By Jack Belanger ’21
Members of the sports staff put their heads together to come up with the third official The Cowl March Madness bracket. Thanks to Luke Sweeney ’24 for his analysis of the South region, Leo Hainline ’22 for the West, Ben Bilotti ’23 for the East, Joseph Quirk ’23 for the Midwest, and to everyoneelse for helping make the picks. Here is our breakdown of each region, the semifinals, and the championship.
In the South region, things should get exciting as the first round boasts multiple strong teams and potential upsets. No. 3 seed University of Arkansas will squeeze by the surprisingly explosive offense of No. 14 Colgate University, before advancing all the way to the Elite Eight.
Villanova University at the No. 5 seed should dominate No. 13 Winthrop University even with all of the Wildcats’ injuries, but they will face a tough road in the later rounds. The 8-9 seed matchup will see the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill beat the University of Wisconsin-Madison after what should be a very competitive, high-scoring matchup.
Creighton University is one of the tournament’s biggest question marks. The Bluejays are incredibly inconsistent but can out-shoot just about anyone in the tournament if they are on their game. It does not help that the team got embarrassed by 25 points in the Big East Championship and has been dealing with off-the-court issues.
The University of California, Santa Barbara has a star player in JaQuori McLaughlin, but the Gauchos have yet to be tested by elite competition.
The University of Kansas, University of Virginia, and Creighton could all very well pack their bags early this year, but the Kansas Jayhawks are in the most trouble.
Eastern Washington University is a team full of balanced scoring. They have seven guys who all contribute and are a strong free-throw shooting team. Kansas has multiple players returning from COVID-19-related absences and may naturally get off to a slow start. The Eagles will be attacking from the start and will likely grab an early lead.
It is difficult to envision Luka Garza’s Hawkeyes struggling with any team before the Elite Eight. The University of Oregon Ducks could be competitive against the University of Iowa in the Round of 32, but Iowa has too much talent both inside and out to suffer an early exit.
When all is said and done, Gonzaga University is simply the most dominant team in the country and will represent the West region in the Final Four.
There are several upsets in the East region of our bracket. In the first round, No. 11 Michigan State University (pending a First Four win) will upset No. 6 Brigham Young University.
From there, they carry their momentum all the way to the Sweet 16, where they will be taken down by the University of Connecticut. The Hoyas will use the momentum from their 73-48 victory over Creighton University in the Big East Championship Game to beat the University of Colorado.
In the end, an elite Florida State University squad gets in the Hoyas’ way, as the team, moving all the way to the Elite Eight, will face off against UConn with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
The main story in this section is the No. 1 seed, University of Illinois. Illinois is expected to be one of the title favorites. That being said, they may have the most difficult road to the Final Four, facing a loaded side of the bracket.
The Midwest region features a number of threats, some obvious and some more underrated. We, as a staff, have Illinois making it through the gauntlet, beating out teams such as Loyola University Chicago, Oklahoma State University, the University of West Virginia, and the University of Houston.
There should be a number of wildly entertaining games in the first round alone from Loyola vs. the Georgia Institute of Technology, San Diego State University vs. Syracuse University, and Clemson University vs. Rutgers University.
Florida State may give Gonzaga its toughest matchup of the tournament. With a strong interior defense and one of the best teams crashing the offensive boards, the Seminoles are one of the more physical teams this year. The Bulldogs will have to hit their threes early, which is what they have been doing all year. They have proved they can beat top teams this season, and FSU is no exception.
If it were not for Gonzaga, Baylor University would be the best team in the country this year. Taking on an underdog West Virginia team, the Bears should have an easy time making it to the finals. Star players Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell were both named to the All-Big 12 First Team. Mitchell was also named the conference’s defensive player of the year. Despite their best efforts, the Mountaineers will not have the defense to stop the Bears.
This matchup is perhaps a little anticlimactic, but Gonzaga and Baylor are simply a tier above the rest of the country. The championship game should come down to the final minutes. Both teams are efficient on offense and both have good defenses. Gonzaga came up short a few years ago against North Carolina—that team was good, this team is better. Mark Few is one of the most underappreciated coaches of all time. This is his chance to put his name among the greats. Lottery pick Jalen Suggs will lead the Bulldogs to their first title ever.