Catch It! The NCAA Tournament Is Back In a Very Different Way

BALL, GLOVEWelcome to CATCH IT! — Joe Castellano’s personal observations about what’s going on in the world of sports.

Nobody was dancing. There were no shining moments. No upsets. No buzzer beaters. No cinderella stories. No Sister Jean from Loyola Chicago on TV.

No NCAA tournament in 2020. It was really just the beginning of a strange year in life and in sports.

But now as we try to get back to “normal” after dealing with that bad version of a Virus, the 2021 NCAA tournament is upon us with a different look. All of the games from the First Four to the Final Four will be played in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The bracket will be much different this season. As Andy Katz points out: NCAA.COM. . Can you imagine a tournament without Duke or Kentucky? North Carolina as a 10 seed? Michigan State as an 11 seed?

When it comes to information for betting on March Madness games, this is a great resource. Keep in mind that most sportsbooks will not offer a moneyline on games that have a spread greater than 15 points so don’t focus on those #1 vs #16 matchups, but you can still bet on some heavy favorites. Every game in the second round will be available for wagers. We all like to predict the National Champion and it can be quite lucrative even if you pick a #1 seed or other fairly high seed. In the last tournament in 2019, #1 seed Virginia won the title and the payoff was $950 on a $100 bet made three weeks before the tournament started. Runner-Up Texas Tech was a #3 seed and if they had won the final game in overtime the payout would have been $4,000 on a $100 wager! Picking the Final Four teams is an easier proposition and most sportsbooks will open future lines for each regional winner once the tournament field is established on Selection Sunday.

Sports Illustrated writers did a great job of breaking down some tournament topics: SI.COM.

Personally, I have a rooting interest for two schools, USC and Siena. As a 1984 USC grad I was happy to watch the Trojans perform as the best team in the Pac-12 this season. Maybe it’s time for them to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1954! But, I fear that Oregon might be the team from the conference that makes a deeper run in Indy.

As Kevin Sweeney from SI points out, the Ducks are “loaded with dynamic playmakers in the backcourt like Will Richardson and Chris Duarte, and versatile pieces up front like LJ Figueroa and Eugene Omoruyi. The Ducks dealt with injuries and COVID-19 issues that prevented them from having a full roster for much of the season, but now that they are healthy, I certainly wouldn’t want to see them in my quadrant of the bracket.”

I was the radio play-by-play voice of the Siena Saints from 1998-2002 and had a chance to call two NCAA tournament games. In 1999 under Paul Hewitt, Siena lost to Arkansas in the first round. Then in 2002 under Rob Lanier, the Saints lost to eventual champion Maryland, also in the first round (Siena had the lead for awhile in that one).  The Saints are the best team in the MAAC heading into their conference tournament so I like their chances of getting to Indy. Katz predicts a #15 seed for Siena and a matchup with #2 Alabama. Since #15 are 8-132 all time against #2 seeds it seems like a tall order to expect the Saints to advance, but consider some of the recent upsets-#15 seeds have won four first round games in the last eight NCAA tournaments. This might be the season the Saints do some damage: NCAA.COM.

Good luck with those brackets!