Photo courtesy of Ohio athletics
Hello March, I missed you. I missed you a lot. After the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 brings promise – and a basketball tournament.
With March Madness comes the Cinderella teams. Every year, the glass slipper fits certain lower seeds who make long runs in March.
Loyola Chicago wrote its names in the record book in 2018, when the Ramblers reached the Final Four. 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast reached the Sweet 16 in 2013 after wins against No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State.
Then, of course, there was UMBC. A No. 16 seed in 2018, the Retrievers defeated top-seeded Virginia, making it the first No. 1 vs. 16 upset in NCAA Tournament history.
The Retrievers were led by Jairus Lyles, who scored 28 points. UMBC’s run in the NCAA Tournament was short, as 9-seed Kansas State handled the Retrievers in the round of 32.
The 2021 field features a wide-open field, though. There are few clear-and-away favorites and plenty of lower-seeded teams have a chance of making their name heard.
Who, however, are the lower seeded teams in each region that will make some noise when games start on Thursday? We explore.
West Region – (14) Ohio
Very few teams in the nation score like the Ohio Bobcats do, and that’s saying something.
The Bobcats averaged 80.9 points per game, and after January, averaged 81 points per game. In the MAC Tournament, the Jeff Boals-led Bobcats scored at least 84 points in each of the three games.
Led by junior guard Jason Preston, who posts a 115.3 offensive rating, according to Bart Torvik, the Bobcats have found their stride and it will help them as they go into March.
Ohio has a tough match-up in the first round against No. 4 seed Virginia, but the Cavaliers struggle to stop teams inside of the three-point line. Virginia has allowed opposing offenses to shoot 46% on two-pointers this season. Ohio, which features limited overall size, has shown an ability to get to the rim and score between Preston and 6-foot-8 center Dwight Wilson III.
Should the Bobcats advance, they’ll face the winner of the No. 5 seed Creighton and 12th-seeded UC Santa Barbara match-up. That could be another winnable game for Ohio.
South Region – (14) Colgate
In a general sense, very few resumes compare to Colgate’s. Its NET rating ranks ninth in the nation — the best among mid-majors — while Arkansas ranks 14th. In Quadrant 2 (home 31-75, away 76-135 NET), Colgate is 2-0 with two away wins against Army.
Colgate, however, faces a tough task in the round of 64 against third-seeded Arksanas, but much like Ohio, Colgate’s offense can win it games.
In just 15 games, all of which were in conference, Colgate averaged 86 points per game and shot 40% from three. The Raiders are led by guard Jordan Burns, who averaged 17 points per game, shooting 42% from three. Wing Jack Ferguson is second on the team in scoring with 12.6 points.
If Colgate gets hot from three, which they have before, the Raiders can run Arkansas out of the gym. Opponents of the Razorbacks shoot 32.6% from three this year. That percentage is very low in Razorback victories.
Alabama may have set the blueprint to beat Arkansas, though Colgate will have to get hot to match it. In Alabama’s 90-59 victory over Arkansas on Jan. 16, the Crimson Tide shot 15-for-36 from deep.
East Region – (12) Georgetown
Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown team struggled in the regular season but a Big East Tournament win puts the Hoyas in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed. In the round of 64, Georgetown is matched up with fifth-seeded Colorado.
Three wins against Quadrant 1 teams, including two against fifth-seeded Creighthon, shows that the Hoyas can beat top teams and when March rolls around. That’s critical.
Much like Colgate and Ohio, Georgetown shoots well from three, which should be beneficial against Colorado. Opponents of Colorado shot 32.6% against the Buffaloes during the season. In the Pac 12 Tournament final, Oregon State, who pulled away with a 70-68 victory, hit nine of its 22 three-point attempts.
If the Hoyas get hot, like they did from deep in the Big East Tournament, the sky is the limit for Georgetown. In the Big East Tournament final against Creighton, the Hoyas shot 38% from distance.
The key for Georgetown is going to be maximizing its overall possessions. The Hoyas average just 72 possessions per game, which ranks 126th in the nation, according to Teamrankings.
Midwest Region – (14) Morehead State
Morehead State almost got a favorable draw as the 14th seed, and that’s saying something.
West Virginia is a good basketball team and one that will stifle teams with its efficient offense that’s maximized possessions. According to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency metrics, West Virginia’s adjusted offensive efficiency of 116.8 ranks 11th in the nation.
West Virginia, however, is 10-9 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games, including two losses to Oklahoma State to finish the regular season and Big 12 Tournament.
In those two losses, West Virginia struggled to shoot from three. The Mountaineers hit just 12 of their 47 three-point attempts.
Morehead State can limit teams’ ability to hit the three-ball as well. According to Torvik, opponents shoot just 30.7% from three against the Eagles and the opponents’ effective field goal percentage is 47%, which is 44th in the nation.