BY MATT DE SARLE
We know about Gonzaga’s dominance.
So let’s talk about tickets 7, 8, 9, and 10 punched for March Madness 2021.
Cleveland State Rides Emotion And Adrenaline into March Madness
If you like teams with even the equipment guy on the sidelines efforting energy forces that can force turnovers on defense, then Cleveland State is your team. They look like the best, most active and supportive bench in college basketball. It took a lot of tough defensive possessions to stop the momentum that 8 seed Milwaukee was riding into its semifinal championship game (on the heels of the triumphant comeback win against #2 seed Wright State). This Horizon League 1 Seed lost its first three games of the regular season before finishing 19-7 before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The team plays with a lot of effort. The Vikings do not have a center on its roster and have a balanced scoring distribution among mostly guards. Tre Gomillion is a fun player to watch, as he plays larger than his 6-4 frame. He averages about 50 percent from the field with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists, although as a guard he is not much of a three point threat.
Mount St. Mary’s Mounts a Defensive Effort to Bounce Bryant’s Potent Offense
As this championship game introduced both teams to America, ESPN’s TV crew built it as a battle between defense and offense. And defense won. Mount St. Mary’s controlled the defensive glass. And they stopped the nation’s highest scoring offense from getting in any type of rhythm. This team has some respectable size in the post, and lots of strength as is evidence of its NEC Championship performance. Mount St. Mary’s basketball roster fills out with a bunch of 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9 guys. In past NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets, the NEC teams have won the 16 seed “play in game,” but have never won a game in the round of 64. They had some close calls, including a tight game that saw 15 seed battle 2 seed Villanova in 1994. The NEC also had some NIT successes, including Nerlens Noel’s Kentucky team losing at Robert Morris.
Oral Roberts Brings Nation’s Leading Scorer to the Big Dance
If you love leading scorers from 15 seeds like CJ McCollum going off for life-altering landmark performances in March Madness, Oral Roberts could be your team. Max Abmas is a 6-1 combo guard who leads the country in scoring at 24-and-change per game. He went over 40 twice this season. He might not have the NBA skill of a CJ McCollum, but his chance for one shining moment is as good as any mid-teen seed.
Oral Roberts shot under 30 percent in the second half of its tournament title game as it allowed 3 seed North Dakota State to battle back into the game.
Drexel Clutch Against 8 Seed Elon
The Drexel Dragons extinguished Elon’s Cinderella hopes. The 6 seed was clutch in hitting its free throws down the stretch to enter the Big Dance.
Click here to see observations about the first 6 tickets punched for March Madness 2021.