March Madness has finally returned

One year removed from a lost season, the 2021 March Madness tournament has reminded us all why we love college basketball


John Harrison

After last years lost season, March Madness returns more chaotic than ever

The date was March 12, 2020, and the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament had just been canceled, with college sports’ most popular sporting event soon to follow. This year, however, the big dance is finally back, with upsets left and right, high-flying dunks, and sports fans everywhere tearing their brackets to shreds.

For sports fans across the country, spring doesn’t only mark the return of warm weather or lounging by the pool, but the days spent on the couch watching the country’s top college athletes compete for the NCAA’s most elusive prize. March Madness is unlike any other sporting event in the world: there are no series, no chances for redemption — It is the essence of “win or go home”. In March, no team is safe, as the next big upset could be right around the corner, and this year has been no exception.

The Big 10 were hit especially hard in the round of 64, with Ohio State and Purdue making early exits, losing to double-digit seeds. Ohio State was the biggest upset to occur on Friday, as just a week removed from being crowned champions of the Big 10, the Buckeyes lost a 72-75 heartbreaker to a surging Oral Roberts University. The Buckeyes’ offense ranked among the top teams in the country, but their lack of defensive prowess ultimately came back to bite them.

The SEC and Big 12 were no stranger to upset fever, as seven-seed Tennessee and three-seed Texas were both bounced out of the tournament in the first round of the tournament. Both of these teams carried heavy expectations entering the 2021 season, as Tennessee was an early favorite to compete with Gonzaga for the national championship. However, much like their seasons, both Texas and Tennessee’s early exits were riddled with disappointment and underperformance.

As for the teams wreaking havoc on top seeds, Loyola Chicago and 101-year-old superfan Sister Jean are once again making a name for themselves in this year’s tournament. Knocking off in state rival Illinois, who had been a favorite of many to make the final four, the Ramblers looked to slip on yet another glass slipper as their Cinderella season gained further momentum. Oral Roberts University, who was alluded to earlier, is also building momentum in the tournament — Having knocked off top seed Ohio State and a powerful Florida offense, their path to the final four could be halted by a tenacious Arkansas Razorback team led by star guard Moses Moody.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the Pac-12’s incredible performance in the tournament thus far, as the conference is 7-0 in the big dance. Oregon State’s momentum after winning the Pac-12 tournament has carried over into the big dance, as they have knocked both Tennessee and now Oklahoma State and booked their ticket to the Sweet 16. Guard Ethan Thompson has exploded in the tournament putting up 25 points in the Beavers’ upset win over the Cowboys. However, the Pac 12’s latest team to catch fire is the Oregon Ducks, putting up 95 points on their way to a major upset of Luka Garza and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

With the Sweet 16 set to take place this Saturday, college basketball fans still have plenty of chaos to look forward to. With only one team having been forced to forfeit due to positive tests, the NCAA bubble has been largely successful thus far, and shows no sign of slowing as more teams leave the bubble.

This tournament has given fans everything they missed from last March and more, and with the Final Four fast approaching, the nation’s eyes will be glued to the screen as college teams chase their one shining moment.