March Madness is almost upon us as the regular season comes to a close and conference tournaments are in full swing as of Sunday afternoon. Already four teams have punched their ticket to the Big Dance.
On Sunday, Winthrop emerged from the Big South with a berth to the NCAA Tournament, while Loyola-Chicago locked up a bid with a victory in the Missouri Valley Conference title game. The two programs will join Liberty and Morehead State as the four teams slated to head to Indiana later this month.
The Winthrop Eagles pulled away away from Campbell on Sunday to win the Big South Championship comfortably, 80-53. The victory capped off an incredible 2020-21 season for head coach Pat Kelsey, that saw his team drop just one game. Winthrop came in as a 12-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology update and will be a difficult first round matchup for any opponent.
No. 20 Loyola-Chicago was the second team to earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon, knocking off Drake, 75-65. The Ramblers will head back to the Big Dance for the second time in three years. In the 2019 tournament, Loyola-Chicago made a Cinderella run to the Final Four, a performance they’ll be looking to duplicate in a few weeks.
TWO more #MarchMadness tickets punched 🕺
🎟 Loyola Chicago pic.twitter.com/w6GbDS9ldQ
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 7, 2021
Liberty was the first team to punch a ticket to the 2021 NCAA Tournament after a Atlantic Sun semifinal win on Friday night. The Flames met North Alabama in the conference championship game, a program that was ineligible to qualify for the Big Dance. As a result, Liberty claimed the auto-bid. The Flames also picked up a 79-75 win on Sunday to carry some momentum moving forward.
Morehead State is the fourth team to land a spot in this year’s March Madness bracket after an impressive upset win over top-seeded Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament game. The Eagles dominated throughout, earning their trip with a 86-71 victory.
No more conference title games will be played on Sunday afternoon, meaning the field will stay at four through the weekend.
But, rest assured college basketball fans. More tickets will be punched over the next few days as this year’s NCAA Tournament starts to take shape.
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