The Four Biggest Takeaways From the NCAAM Bracket Revealby Ben Fadden March 15, 2021 0 comments
The full bracket is out, so it is time to analyze what stood out the most from the unveiling–from the blue bloods to the First Four.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is set with the First Four beginning on Thursday, and that’s where we start.
UCLA and Michigan State in a Play-In Game?!
It isn’t necessarily a surprise to see the Bruins in one of the First Four games, but they’re still a big name that grabs attention. The bigger surprise is seeing Tom Izzo playing in the first two days of the tournament.
The Spartans didn’t have a great year by their standards record-wise, but they had wins against numerous top-seeded teams which should’ve been enough for them to immediately get into the Round of 64. They beat Rutgers, Illinois (a one seed), Ohio State (a two seed), and Michigan (another one seed) before the regular season concluded.
I expect Michigan State to beat UCLA and then barely beat the sixth-seeded BYU.
Oklahoma State’s Tough Draw
The Cowboys definitely earned an easier first and second-round matchup based on how they finished the season. They beat their rival Oklahoma in back-to-back games before knocking off West Virginia to end their regular season.
Then in the Big 12 tournament, they knocked out Baylor (the second-ranked team in the country) and gave Texas (who is arguably an Elite Eight team) all they could handle.
Despite their impressive resume and the fact that they have the #1 NBA draft prospect, Cade Cunningham, the selection committee put the Cowboys up against Liberty.
Liberty just finished a 23-5 season that included wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina along with winning their conference tournament. Assuming Oklahoma State wins, then they would have to play Tennessee, who nearly just beat Alabama in the SEC semis.
That’s a really tough first two rounds for Oklahoma State considering that the other four seeds such as Virginia got much easier draws with first and theoretically second-round matchups against Ohio (16-7) and Creighton (who got blown out by Georgetown in the Big East title game).
SDSU Elite Eight Bound?
The San Diego State Aztecs certainly have a path to the Elite Eight in the Midwest Region as the sixth seed. If they can get past Syracuse (who would’ve beaten Virginia in the ACC Tournament if it weren’t for a buzzer-beater), they would get matchups against West Virginia (a very similar team) and Houston (who wasn’t tested in their conference) in the Round of 32 and Sweet 16 respectively.
SDSU, who have won 14 games in a row, was going to be a two-seed last year before the tournament stopped and they still have several key players from last year’s magical team still on the roster such as Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel.
Kansas’ Tough Journey Past the Sweet 16
The Jayhawks might not even play their opening round game against Eastern Washington due to COVID protocols. If they do, they’re expected to breeze past the Eagles.
But after that, it gets tough.
If the higher seeds advance out of the first round, then the Jayhawks would have to play USC in the second round and Iowa in the third round. That’s if they don’t get upset by Eastern Washington, who won their conference title.
The Trojans are led by Evan Mobley–a top NBA draft prospect–and came in second in the Pac-12 regular-season standings. They have wins over Oregon (who won the regular-season conference title), BYU (who almost beat Gonzaga in the WCC title game), and UCLA.
I haven’t even gotten to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who started the season ranked fifth in the AP Poll and are led by Big Ten Player of the Year, Luka Garza. They’ve beaten North Carolina, Purdue, Rutgers, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin–all teams that are in the NCAA Tournament.
That’s a tough first three games for Kansas to get past. Oh, and by the way, they’d likely meet up against Gonzaga (who is still perfect and the tournament favorite) in the Elite Eight.
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