March Madness 2021 Tournament Underdogs
The March Madness tournament is amazing for many reasons. The tournament offers one of the largest fields in all sports. An incredible 68 teams go dancing each March. With so many teams, there is an obvious gradient of skill level throughout the seeds. This year, the number 1 overall seed of the tournament is Gonzaga. They are currently undefeated this season and look unbeatable. The lowest seed in the tournament is 16 seed Appalachian State who will play 16 seed Norfolk State in the first four this Thursday.
As good as the selection committee is at seeding teams, this is the wonderful world of sports. Anything can happen on any given night. In 2018, we witnessed the first ever 1 seed losing to a 16 seed. The Virginia Cavaliers were ousted in the first round by UMBC making 1 seeds 139-1 all-time.
It would be almost impossible to predict that upset, and all the other upsets that are bound to happen. Here is a look at tournament underdogs that have a chance to make a big splash this March.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
12 Seed in West Region
First Round Matchup: 5 seed Creighton Bluejays
It is inherently hard to weigh mid-major conference teams schedule as they are playing lesser competition all year long. UC Santa Barbara plays in the Big West conference alongside other big California Schools and Hawaii. UCSB routed their conference and finished the season 22-4 and steamrolled through the Big West Tournament winning by an average margin of victory of over 13 points. The Gauchos are a fantastic 3-point shooting team. In the tournament, all it can take is a fantastic shooting game to beat anyone in the field.
The Creighton Bluejays are good but have been struggling a bit as of late. Creighton barely made it to the Big East tournament final where they were torched by Georgetown. Georgetown is now a 12 seed in the East Region of the tournament. If Creighton gets blown out by now 12 seed Georgetown, 12 seed UCSB just might be too much.
The intriguing part of this matchup is that the winner plays either an overvalued, beat-up Virginia team or a one-man-show Ohio team. If UCSB can take care of Creighton, they may have a nice ride to the Sweet 16 where they would likely meet the number one overall seed, Gonzaga.
9 Seed in South Region
First Round Matchup: 8 seed North Carolina Tarheels
The Badgers have been embarrassingly inconsistent this year. They finished 10-10 in conference play which was good enough for sixth in the Big 10. The inconsistency was not just throughout the season. Within games, the Badgers could go from winning by 15 and looking like a fantastic team to scoring zero baskets in 9 minutes of gameplay. Whether some, believe it or not, the tournament is a different animal. Some teams just always perform well in the tournament and the Badgers are one of them. Besides their early exit last year, the Badgers have made long runs in the tournament. With their veterans this year, they have a chance to beat some good tournament teams. Even though they have a lower seed, look for another long run.
The Tar Heels, like the Badgers, have played inconsistently this season. Roy Williams has been breaking records this year for his wins, but the Tar Heels have not found the same success finishing the season 18-10. North Carolina has a good defense but not good enough to stop a Wisconsin team that is clicking.
The winner of this game goes on to play the winner of the Baylor-Hartford game. The Baylor team is the 1 seed in the South region and many peoples pick to win the entire tournament. They are a great team with great talent but much younger than the Badgers. Many Badger players have been to the tournament before and can help them win again.
12 Seed in South Region
First Round Matchup: 5 seed Villanova Wildcats
The Winthrop Eagles have had an incredible season. They finished the season 23-1 and dismantled every team they played against in the Big South conference tournament. D.J Burns Jr. is one of the more unpolished guys in college basketball but look out when he gets the ball. He has been dunking and completely dominating beneath the basket. This Winthrop team is balanced and poised to make a big run, starting with beating Villanova.
It may not be that the selection committee got Villanova wrong as much as they just have not been the same team as of late. A five seed is high for a team that lost 3 of their last four games and will be without their star player in the tournament. As high as the ceiling may be for the Wildcats, they have no chance of reaching that this tournament. As good as Jay Wright is as a coach, and he is good, the Wildcats are unfortunately just not set up for success this tournament.
If the Winthrop Eagles can pull off the upset, they would play either Purdue or North Texas. Purdue is a weird team that got beat up by many Big Ten teams but turned around to win many great games as well. North Texas is a great shooting team but has not always shown up to play. Either match-up looks quite good if the Eagles can get past Villanova.
2021 March Madness Bracket found at: https://www.ncaa.com/brackets/print/basketball-men/d1/2021?ko_click_id=ko_c6vewzrjt39l5ow7f