Post-Super Bowl College Basketball Season Summary

BY MATT DE SARLE

In case you’ve been in a cave, or dedicated your winter viewing to NFL football, you may have missed some major developments in college basketball. Let’s get you caught up!

Runaway Trains Baylor and Gonzaga Basketball on Collision Course

The first thing you need to know about the first 3 months of this college basketball season is the dominance of Baylor and Gonzaga. As always, Gonzaga has tested itself out of conference. And as of right now, they’re undefeated. They lost Filip Petrušev from last season but replaced his talent with Jalen Suggs. Suggs played high level football in high school and is giving the Bulldogs an intimidation element at guard they’ve rarely had. Speaking of intimidating guards, Baylor has also been unstoppable. With the addition of junior college transfer Adam Flagler, they now have 4 guards who can go for 15-20 points any night. And, the Baylor Bears still have the muscle down low that sometimes resembles its football team. To stick with the football analogies, Baylor and Gonzaga are seemingly runaway trains set for a Super Bowl collision in early April. In fact, they were supposed to play in December, but COVID-19 canceled that. The status of the game has ironically remained “postponed,” as it’s the odds-on favorite to happen as a National Championship.

Big 10 Can Send 10 Final Four Worthy Teams to the Tournament

After the dominance of Baylor and Gonzaga, the national landscape is relatively wide open. The SEC has a few top 20 teams (Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri) and the Big East returns a veteran Villanova and Creighton team. However, the Big 10 is really crazy talented. Every team in the Big 10 has a big man who can take over a game. The NCAA recently announced its final 13 finalists for the best center in the game. That’s the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award. Three of those finalists are from the Big 10. The frontrunner for player of the year is also from the Big 10: Luka Garza. Baylor and Gonzaga might get the top two seeds, but Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan might snatch up the next 2 and 3 seeds. Michigan was undefeated for the first two months of the season. Ohio State returned a great core and is having some great talent come off the bench. Illinois might have the most dangerous 1-2 punch in Ayo Disunmo and Kofi Cockburn. Meantime, teams like Indiana, Minnesota, Rutgers, and Purdue will all only just squeeze into the tournament in the 6-10 seed range because of how difficult it is to get wins in the conference. Read other Big 10 roster rotation movements of note here.

Mid-majors and other non-Power 5 Programs to Watch in College Hoops

If you include the Big East, college basketball really has six power conferences. As usual, there are multiple teams outside of the major conferences who can disrupt March Madness. This year there’s Houston as a perennial top 10 team. They look like a lock to win the American Conference. You also have Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference. They were recently ranked in the top 25 with their undefeated record before losing to Valpairaso. Other mid-major teams putting together tournament-worthy resumes include Western Kentucky, Belmont, and Winthrop, to name a few. The Mountain West has 4 or 5 teams that could make the tournament. They’d all be dangerous. Right now San Diego State, Boise State, and Colorado State are flirting with an 8 or 9 seed. You also have a very veteran bunch in Utah State with a legit 7 footer with skill in Neemias Queta. An interesting trend to watch is how many of these smaller conferences are managing the COVID-19 risk by playing back-to-back games. Or, one team will visit an opponent’s city and even play back-to-back days. That’s the story in Conference USA where North Texas, for example, just split a Friday-Saturday pairing with LA Tech. What’s interesting about this dynamic is that it mimics the NCAA Tournament.

Winthrop is one of the mid-major schools in 2020-2021 set to make noise in March Madness

How College Basketball Postseason Looks During COVID-19

The NCAA has decided to host its entire March Madness event in the Indianapolis area. The thought is that these smaller bubbles of players, staff, and supporters will mitigate the risk while traveling in smaller circles. The games will be held in some of the area’s iconic basketball venues (ex. Assembly Hall and Hinkle Fieldhouse). When it comes to Conference Championships, each conference is navigating the travel and fan participation in its own unique way. Here is a weblink where we are tracking all of the Championship Week updates.

College Basketball Traditions Continue Despite COVID-19

Even though fans can’t be in attendance in most cases, college basketball is still doing a great job at continuing many of its tradition. One recent tradition that continues is the college game’s presence of second generation talent. Here’s a full list of this year’s sons of NBA players in college basketball. Thank you for reading!

2021 NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments: Schedules, COVID-19 Updates

The 2021 NCAA Conference Tournament schedule is coming together for some regions. In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, decision-makers in college athletics are wrestling with the logistics of in-person events. That includes college basketball conferences across the nation, which are deciding how to crown its champions. One year ago the college basketball season was paused and then canceled altogether, literally as conference championship games were occurring live on television. This article provides major updates from the power 5 conferences and more for 2021’s evolving game-plan.

DEVELOPING NEWS: NCAA to allow 25% capacity for NCAA Tournament. Read more.

The ACC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Returns to Tar Heel State

The ACC Conference will go down in sports history as one of those conferences that had the unpleasant experience of literally pausing play on its basketball tournament as COVID-19 stopped the 2019-2020 NCAA season. It was also one of the major conferences to make early concessions for its 2021 tournament. The ACC announced in November that it would be coming home in a way, relocated its championship tournament to Greensboro. In recent years, the conference had played in perhaps sexier destinations such as New York City and Washington, DC. However, repositioning its conference tournament in the Carolinas obviously puts it closer to a majority of its teams (Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, Duke located in the Carolinas).

Big 10 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

In an era where the size of events is so often in question, the Big 10 Conference is making a statement on its tournament website: “all 14 teams will advance to the tournament.”

Currently, the Big 10 Conference is predicted to have 10 teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And so giving the other four teams an opportunity to compete for a bid brings back the true intrigue of March Madness.

According to its conference tournament website, the “Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be held in Chicago for the 11th time and was last held at the United Center at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.”

Big 10: “All 14 Teams Will Advance”

Click here to read full details from the source.

The Big 10 Men’s College Basketball Championship game will be held on Sunday, March 14th. The conference hinted at it being aired on CBS Sports.

Big 12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

According to the Kansas City Star, the Big 12 will hold its tournament on March 10-13 at T-Mobile Center. As of February 1st, the conference had not decided on whether to hold the event without fans or at 25% capacity. The T-Mobile Center has a website ready to sell tickets, but the landing page currently has a “TBA” designation on the ticket sessions.

Still-frame Photo Courtesy ESPN Networks/YouTube

The Big 12 Conference had fans in attendance for its football championship on December 19 2020, although the state health and safety guidelines in Texas may differ from Missouri’s.

The newly named T-Mobile Center in Kansas City is set to host its first conference tournament.

Big East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

As of February 1st, the Big East hadn’t updated any news on whether the Big East Tournament will take place (with or without fans) at its normal home of Madison Square Garden.

On MSG’s event calendar, a concert for late March is listed as canceled.
However, you Justin Bieber fans will be excited that his concert is on!

The last men’s basketball action published on The Big East’s “master schedule” is on Saturday, March 6, 2021 with a flurry of marquee match-ups. In the event there is no tournament, you would assume Providence would have to beat Villanova and Seton Hall would have to defeat St. John’s to even have a chance at an NCAA Tournament bid.

In early February, the Big East “master schedule” showed its last action happening in early March.

Pac-12 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

The Pac-12 may have been the most cautious major conference in terms of letting fans attend games this season. This winter they extended the prohibition of fans in attendance across the board. A footnote in the policy states that there is some discretion based on local and state regulations.

The Pac-12 has not yet made an announcement about whether players will compete in person this March for a conference champion. If recent tradition continued, the Pac-12 would be playing its conference tournament in Las Vegas between March 10-13. The Bay Area News Group/East Bay Times is reporting that conference Athletic Director Larry Scott showed no signs of cancelling that version of the event during a recent meeting.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 recently announced in January that Larry Scott will serve out his contract and move on June 2021. Read the full statement here.

Click here to read the full report by the East Bay Times.

With projections showing that the PAC-12 has five teams in great position to make the NCAA Tournament with at-large bids, there is an argument to make for canceling the tournament. This is because the sixth best team in the conference currently, Arizona, is ineligible for postseason play because of violations. This almost makes the decision of punting on a conference tournament as “easy” (relative terms here) as it may ever be for a power 5 conference.

SEC 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

On January 20, 2021, the SEC Conference posted an article on its official site announcing the in-person conference tournament schedule for mid-March. It takes place in Nashville, Tennessee.

In late January, the Southeastern Conference announced its in-person conference tournament

Much to Kentucky Head Coach John Calapari’s shagrin, the SEC championship game itself will take place on Selection Sunday (March 14th)!

Read more “Championship Week” updates from non-power 5 conferences below…

The American East 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament tweaks its format

The American East announced it will host its conference tournament over two weeks and in regional pods. The American East Men’s College Basketball Championship game will take place as it traditionally does, on the Saturday morning before Selection Sunday.

The American Athletic Conference 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

According to the most trusted source of news on the Internet, Wikipedia, the tournament will be played at the Dickie’s Arena in Texas. Read more.

The Atlantic 10 Tournament 2021 Men’s College Basketball Tournament Update

The Atlantic 10 took a unique approach to managing its conference tournament during COVID-19. Two rival schools will co-host the event. In early January, the conference announced it is pulling out of the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn amidst pandemic concerns. Two weeks later it announced that the event will be co-hosted by two schools in the city of Richmond.

Click here to read the official announcement from the A-10 Men’s Basketball Conference.

CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein reports that the Atlantic 10 will play to a limited crowd.

Conference USA Champions “Pod Integrity” in its plans to crown a Champion

The Conference USA plans to host its conference tournament at “The Star in Frisco,” which is a massive training facility for the Dallas Cowboys. According to the venue’s website, tickets will be on sale. A COVID-19 protocol fact sheet is included on its website. The protocol calls for pods of tickets where groups of people who know each other are admitted. It stresses “pod integrity,” meaning that tickets aren’t relayed to unknown parties.

The Star in Frisco posts a throrough COVID-19 protocol list to protect fans and participants

Conference USA plans on having 12 teams participate for the men’s basketball tournament March 10-13, meaning that the last place team from the two divisions would not qualify for the playoff.

Mountain West Conference Championship set to peak with matinee matchup

The Mountain West Men’s Basketball Tournament will continue its recent tradition of battling in Las Vegas and playing its championship game on a late Saturday afternoon. This game is normally shown on Network TV, with Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan calling the game in recent years on CBS. All 11 seeds are slated to play each other in person over four days (March 10th-March 13th). This sets the table for Utah State to have a chance to 3-peat as the Mountain West Conference Championship on Saturday.

Western Athletic Conference Championship Also Returns to Vegas

The WAC returns to the Orleans Arena, but didn’t have much info about tickets in late February.