OK, so we don’t know who exactly will be this year’s version of 1983’s Heart Attack ‘Pack or whether there will be anything like it. We don’t know if a program like George Mason or Virginia Commonwealth will rise up from a No. 11 seed to make the NCAA Final Four, as they did in 2006 and 2011, respectively.
While we don’t know who will flourish and what will happen — which is one of the key reasons the tournament is so popular — there’s one thing for certain: One of the biggest bets for March Madness is that there will be a wildly popular underdog program by the end of the first weekend. Choose that underdog wisely and get in on BetMGM’s $2 Million Bracket Challenge.
We take a look at who may be the big story of 2021:
Which March Madness Team Should You Cheer For?
Grand Canyon (17-6) and Hartford (15-8) have never been to March Madness before, but here they are. The two newcomers do have tough tasks ahead of them, with Grand Canyon facing off against No. 2 seed Iowa and Hartford battling a No. 1 seed in Baylor. Regardless, these are the kinds of teams that usually occupy fan’s imaginations in the first round, when it seems anything is possible. GCU head coach Bryce Drew has been here before, leading Valparaiso to the Sweet 16 as a player after a series of upset wins.
If you’re wondering how these two schools did this season against bigger teams from power conferences, there is some evidence of scrappiness. Grand Canyon was leading Arizona State at the half before ultimately falling by one point. The Antelopes also were tied at the half with March Madness participant Colorado before the Buffaloes pulled alway in the second half.
Early this season, Hartford played both Villanova and UConn, but neither game was particularly close.
If you believe certain teams don’t get what they deserve come Selection Sunday, you’ll have sympathy for the Cowboys. And for that matter, really the Big 12 as a conference was slighted.
The Cowboys’ body of work this year was strong. By all of the quantifiable material, they had a strong case to be much higher than a No. 4 seed. But hey, the greatest thing about a sport is a team can go out and prove it deserved more. Don’t be surprised when OSU does exactly that and defies March Madness odds.
Yes, they’re a No. 1 seed. But how cool is it that one of the members of the 1990s’ Fab Five coached them to this point? Juwan Howard has the Wolverines in a good place. They’ve played as well these past few seasons as they did when Howard, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Ray Jackson, and Jimmy King were doing their thing — both on the court and in the world of pop culture.
What a story it would be if they won it all under Howard, eh? Unless, of course, you’re an Ohio State or Michigan State fan.
The Eagles went 23-1 this year, falling only by two points to UNC Asheville — a team they also beat. They’re the only one-loss tournament team in history to be handed a seed outside the top nine. A No. 12 seed, they’ll have to prove themselves against No. 5 Villanova. Balance is not a problem with Winthrop. The program had four players average in the double digits when it came to scoring.
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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered FCS college football for HERO Sports … and two NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments (2009 and 2010). Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.