Sports, just like every other element of society, has witnessed an unprecedented interruption over the past 11 months. During that time, no other sport experienced as much turmoil as college basketball. We lost the 2020 March Madness, the only major sport to lose its championship due to Corona.
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Thankfully, this year we appear fully on track for an even madder March than ever before. All year universities have grappled with the push and pull of keeping their unpaid athletes safe and preserving the multi-billion dollar nest egg that is March Madness. Now that we are on the precipice of Conference Tournaments and bracket season, let’s catch up on the goings-on in the NCAA.
To Conference Tournament Or Not To Conference Tournament
Conference tournaments often provide teams a vital last chance to make their final tournament bids and not to mention fantastic games. This year, the specter of Covid poses the tricky question of whether those teams assured of their bid even want to attend their league’s conference tournaments. That’s because teams who have already secured their tournament could be risking a Corona infection during those games that could then rule them out of March Madness.
If you’re Baylor or Gonzaga, the definitive favorites, (more on that in a second) isn’t winning the NCAA more important than winning your conference tournament? Especially if that conference tournament could potentially leave them ineligible due to Covid cases for March? 25% of college coaches surveyed believe we shouldn’t have them at all.
New Blood Vs. Blue Bloods
Yes, you read that right. Gonzaga and Baylor are by far the two best teams in college basketball. It’s a weird concept to wrap your head around but that’s where things have landed. The traditional powerhouses of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas have all struggled to varying degrees.
Duke likely won’t even make the tournament if they don’t win the ACC tournament! That would mark the first time since 1995 that the Blue Devils missed March. Kentucky has limped through their worst season since 1920 while North Carolina and Kansas fielded teams missing their usual stock of 5 stars.
If you can find a way to short the blue bloods, do it. 2021 is not the year for traditional college basketball powers. It’s also difficult to envision a scenario where either Baylor or Gonzaga doesn’t at least make the final game.
Maestro’s Of March
When it comes to success in March, much of it comes down to your point guard. With 18 and 19-year-olds playing under the bright lights, teams live and die by whoever’s running the show. Here are a couple PGs to watch in the tournament.
• Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State: The 6 foot 8 guard for the Cowboys looks as advertised. He’s in the running to become the number 1 overall pick in the NBA draft and thanks to OSU kicking their self-imposed postseason ban a year down the road, he will be playing in March.
• Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga: The number one reason the Bulldogs appear to be the presumptive favorite is Suggs’ steller play. Widely considered the best PG in college, look for Suggs to take Gonzaga to previously unknown heights (winning a title).
• Evan Mobley, USC: Yes, we know Mobley is a center and not a point guard but we couldn’t help but shoehorn him in here. The 7 footer can do it all, including shoot threes, and he led USC to their best season in years. His freshmen numbers look eerily similar to Shaq’s and he looks like a lock for first team All-American.