Men’s March Madness 2021

Photo+by+Andrea+Piacquadio+from+Pexels

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Justin Elkin, Online Staff Writer

Screaming, crying (sometimes tears of joy), and madness echoes across millions of homes throughout the entire month of March and into the beginning of April as people tune into the thrilling multitude of games. Each year, millions of basketball zealots gather around their TV screens watching their intended perfect bracket collapse with the astonishing upsets. If you follow March Madness you know that filling out a perfect bracket is merely impossible, no matter how much you believe yours will make history at the start of each March. The good news is that you do not need any prior knowledge about college basketball to fill out a bracket, as filling out a perfect one is basically analogous to winning the lottery, but 1 billion times harder. As a result, billionaire and philanthropist Warren Buffet confidently declared that he would give 1 billion dollars to the person that could fill one out. 

This year, in fact, is unique and exciting for fans, since last year was canceled as it had aligned right with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, fans are still extremely grateful for the return of March Madness and excited to see a wide range of new and old teams from previous years. For PDS students this year, Juniors Nikhil Gandhi and Zach Law created the first-ever school-wide bracket pool in which both teachers and students could enter. This bracket clearly made PDS history and had over 65 basketball fans from various grades participating to compete for the ultimate $50 Visa Card along with their name being engraved on a trophy. Does it get any better than that? Gandhi shares some insight behind the school-wide bracket: “Zach and I were particularly excited about March Madness this year since last year the tournament was canceled. Usually, we do a pool just within our grade, but we thought with everything going on with the pandemic, there would be no better time to bring the whole school together than with an Upper School-wide pool. The tournament has been super crazy with all of the upsets and will definitely be one to remember.” As Gandhi mentioned, this year will definitely be historic for both PDS and March Madness following a canceled year, with the games being just as stirring. 

As March Madness began to unroll this year, the anticipation of no perfect brackets came true. On March 20, after Maryland defeated UConn, all perfect brackets came to an end. With no perfect brackets left, this year’s March Madness certainly enraged many with the astonishing upsets but gave people an underdog team to root for.

To kick off the year, the first game played was quite uneventful with two 16 seeds, Texas Southern and Mount St. Mary’s, battling it out. Although both of these teams have the lowest ranking possible, and quite frankly mostly unheard of, I want to emphasize that every game matters in March Madness if you want to succeed in a bracket or even complete for the impossible perfect bracket. In my opinion, games similar to Texas Southern and Mount St. Mary’s, where there is no clear winner, have more significance than games like Houston vs. Cleveland State, which most people guessed correct for, as Houston is a two seed and Cleveland State is a 15 seed. Although I just mentioned that lower seeds usually beat the higher seeds, many March Madness fans know that that is not always the case, and you should sometimes follow the cliche “expect the unexpected” when filling out your intended successful bracket. Many people usually will pick the better seed to win, especially in a league for a prize like the PDS bracket, whereas others pick carefully or intuitively which upsets they believe will occur–these usually are the people who thrive in bracket pools. 

Some notable upsets worth mentioning include 13 seed Ohio beating 4 seed Virginia in the first round (but were eliminated by Creighton subsequently), 13 seed North Texas beating 4 seed Purdue in the first round, 11 seed UCLA beating all of its competition so far up to this day (currently in the final four), and most notably, 15 seed obscure Oral Roberts beating the big state school Ohio State. The Ohio State defeat resulted in millions of brackets failing, as many people had Ohio State winning the first round and going to the final four or even to win it all. Personally (since that game messed up my bracket), I wanted to root for Oral Roberts since they were the underdogs, but their streak ended in the sweet 16 versus 3 seed Arkansas. As I watched the March Madness games, Loyola Chicago’s success shocked me, especially after they defeated Illinois’s star player Ayo Dosunmu, who had received the media’s attention (after his reenactment of Kobe Bryant in the locker room after winning won the 2001 NBA championship), with Cameron Kudwig’s astonishing 19 point game to defeat a 1 seed by 19 points. Perhaps it was because of 101-year-old super-fan and chaplain Sister Jean who brought them good luck up until they lost in the sweet 16 to Oregon State. 

Other than a few upsets here and there, most of the games were quite predictable. For instance, Baylor and Gonzaga won most of their games as 1 seeds, Arkansas made it pretty far to the sweet 16 as a 3 seed, and Iowa beat Grand Canyon as a 2 seed and 15 seed matchup. It does not shock me, however, that these teams prevailed against their matchups, as all of the higher seeds have NBA-bound and extremely talented players. Gonzaga, for instance, has a powerful team with star players Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs, and Drew Timme. As shown in many matchups like the Oral Roberts vs. Ohio State matchup, however, it is not the individual player who can win the game, but rather the team who can work harmoniously.

Currently, as the final chapter of March Madness starts to unfold, the final four will take place on April 3 with 2 seed Houston playing 1 seed Baylor, and 11 seed UCLA playing 1 seed Gonzaga. It is important to note the shocking 11 seed UCLA made it this far, being the fifth 11th seed in history to make it to the final four. Regardless of the outcome, it will, without a doubt, be a competitive ending with bracket breakers and bracket makers. Most fans globally put a 1 seed to win, Gonzaga or Baylor, some put Houston to win it all, and very few to none have UCLA to win it all. If UCLA wins this year, they will make history and take 8 seed Villanova’s spot as the lowest seed to ever win, as an 11 seed. My prediction, though, is that 31-0 Gonzaga will win it all, but I would definitely love to see UCLA make history. Although nobody created a 1 in a 9 quintillion perfect bracket, every fan still has the March Madness vitality and will hopefully root for a team in this year’s possibly historical final four. 

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