After a regular season plagued by COVID-19 cancellations, sparked by crazy upsets and highlighted by some great basketball, March Madness has officially arrived. With the tournament kicking off today, so begins the hectic environment of Cinderella stories and historic rivalry matchups that makes this month so special for athletes and fans alike. But even after all the work these 64 teams put in to get to where they are, only one can come out on top. In today’s roundtable, the DC Sports Section will be giving our predictions for which two teams will meet in the finals, and who will be hoisting the NCAA Tournament Trophy come April.
For this special edition of March Madness, two teams vying for their first championship will enter and one will leave with their first ever title. Nothing against UConn, but I would like to see a very unique matchup, especially with the absence of Duke, Kentucky and Louisville (albeit, with a certain condition). The two teams I would like to see in the finals are the University of Illinois with masked Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn and the University of Iowa with the second best Luka in basketball in Luka Garza. There are a lot of tough choices here from Baylor with Scott Drew to the juggernaut that is Gonzaga, but Baylor has been losing down the stretch (thanks COVID?) and Gonzaga, despite beating Iowa and Michigan, beat a lot of teams in one of the weaker DI conferences (other than BYU of course). Iowa and Illinois have had that experience, and their finals appearance would be an awesome showdown.
Despite all the craziness of this season, I feel like the end result will be fairly predictable with the best team in the country winning the tournament, and that is the Gonzaga Bulldogs. There hasn’t been an undefeated champion in college basketball since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, and I think this is the year that changes. Gonzaga probably has the easiest path to the Final Four on paper too, so that helps as well. I have Gonzaga beating Illinois in my bracket. The Fighting Illini have been incredible this season, coming out on top in the stacked Big 10, and I think they are probably the most battle-tested team in the country. I think this National Championship will be must-see TV, with Gonzaga coming out on top thanks to its three All-Americans Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Drew Timme. The Bulldogs have been so dominant, it’s hard for me to picture them losing.
The last couple weeks have shown that anything can happen in March. The amount of top ranked mid-majors that lost their conference tournaments is insane, and in return the bracket has been shaken up. I’m sure a lot of people will go with either Gonzaga since they’re undefeated, or Illinois for having their first good season in god knows how long, but the team that I feel is in the best spot to win it all is Alabama. The Tide have a good squad that showed out this year in SEC play. The team has shown their capacity to beat competitive teams by knocking off Arkansas, LSU, Florida and Clemson (which are all in the NCAA tournament) during the regular season and beating Tennessee and LSU on their way to claiming the SEC tournament title. With the SEC Coach of the Year Nate Oats, AP Third Team All-American Herbert Jones and tons of talent behind him, the Alabama Crimson Tide are my prediction to win it all.
Associate Sports Editor
All right, I guess if no one has said it yet, it’s my time to step in. For reasons obviously other than the fact that I go there, I believe the UConn Huskies will walk away with their second No. 7seed National Championship this season. To make it even sweeter, who do I think the Huskies will be playing? None other than their old conference rivals from Houston. Prior to their heartbreaking loss to Creighton in the Big East semifinals, plenty of people had UConn as one of their favorites to shock some people come tourney time, and despite the loss, I am still entirely on that train. James Bouknight is a star, Isaiah Whaley can match up defensively with the best of them and if RJ Cole and Tyrese Martin have their shots falling, there is little you can do to stop this Huskies squad. We’ve seen it done before, and it’s about time for it to happen again. So with that, I leave you with an entirely unbiased ROLL SKIES. Let’s get mad.