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The Turf Experts and the Multiverse of March Madness Bracketology

It’s mid-March which can really only mean one thing: COLLEGE BASKETBALL. Thats right. March Madness is here, and we have brackets.

NCAA Basketball by Lisa Nottingham is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Turf Experts and the Multiverse of March Madness Bracketology

Estimated Reading Time: 9 Minutes

It’s mid-March, which can really only mean one thing: COLLEGE BASKETBALL.

So, in the spirit of bracket pools and play-in games, we at The Turf thought we’d let you in on our thoughts as to who we think gets upset, makes the Final Four, and eventually takes the 2021 NCAA Men’s College Basketball crown. We have waited long enough for this day to come, so let’s get right to it!

Welcome to The Turf Sports Multiverse of March Madness!

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

My Final Four: Michigan, Ohio State, Gonzaga, Oklahoma State.

I’ll have to admit that I am very unsure about the inclusion of Michigan here. I think they may lose to Florida St., especially if the are without Livers, but even here in my rational bracket, my heart won out a bit and I want a Mich/MSU matchup.

In all reality, I will not be surprised to see Alabama coming out of that Division, but… it’s Bama, and I cannot do that. So it’s Michigan. I don’t trust Baylor, which gives us Ohio State. Gonzaga is a just a good team with a relatively easy path. (This of course means they’re gonna be the thing that blows up everyone’s brackets).

The biggest surprise here is probably Oklahoma State over Illinois. Many people will end up with Illinois/Gonzaga as the best two teams. The biggest difference between these two teams, to me, is that Illinois believes their own hype, and that can be problematic. Oklahoma State also happens to have the best player in the entire tourney in Cade Cunningham.

I have OkSt losing to the Zags in the Championship partially because, while the Big 10 is clearly the best conference in college basketball, they haven’t won an NCAA Tourney since Izzo’s Flintstones did it at the turn of the Millennium.

Gonzaga winning is something I have gone back and forth on multiple times, simply because going completely undefeated is something only the all-time greats do, and I just am not sure this is THAT team. But they have the easiest path to that game, and if they can get there, with their offensive power, it’s hard to pick against them.

Biggest upset: 15 Cleveland St. over 2 Houston

I don’t trust Houston and by virtue of my al ma mater being in the Horizon league, I’ve seen more of Cleveland State than I think anyone who doesn’t go there ever should. They’re gonna surprise some people.

Christian Heilman

Let’s start with the AP’s #1, Gonzaga, and why they are NOT in my final four. As much as I’d love to see Zaga complete the unbeaten season and win their first NCAA championship I’m going to err on the side of history and give the nod to the 6 seed Trojans of USC to beat them in the Elite 8.

Down in the East bracket, things are pretty cut and dry for me. Michigan has seen some struggles lately and I like at least one 3 seed in the final four. So, a recreation of the 2005 Rose Bowl is what we get on that side of the bracket with Texas vs USC.

Down in the south, or up as it were on this bracket layout. I’m keeping it a true 1 vs. 2 seed matchup with Baylor v Ohio St. And while I think Wisconsin could bust up everyone’s brackets and beat Baylor, I gotta go Baylor in this one.

In the Midwest, I gotta channel Ric Flair for a moment, if I may. SISTER (not Mean) WOOOO, BAH GAWD, JEAN! That’s right, the darlings of 2018 are back, along with the Nun at 101 years young, bless her heart. I don’t have them going to the final 4, but I do have them knocking out Illinois in the second round. That leaves an opening for the Pokes of OK State to battle Houston in the Elite 8.

The Final Four. Texas, USC, Baylor, Houston. Lotta Texas going on there and it gets deeper in the final. But I have the Baylor Bears, (who I also think could get busted up in the second round just as easily as win it all) beating Shaka Smart and the Longhorns to be the 2021 NCAA Champions! 

Katie Pierce

March Madness is my favorite singular even in sports and I’m so thrilled that it’s back this year. With no tournament last year it’ll be even more fun to watch the upsets that we look forward to on an annual basis. Most of my bracket makes entirely too much sense but there’s definitely potential for an upset or two whether based purely on luck or outside factors like COVID affecting big schools like Virginia and Florida at the start.

The top seeds are hard to bet against seeing as they’ve played incredibly tough in-conference schedules and are well tested coming into the tournament. Gonzaga is undefeated and has a fairly easy bracket to move through, so I’d be hard-pressed to not put them in the championship game but Illinois coming out of the Big Ten tournament as champions are poised to make a big deep run and with a lot of their conference opponents facing a tough road in the East and knocking each other out. If Illinois keeps their hot streak going I have to give them the edge to win it all this year

Justin Colombo

My Final Four: Kansas, Georgetown, Baylor, Illinois.
Champion: Kansas
Biggest Upset: Georgetown over Michigan.

My Final Four is based on a simple idea: get weird. I have bet on Kansas to make the Final Four basically every year since 2011, and it’s paid off twice. So let’s get weird and make it three times. In fact, let’s win the whole thing. 2020 was weird for me, but 2021 has me yelling #RockChalkJayhawk.

I’m also a sucker for a Cinderella story in the Final Four, which is why Georgetown is there. And with Jordan dropping the Georgetown 3s on us this weekend… That’s some GOOD ENERGY. Please, Patrick Ewing, ride that Jordan energy. I’m begging you.

Baylor and Illinois are the consensus favorite one-seeds to make it to the Final Four, whereas Michigan’s going to have a bumpy road, and Gonzaga will once again have to face stiff competition outside of their conference. Feeling good about that.

But then again, I could be very, very wrong.

Terry Cudmore

My go-to strategy for early rounds is “record and game location vicinity to each school.” Obviously where all the games are in one location that leaves going with a team’s record as pretty much my compass. And where did that leave me? Chalk. Lots of Chalk. I have 3 #1’s and 1 #2 in the Final Four, and 2 #1’s in the Finals. This year’s tournament in a lot of ways is about getting through it so next year can be how it was. So why play the hero? Give me Baylor cutting those nets down.

Ross Larimer

Final Four: Gonzaga, Villanova, Illinois, Texas
Champ: Gonzaga
Upset: Ohio to the Sweet 16

Everyone is off Villanova because starting PG Collin Gillespie is out. That leaves them with a very talented roster and a Hall of Fame Coach in Ja Wright. I’ll take the Wildcats in a weak South Region. The East Region is loaded, if Michigan is not at full strength then Texas is ready to capitalize. The Longhorns have won the last 3 tournaments they have participated in (2019 NIT, 2020 Maui Invitational, 2021 Big 12 Tourney).

I swore I would never pick an undefeated team to win it all because history has shown it won’t happen in the modern era. But Gonzaga is an exceptional team and the last 12 months has thrown conventional wisdom out the window

Ryan Kelly

I haven’t watched a single minute of college basketball this season. Not one. But that won’t stop me from applying a few standard tips and tricks for filling out my bracket. First, there’s always a few 12 over 5 upsets. Boom, got Georgetown and Winthrop moving into the round of 32. Then I got my middle seed sleeper making a run with Tennessee in the Final Four. Finally, you gotta pick a good team to win. So I chose Iowa because I heard today they were good. Boom again.

All other decisions may or may not have been made with as much thought as it takes to click a mouse.

Craig Kaufman

This is one of the strangest March Madness brackets I have ever filled out. I have little to no idea what has happened in this season, even less than I typically do as a fringe college basketball fan at best. All I know is that teams were forced out of conference tournaments due to Covid, meaning that the conference champions are, in some cases, no better than middle seeds. I know that studs Duke and Kentucky are absent this year, my de facto family rooting interest NC State was abysmal and didn’t make the bracket, and Michigan is good but is missing something that makes me think of liver and onions.

So I went pretty much with gut picks all across the board this year. I figure if there’s a year in which Gonzaga is finally going to deliver on their promise of a championship and an undefeated season, it will be this year. With that in mind, I put them at least into the Final Four, but ultimately I still couldn’t pick them as the champions.

I tinkered with each region a bit, really to make sure I felt comfortable with the way the seed numbers were distributed across the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. I never like to have all 1-2 games in the Elite Eight, and usually a double-digit seed or two sneaks into the Sweet 16, so I made sure I had that covered. This had me ending up with a pair of one seeds, a two and a four seed in the Final Four, and decided that when in doubt, pick the two favorites, so I got Baylor topping Gonzaga.

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