[See our complete guide to March Madness.]
The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament concluded Thursday with the play-in games of Indiana. They hosted a game of the blue-blooded UCLA and Michigan State, which were winners of a combined 13 national championships, late last night, but the action wins seriously on Friday.
From 12:15 east time, eight matches will take place on Friday afternoon, followed by eight others in the evening. All the games are played in Indiana due to the pandemic. Sixteen more matches will be played on Saturday. Four national television networks – TBS, CBS, TNT and TruTV – will lead the action.
The second round matches this year take place on Sunday and Monday (please call in sick on Monday) and by Monday evening the round of 16 will be determined.
Here’s what you need to look out for during the first weekend of the tournament.
Gonzaga begins his search for history.
The Bulldogs are the best overall team and enter the tournament at 26-0. They are the first team since Kentucky in 2015 to come unbeaten in the tournament. Kentucky, with nine future NBA players, risked 38-0 this season before losing in the national semifinals to Wisconsin at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Before that, Jerry Tarkanian’s Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin ‘Rebels were the last undefeated team to reach the Final Four in 1991 before falling to the national semifinals at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis against Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Duke.
To become the first undefeated champion since Indiana in 1976, the Bulldogs must secure six wins in the next three weeks – also in Indianapolis – on Saturday night against Norfolk State, who beat Appalachian State 54-53 on Thursday.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s team has three finalists – Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme – for the country’s John R. Wooden Award, while the team’s fourth best player, Joel Ayayi, the only triple double play in program history. .
If Gonzaga can win six side by side, it will be 32-0 – just like Bob Knight’s Indiana team.
“Yes, we want to win a national championship,” Few told ESPN on Sunday. “But we have to be ready to go, and we have to play really well, including this first one.”
Virginia, Kansas, Oklahoma and Georgia Tech have virus issues.
Virginia, the 2019 title winner, is technically the defending champion since the tournament was canceled last year. But the Cavaliers had to withdraw from the semifinals in the Atlantic Coast Conference last week after a positive test, subsequent quarantines and contact tracing within the program.
Coach Tony Bennett said most of the team, ranked No. 4 in the Western Region, spent the week in quarantine in Charlottesville, Va. The Cavaliers are expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Friday before Saturday night’s game against no. 13 in Ohio. They will have to practice a lot on Friday to prepare for their first game in nine days.
“I’m just very hopeful we can play this weekend,” said Red Shirt forward Sam Hauser. said. “Quarantine is not that nice, but we can at least walk around, get some fresh air, so just try to hold a basketball in your hand as much as possible.”
Ohio had Jason Preston, a 6-foot-4 junior point guard who averaged 16.6 points, 7.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds and called “The LaMelo Ball of college hoops” by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. Both Bilas and Former President Barack Obama chooses Ohio to upset Virginia.
Kansas, the number 3 team in the Western region, will also play its first game in nine days on Saturday – against no. 14 East Washington – after withdrawing from the Big 12 tournament. Junior big man David McCormack is expected to train in Indianapolis on Friday after being on virus protocols. Coach Bill Self said the second guard Tristan Enaruna would miss at least the first two games after a positive coronavirus test on Sunday ‘after numerous negative tests in a row’. Rookie Jalen Wilson, with an average of 12.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, will miss at least the first game after testing positive last Friday.
Wilson’s former high school teammate De’Vion Harmon of Oklahoma will also miss his team’s first game with Missouri after testing positive. Harmon is the second leading scorer of Sooners, with 12.9 points per game. Kansas beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament last Thursday before Kansas retired due to the positive test of Wilson.
“I think it will be an adjustment, but not as much as many people think,” Self said. “We may not be playing well, but it’s not because I do not believe we threw a bow ball that we can not hit.”
Georgia Tech, the ACC tournament champion and No. 9 seed in the Midwest region, got a huge blow. Moses Wright, who won the ACC Player of the Year award, will play at least the first game against no. 8 Loyola Chicago misses Friday due to Covid-related problems, according to several reports.
Wright, a 9-foot forward, averages 17.4 points, 8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Coach Josh Pastner will now have to use a smaller series against Loyola, with six-foot 9 Cameron Krutwig, the player of the Missouri Valley Conference of the Year, averaging 15 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Some key players will return. Others stay outside.
Connecticut could have junior impala guard RJ Cole ready for Saturday’s game against Maryland. UConn said on Thursday that Cole was in the final stages of the concussion protocol, which includes the practice for full contact. Cole, averaging 12.3 points, 4.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game, hit his head on the floor with less than five minutes left against Creighton in the Big East Tournament semifinals and thrived on the Lane.
Drake’s leading scorer ShanQuan Hemphill returned Thursday for the team’s game, a 53-52 victory over Wichita State, after breaking his foot last month. He averaged 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and helped the Bulldogs start the season 18-0.
Michigan star Isaiah Livers (tension fracture in his right foot) remains undetected, which could affect the No. 1-seeded Wolverines. Josh Primo (Alabama Guard) (sprained knee ligament) is listed as day to day. He averaged 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Crimson Tide, the champion of the Southeastern Conference in the regular season and the tournament.
Tennessee forward John Fulkerson is still out day after day after having surgery on his face because he was added during the SEC tournament by Omar Payne in Florida. Fulkerson averaged 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Hall of Famers will walk around the sideline.
Five of the seven active Division I men’s basketball coaches in the Naismith Hall of Fame are involved in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State Tom Izzo kicked off business against UCLA on Thursday night and lost 86-80 in overtime. Kansas’ Self, Iona’s Rick Pitino, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and North Carolina’s Roy Williams are also back in the tournament.
Neither Mike Krzyzewski of Duke nor John Calipari of Kentucky received a bid, the first time since 1976 that both programs are out of the tournament.
Villanova’s Jay Wright, a Hall of Fame finalist this year, is back in the tournament after winning two of the last four NCAA titles. Among active coaches, only Krzyzewski (five) and Williams (three) have more titles than Wright.