March Madness begins with a slew of First Four games on Thursday, kicking off with a matchup between two sixteen seeds at 5:10 p.m., Texas Southern and Mt. St. Mary’s.
The 2021 NCAA Tournament will be held at the “Bubble” in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, with the 2021 Final Four beginning on April 3 and wrapping up on Monday, April 5.
With so much chaos during the regular season due to COVID protocols, this year’s tournament could bring even more “madness” to the table than usual.
Recently, Nick Meyer and Wade Peery of Forgotten Sports Heroes sat down to discuss the best matchups, potential upsets, Final Four picks and much more:
NM: So March Madness is finally here after an excruciating year-long hiatus, Wade. What’s the best first round matchup in your opinion?
WP: The Ohio-Virginia matchup was the biggest thing for me. Ohio is an incredibly good team with the potential to go to the Sweet 16. Jason Preston is one of the best stories in college basketball ever.
Watch – listen – retweet pic.twitter.com/m2gl9CXoCt
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) November 28, 2020
I’m also excited for the winner of the Ohio-Virginia game to play Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. Winthrop going against Villanova is exciting along with the Liberty-Okie State Matchup.
(Check out the full printable March Madness bracket here)
NM: Ohio almost took down Illinois earlier in the year. That might be the best game of the entire first round, although the MSU-UCLA play-in game on Thursday at 9:57 p.m. is also going to be fireworks.
WP: Potential “upsets” but ladies and gents you can throw the seeds out the window. It’s MARCH!!!
I’m thinking about picking UC-Santa Barbara over Creighton, too. Here come the Gauchos, Nick!!!
NM: Ah yes, Jim Rome’s alma mater.
I’m personally looking forward to Wisconsin vs. North Carolina. I still remember that Elite Eight classic when Sean May and Alando Tucker went at it, and the Badgers came up short.
NM: Speaking of Winthrop vs. Villanova, word on the street is you’re already counting out Jay Wright’s guys, Wade?
NM: Are you just taking Winthrop because it’s the trendy thing to do?
WP: Winthrop is dangerous! They’ve only lost one game. What can I say, this game just screams upset, it’s a 12-5, it’s a gimme, Nick.
NM: I could see that one coming down to the last possession, easily, but I’m going with Villanova. Most underrated program in the nation besides your Cavs. I can call them the Cavs, right?
WP: Yes absolutely. In the words of the great Tony Bennett, “Good basketball knows no divisions or limits. It only knows who plays best.”
I like Villanova a lot, Jay Wright is one of my favorite coaches, and I love their colors, but what can I say Nick, too many injuries. Say goodnight, Villanova. Love that program though.
WP: What are your thoughts on Michigan’s tourney chances, Nick? Juwan Howard’s first year of being a one seed. Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.
NM: Like most people I’m waiting on pins and needles to see if Isaiah Livers could potentially come back or not. I would say there’s a 50/50 chance he does…By the Sweet 16. But that’s just my personal opinion. I’m not a doctor, Wade.
WP: Yeah losing Livers is a huge loss, but either way the show must go on!
Virginia has had many seasons derailed over the years to injuries. Let’s not forget the UMBC loss when we didn’t have De’Andre Hunter. First #1 to ever go down to a 16. Brutal, just brutal.
NM: “Fear the Retrievers!”
I honestly think losing to App. State in football was more excusable. First game of the season, I-AA title contender, the magician that was Armanti Edwards.
WP: Oh yeah, Armanti Edwards was incredible.
NM: Looking at Michigan’s bracket, I have a bad feeling about a potential meeting with LSU in the second round. Michigan always seems to struggle with SEC teams in basketball for whatever reason.
But as a Michigan fan, I feel your pain on that UMBC loss.
NM: Is there any team on the 15/16 line that can pull off another one this year, who would it be in your estimation?
WP: I would say so! I’m going to go with the Grand Canyon Antelopes. Epic mascot first off, and they shoot 49% from the field. They’re one of the top shooting teams in the nation, and they have a few big guys who are dangerous too.
Luka Garza had better get ready. What can I say but I’m just feeling the Antelopes. They have a big man named Asbjorn Midtgaard, he’s from Denmark and a 7-foot, 270 pound mammoth of a man.
NM: I was going to say Cleveland State over Houston at first glance, but they don’t shoot the ball all that well and they’re bad from the free throw line too.
If I had to pick an upset I’d go with Oral Roberts over Ohio State simply because they have two guys who can flat-out shoot it from downtown as Dickie V. would say, in Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor, both high volume shooters in the mid-to-high 40% range from three.
WP: Alessandro Lever from Grand Canyon shoots 39% from three point and is 6’10, 235. That, Nick is a matchup problem.
NM: Speaking of sleeper teams, what’s your all-time favorite tournament upset?
WP: All-time favorite tournament upset? I loved the LaSalle team a few years back. The Explorers and Tyrone Garland.
Terrell Taylor of Creighton knocking out Florida was one of my favorites. He watched MJ to the Max before going out and getting it done in that game.
NM: For me, Princeton over UCLA by a final count of 43-41 was my all-time favorite. Watching those eggheads backdoor cut UCLA to death was about as good as it gets for a college hoops purist such as myself.
And then there was Santa Clara over Arizona in 1993. Steve Nash beat a loaded Wildcats squad led by Chris Mills, Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire. I never, ever would have guessed Nash would be a future NBA’er let alone a future MVP at that point in time, but then again neither did Lute Olsen’s guys.
WP: Lehigh as a 15 seed over Duke is definitely an all-time favorite. I can’t stand Coach K so anytime he goes down in flames I am cheering wildly. Not to mention C.J. McCollum was on that Lehigh team and he lit up the Blue Devils!
Finally, Middle Tennessee State over Michigan State in 2016. Sometimes I admittedly root for MSU even as a Michigan fan (like against Duke and Zion Williamson), but this was not one of those times.
WP: I liked that Middle Tennessee upset too.
NM: I respect Tom Izzo’s teams and have enjoyed watching them in the tournament, but I was stuck in traffic rooting like crazy for the Raiders in that one.
WP: Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown was a great one too, another 15 over a 2. Those FGCU teams were so much fun to watch. Lob City!!
I’ll never get tired of watching Chase Fieler and co. throw down dunks:
NM: Which player is the X Factor in this year’s tournament? The guy who can put his team over the top if he really comes to play?
I love the point guard from Illinois and the facemask he wears. The Basketball Zorro is coming for the National Title Nick!! Ayo Dosunmu!
I love the way that guy plays, smooth and glides up the floor. Illinois is my pick to win it all thanks to him and Kofi Cockburn. Have fun if you play them in the tournament. You’re not winning.
WP: Aside from the obvious ones I would say Herbert Jones, Jr. of Alabama.
To win SEC player of the year while scoring only 11.2 points is a pretty impressive feat. He led the Tide in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. That’s my kind of player and a stat line that reminds me of the unsung hero of those Billy Donovan title teams: Corey Brewer
WP: Alabama is dangerous, God I watched them and they were bombing threes a couple of games there…Exciting team to watch, they could very easily make it to the Final Four.
I see ESPN analysts picking Texas to the Final Four Nick, and I don’t see it.
NM: Speaking of do-it all forwards, Jones reminds me a lot of Isaiah Livers in terms of his ability to stuff a stat sheet. Jones being healthy and Livers not could be the difference in Alabama winning that East Region over Texas, Michigan, LSU and Florida State.
But UConn is another sleeper team to watch in that bracket.
WP: Gonzaga has disappointed me so many times over the years in my brackets. I’m going against them this year. Prepare the tears, Corey Kispert. They will have extra towels! The next Adam Morrison.
NM: I think Gonzaga has strength in numbers this year. I can’t see them losing before the Final Four.
WP: Whenever I expect anything out of Gonzaga–they choke. This year, perfect season on the line. I think they’ll choke.
Especially if a rematch with Virginia is there or if they face Ohio. THIS IS MARCH MADNESS!!
NM: Okay Wade, time to put your predictions where your mouth is…If not the Zags, who is in your Final Four?
WP: I like either the winner of the Virginia-Ohio game to punch their tickets to the Final Four instead of the Zags.
NM: I’m going with Gonzaga because Jalen Suggs is the best player in the tournament and Mark Few has been there before. Baylor in the South on sheer talent alone. In the Midwest, I’m taking Illinois, but Loyola Chicago could get them in the second round.
And in the East, I’m taking Alabama. I’ve thought all year that the one seeds are head and shoulders above everyone else, it’s just that Michigan might not be in that group right now without their second best player in Livers.
Such is the life of a Michigan fan. At least App State isn’t in this tournament and Michigan State is going out early.
WP: I like Illinois to win it all. I’ll go Illinois, Baylor, and Alabama, and while I’ll pick Gonzaga in some brackets. I’ll go with either Virginia or Ohio and get wild.
NM: Any final thoughts Wade? Will you bet the farm on that Virginia pick?
WP: Ha, not at all Nick.
My final thoughts are, Illinois looks unbeatable. Look for Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn to cut down the nets once it’s all said and done. Even if they do face Gonzaga, Drew Timme better pull up a seat because Cockburn will show him how it’s done.
NM: Illinois, unbeatable? I think they have the recipe to win it all, but Gonzaga is more well rounded. That one would be an all-time great championship matchup.
That’s all for today, folks, enjoy the matchups and don’t forget to get those brackets in on time.