March Madness is back

Raymond Vasquez, Staff Writer

With another Selection Sunday and an unprecedented regular season finally over, this year’s postseason has been full of games canceled or postponed with players unable to play due to COVID-19 protocols.

Now, every conference champion is ready to hear their names called and be assigned into a bracket of 64. All of the teams await their fate to see who will make up the rest of the field and aspire to be tournament champion. One of the most exciting times in sports is finally back after a year of absence.

Due to the unprecedented cancellation of the tournament in 2020, which was the first-ever cancellation in the tournament’s 81-year history, there are many changes due to the pandemic. First, the NCAA will host the entire tournament in one geographic location for the first time ever, that being Indianapolis, Indiana.

The players, both for the men’s and women’s tournaments, are currently in a bubble to limit any outside interaction as one of their COVID-19 protocols. Typically, games are played in the geographical location of the four regions, so this is a big change. Another big change is how teams are matched up. Typically, the committee uses the “S-curve” to match teams based on their rankings and with a consideration for geography, which this year’s tournament will not observe. Lastly, the number of at-large selections has increased from 36 to 37 and the number of automatic qualifiers has dropped from 32 to 31, because the Ivy League did not conduct a winter season.

“I was really sad that the tournament was canceled [last year],” said second-year Caleb Liebengood. “I look forward to it every year.” However, he is overjoyed and commented,  “I am very, very excited that it is back.”

Regardless of the unusual events of last year, this year’s tournament is hosting its fair share of big upsets in the first two days, such as No. 1 seed Illinois losing to No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago with a score of 71-56 and No. 2 seed Ohio State losing to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts with a score of 72-75. Oral Roberts became the only No. 15 seed in the history of the tournament to reach the Sweet 16. It was great to see 101-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt of Loyola University Chicago attending the game and rooting for her Ramblers, as she has done for the last few years during March Madness.

“The biggest upset for me was definitely when Oral Roberts beat Ohio State,” Liebengood commented about the games played so far. 

Because it’s his hometown and out of loyalty to his father’s alma mater, he was disappointed when No. 3 Kansas lost to No. 6 seed USC, but he is still enjoying just having the tournament back. 

As for who will take it all, there are still quite a few games left to find out, but Liebengood said gave his bet of who it will be. He said, “I think that Arkansas and Gonzaga will be the finale, with Gonzaga taking it all.”

The layout of March Madness, or the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament, is the result of months of work from college teams all around the country. In the four regions of the tournament, teams are placed based on their ranking and the strength of their schedule. The first way a team can earn a bid to the tournament is by winning one of the 32 Division 1 conferences. Each team that wins their conference receives an automatic bid to the tournament. The second way a team can earn an invitation is through an at-large bid. The NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Committee convenes on Selection Sunday and decides which 36 teams who were not automatic qualifiers, have the pedigree to earn an invitation to the tournament. The four number one seeds are usually the four teams ranked in the top four in the yearly Associated Press (AP) poll at the time of Selection Day.

Regardless of what team you root for, or if they’ve already been eliminated, all March Madness fans can agree on the excitement of the tournament returning. So, enjoy the remaining games, watch your brackets, and get ready for a crazy finale. 

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