Pierson’s Potency: March Madness edition


After huge uncertainty on if the NCAA would even have a basketball season, we have made it to March Madness. The bracket was released on Sunday night, and there were a few headlines. Michigan held onto a one seed after a disappointing 2-3 record in their last five games. Louisville was left out of the tournament as the first COVID replacement team for whichever team has to exit the tournament due to COVID. Lastly, Michigan State snuck into the tournament after a great finish with three top-five wins at the end of the season. All of these storylines set up a huge stage for a great finish to the 2020-21 college basketball season. In this week’s special edition of Pierson’s Potency, I’ll discuss my March Madness predictions. 

At least two 12 seeds get out of Round one

In the last March Madness, three 12 seeds were victorious in round one as underdogs. Ja Morant led Murray State to beat Marquette, Oregon knocked off Wisconsin, and Cinderella story Liberty defeated Mississippi State. I think the tournament sees a similar result this year. At least two 12 seeds will win their first-round matchup come game time. I think three or all four have a solid chance at winning, but only two will execute the upset. Georgetown and Oregon State both are hot after winning their conference tournaments, so they can definitely win in round one, but I do not see it happening. 

The first team that I fully expect to win is UC Santa Barbara. UCSB takes on an unimpressive Creighton team in the first round. Creighton did make it to the Big East Championship, but they got smacked by 25 against Georgetown in the early rounds of the Big East tournament. Creighton has not been hot lately and they recently dealt with the controversy of their head coach, Greg McDermott, and his racially-charged incidents. UCSB is 22-4, and they have won five straight games. They have a great defense that only gives up 62.8 PPG. Their defense will get the job done against a struggling Blue Jays team. 

Other than UC Santa Barbara, I believe the Winthrop Eagles will win their first-round matchup versus Villanova. Winthrop comes in the tournament with a 23-1 record and they have won seven straight games. They are giving up 66.8 PPG while scoring 79.5 PPG. They take on Villanova in their first game, and I really like their chances to win. Villanova recently lost one of their best players in Collin Gillespie a few weeks ago due to a torn MCL. Ever since Gillespie’s injury, Villanova is 0-2 and has struggled to find a reliable scoring option other than Jermaine Samuels and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. I believe Villanova will struggle, especially if these two are in foul trouble. Winthrop will jump on this opportunity and take care of business in Indianapolis. 

Oklahoma State wins the Midwest

After a mediocre start to the season, the Pokes from Stillwater have been arguably the hottest team in college basketball (other than Illinois). They have won seven out of their last nine and finished as the runner-up in the Big 12 tournament. Led by Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State finished the regular season with a 20-8 record and a 4 seed in March Madness. They have a win versus Baylor, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Texas Tech (twice), West Virginia (twice), and Oklahoma (twice). This team is getting hot at the right time and is poised to make a deep run. 

It should not come as a shock to people that the Pokes are projected a deep run in the tourney. They are led by the best player in the country, Cade Cunningham. Although he will probably not win National Player of the Year ( NPOY), he has the biggest impact out of any player in the country. He means more to his team than Luka Garza or Jalen Suggs do to their respective teams. Cunningham averages 20.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, and shoots 45% from the field; he is an integral part of this team. The most dangerous part of this team is that they play unselfishly. Oklahoma State has six players averaging 7-11 points per game. Any of those players can hurt you which makes it so tough to match up against them. The three best players besides Cunningham are Avery Anderson, Kalib Boone, and Isaac Likekele. Anderson is a spark plug at the shooting guard position, averaging 11.7 PPG, 4 RPG, and 1.3 SPG. When Cunningham has taken breathers, he has been their primary scorer. Another key player is Kalib Boone. He is a lengthy big who averages around 10 PPG and leads the team in BPG. Lastly, Isaac Likekele has given the Pokes a huge lift with 9.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 3.7 APG. He leads the team in APG and RPG. There are others that give solid minutes for the Cowboys, but these three are the main contributors behind Cunningham.

Oklahoma State has one of the best one seeds in their bracket: Illinois. If they make it that far, it will be a showdown for the ages. But, they have a tricky first-round matchup to worry about. Liberty is coming into the tournament hot, and they have a history of making runs as a high seed. They beat Mississippi State in comeback fashion in 2019. This year they have a legit squad, but I do not think they have enough firepower to knock out OSU. Oklahoma state would most likely take on Tennessee in the next round. If these two teams play, it will not be close. Tennessee is overrated in my opinion, and Oklahoma State can score with ease on them. After a big win versus Texas, the Pokes will take on one seed Illinois. Most likely the biggest game in years for Oklahoma State, it will prove to be a high-scoring game. Depending on how well Cunningham plays, I think Oklahoma State can win this game. I believe Cade has his best game of the year and leads Oklahoma state to the elite eight. There, they will play Houston. Houston has a very sneaky defense and would be a great matchup for the Pokes; I think OSU has too much of a high-powered offense for Houston, and the Cowboys get in done in a close one. They now head to the Final Four hotter than any other team in the country. I have Oklahoma State taking on Baylor in the final four. Again, this would be a high-powered matchup with stars stepping up; Oklahoma State has done it before, so I like the Pokes to get it done against the Bears. Now they head to the chip. In my bracket, I have them facing the number one overall seed, Gonzaga Bulldogs. On this crazy Monday night in April, I think Oklahoma state will start with a fast pace and get the Zags on their heels. But the Zags have too much firepower for Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State will fall short in the national championship. A near dream season for the Pokes will end in little disappointment.