After a year without what is arguably the best sporting event in existence, the NCAA basketball tournament is set to return this year.
The bracket was set last night as each conference tournament came to a close and crowned their winners. Two Philly colleges were selected by the committee and will be given a chance to compete in the tournament. Villanova and Drexel will each have their chance to represent Philadelphia and give their best chance at getting the upper hand in their respective matchups.
NCAA Tournament Teams and Rankings:
After going 16-6 on the season, the Villanova Wildcats secured a 5th seed in the upcoming tournament. Nova had extremely high hopes coming into the season, but have suffered a major blow two weeks ago when star-player Collin Gillespie tore his MCL.
The Wildcats are 0-2 in games since Gillespie has gotten injured. This is a major blow to the team as the senior is the team’s second-leading scorer, top assist man, and was described as “the heart and soul” of the team by Jay Wright.
While the team is still more than capable of putting together a win or two without him, Villanova is no longer looked at as championship contenders they were expected to become. The Wildcats came into the season ranked 3rd in the country but have slipped all the way to 19th in the latest rankings.
Historically the 5-12 matchups have proven to be the recipe for some significant upsets, which is a concerning trend for Villanova. At least one twelve seed has upset the five seed in 30 out of the last 35 NCAA tournaments and the 12 seed has an overall winning percentage of 35.7% in these matchups.
The Wildcats were given the unfortunate matchup of the Winthrop University Eagles. Winthrop has a 23-1 record on the season with their only loss coming in a heartbreaking 57-55 game against UNC Asheville.
Winthrop features a well-balanced attack with four players averaging double-digit points per game. The Eagles ended the season on a hot-streak and have won their last 5 games by an averaged margin of 18.2 points per game.
The game will tip off at 9:57 and will be broadcasted on TNT. Villanova opened up as 6.5 point favorites according to Vegas odds.
The Drexel Dragons also managed to punch their ticket to the tournament by winning the Colonial Athletic Association conference tourney. They were given the 16th seed in the midwest portion of the bracket and will take on Illinois. This is the first time Drexel has made the NCAA tournament in 25 years as their last appearance occurred in 1996.
This year’s Drexel team ended the season with a 12-7 record. They are led by Junior guard, Camren Winter, who averages 16.8 points per game.
Unfortunately, the Dragons face an extremely tough matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini. There is a strong argument for this Illinois squad being the best team in the nation as they finished with an impressive 23-6 record. The Fighting Illini ended the season on a tear, winning 11 of their last 12 games.
A 16 seed has only beaten a 1 seed one time in the history of the tournament. This was in 2018 when the University of Maryland in Baltimore Country (UMBC) defeated the University of Virginia. In total, the first seed holds a 135-1 all-time record against the 16 seed.
Illinois open up as 21 point favorites over Drexel. This game will tip off at 1:15 and be broadcasted on TBS.
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Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire