You know the story all too well by now. The entire 2021 NCAA Tournament is being held within the state of Indiana, including games at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
A record-setting nine Big Ten schools have been chosen to compete in the event. Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers and Wisconsin will all be taking part in this year’s tournament.
And IU won’t be a part of the show.
While the Indiana program attends to finding its next head coach, we thought we would give you some other angles to look for, root for, or possibly, root against during the tournament.
Gonzaga: If you like to pop open a bottle of Champaign each time the final undefeated team loses each year, keep your eyes on overall No. 1 seed Gonzaga. The 26-0 Bulldogs have a chance to become the first undefeated team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. But they have some challenging opponents in their region, including Virginia, Kansas and Iowa. Gonzaga opens on March 20 at 9:20 p.m. ET on CBS.
Missouri: Head coach Cuonzo Martin is a familiar name for older IU fans. He played at Purdue from 1995 through 1998 and is now leading the Missouri program as head coach. The Tigers will face Oklahoma in what should be a competitive 8/9 opening round game (March 20, 7:45 p.m. ET, TNT)
UC Santa Barbara: Head coach Joe Pasternack is an IU alumnus and former basketball manager under Bob Knight. If you remember a story of Knight helping a manager to get a head coach position at New Orleans at the age of 30, that was Pasternack. Now the head coach at UCSB, the 43 year old has four straight 20 win seasons. A No. 12 seed, UCSB will open with Creighton (March 20, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).
Grand Canyon: Former IU assistant coach Ed Schilling is serving in his first year on the bench as an assistant coach for another familiar name, Bryce Drew. Schilling was an assistant with IU for the first two years of Archie Miller’s tenure. Grand Canyon is a No. 15 seed, and Schilling might call Miller for game plan advice when they face Iowa in the first round (March 20, 6:25 p.m. ET, TBS).
Texas Tech: Long-time Bob Knight assistant Chris Beard leads the Red Raiders into, of all places, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for a first round game against Utah State (March 19, 1:45 p.m. ET, TruTV). The No. 6 seed Red Raiders played in the most recent national final in 2019. To see Beard’s reaction to walking into IU’s arena for the first time, go here. Beard is also a popular name on lists to fill the IU coaching vacancy.
Arkansas: Justin Smith transferred to Arkansas for his senior season after three years in Bloomington. The 6-foot-7 forward put up a familiar stat line with 13 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 21 percent from behind the arc. Smith’s Razorbacks are a No. 3 seed and will face Colgate (March 19, 12:45 p.m. ET, TNT). Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman is another popular name on lists to fill the coaching vacancy.
LSU: The Watford family will return to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall as Christian’s younger brother Trendon takes the floor for LSU. Trendon, a former IU recruiting target, averaged 16.7 points and 7.4 rebounds this season for the Tigers, who will face St. Bonaventure in an 8/9 game (March 20, 1:45 p.m. ET, TNT).
Michigan State vs. UCLA: Bragging rights are on the line for a pair of former IU guards serving as assistant coaches. Michigan State’s Dane Fife and UCLA’s Michael Lewis will square off in a No. 11 seed play-in game at of all places, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette (March 18, 9:57 p.m. ET, TBS).
Loyola of Chicago: Former IU forward Damezi Anderson is now with the Ramblers after transferring in 2020, but you might have to look for him on the bench next to Sister Jean. He only played in four games and averaged 1.3 points in 4.5 minutes per contest. Loyola opens in the 8/9 game against Georgia Tech (March 19, 4:00 p.m. ET, TBS).
Clemson: Former IU player Marty Simmons is a special assistant to head coach Brad Brownell, an Evansville native. Simmons played under Knight for two seasons in the mid-’80s including the 1984 Sweet 16 win over Michael Jordan and North Carolina. Clemson, a No. 7 seed, will face Rutgers (March 19, 9:20 p.m. ET, CBS).
Oregon State: Associate head coach Kerry Rupp was an assistant coach under Mike Davis from 2004 to 2006. The Beavers, a No. 12 seed, open against Tennessee (March 19, 4:30 p.m., TNT).
Houston: Former IU head coach Kelvin Sampson is in the tournament for the fourth straight season. The Cougars have won at least 23 games per season over that span. No. 2 seed Houston will face Cleveland State, and yes, Sampson will be making his return to Bloomington to play in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (March 19, 7:15 p.m. ET, TruTV).
Purdue: No. 4 seed Purdue opens against North Texas (March 19, 7:45 p.m. ET, TNT).
Kentucky: As Sister Jean said, “I don’t see Kentucky any place” on the bracket.
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