters which allows them to be able to compete with any team if they're on on any given day.
Unfortunately, their first round matchup is against another team I think can be a bracket buster this season. Loyola Chicago has done it before, as I talked about in another article; the Top 5 Cinderella Stories of the past decade. They are even better this year, coming into the tournament with the best defensive rating in the entire nation. This seems like a great First Round match-up. Either way, I think both teams can give Illinois a run for their money in the Round of 32. Georgia Tech has the scoring ability to keep up with the Illini offense & Loyola Chicago has the defense to slow them down.
Get your popcorn ready, it's almost time for Madness! If you've got a different potential bracket buster, comment your pick below! If it comes true, you'll have proof that you called it!