March Madness is finally back. The NCAA men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments were probably the most significant American sporting events to get completely wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic last year. The NBA playoffs and The Masters, for example, were postponed and eventually completed in the fall. There were no makeup dates for the tournaments, though, which was especially brutal considering the seniors who were about to begin their final March run. But all systems are a go this year, and the men’s 68-team field will be announced Sunday night at 6 p.m. ET on CBS (the women’s bracket will be unveiled Monday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN).
So, if you haven’t checked up on college hoops much this year, but want to win your office pool, it’d be nice to know that it’s been pretty a pretty atypical year, regardless of the pandemic. Traditional powerhouses, or “bluebloods,” like Duke and Kentucky had rough years. The latter certainly won’t make the tournament after going 9-16, and Duke will likely be on the outside looking in, as well, especially after Georgetown and Oregon State unexpectedly won the Big East and Pac-12 tournaments, respectively, meaning they’ll steal two bids.
Another mainstay, Michigan State, should sneak in, but will probably be a double-digit seed. North Carolina and Kansas, meanwhile, had solid seasons and are tournament locks, but aren’t considered to be among the upper echelon of contenders, which includes quite a few upstart programs.
Undefeated Gonzaga is the heavy favorite, while Michigan, Baylor, and Illinois — a program that hasn’t made the tournament since 2013 — are primed to grab the three remaining no. 1 seeds, in some order. The rest of the contenders may read more like a list of teams competing for the College Football Playoff, but you don’t have your sports mixed up. Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio State, Iowa, Texas, and Oklahoma State are all very much in the mix. Check out ESPN’s bracket projections here. Tim O’Donnell