The Bracket Countdown

March 12, 2021

By: Carlos Alvarez

Happy Friday!

When we get together on Monday, we’ll have our first look at an NCAA Tournament bracket in more than 700 days.

I’ve got ‘One Shining Moment’ on a heavy rotation for the next few weeks.

Letter Rip!



Big Things Ahead

The sports schedules kicks into high gear in the next month. Here’s a quick reminder of what’s coming up:

  • March Madness (Ongoing)
  • NFL Free Agency (Wed. March 17)
  • NBA Trade Deadline (Thurs. March 25)
  • The Masters (April 8-11)

Be sure to check Monday’s edition to enter The Sportsletter’s Bracket Challenge for a chance to win great prizes. More info on Monday…



Champ Week in Full-Blown Madness

Photo: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Duke’s Season Ends Abruptly, Virginia Hits Buzzer-Beater, Georgetown Shocks ‘Nova


Basketball fans are officially in heaven. Yesterday’s 4,510 games (felt like it) ran from 11:30 am ET on Thursday to 1:30 am ET Friday morning. And there are more today. From ACC buzzer-beater drama to Big East upsets in Madison Square Garden and Bill Walton’s Pac-12 Tourney commentary, the madness is in full-blown hyperdrive. We’ll give you the quick-hitters from Thursday’s action, as well as today’s must-see games. But first, one team’s season came to an end in the most disappointing way imaginable.


Duke’s Season Ends With Positive COVID Test

The Duke Blue Devils won two games in the ACC Tournament and had fully revived their hopes of reaching the big dance with a battle against Florida State on Thursday. That game never happened. A positive COVID-19 test within the program caused Duke to forfeit the contest, effectively ending their season. Florida State advanced by default. Read More


Blue Bloods Going Home: The last time Duke (13-11) and Kentucky (9-16) both missed the NCAA Tournament was 1976.


Thursday Highlights & Scores


Virginia Survives: The No. 1 seed in the ACC tourney needed a buzzer-beater 3 from freshman Reece Beekman to survive Syracuse (72-69).


Georgetown Plays Spoiler: The Georgetown Hoyas shocked top-seeded Villanova in the Big East Tourney (72-71) on two late free throws from Dante Harris.


Oklahoma State Escapes: Oklahoma State narrowly escaped West Virginia (72-69) in the Big 12 quarterfinals. They’ll get Baylor in a must-see matchup today.


Other Scores

#2 Baylor def. Kansas State (74-68)

#9 Ohio State def. Minnesota (79-75)

#13 Texas def. #20 Texas Tech (67-66)

#17 Creighton def. Butler (87-56)

N. Carolina def. #22 Virginia Tech (81-73)

#24 USC def. Utah (91-85, 2OT)


Friday’s Must-See Games

Maryland vs. #4 Michigan (11:30 am)

Mississippi State vs. #6 Alabama (Noon)

#9 Ohio State vs. #20 Purdue (2:00 pm)

#12 Oklahoma State vs. #2 Baylor (6:30 pm)

Rutgers vs. #3 Illinois (6:30 pm)

N. Carolina vs. #15 Florida State (9:00 pm)

UConn vs. #17 Creighton (9:00 pm)

Wisconsin vs. #5 Iowa (9:00 pm)

#13 Texas vs. #11 Kansas (9:30 pm)


*All Times Eastern


Additional Storylines

CBS Sports: Kentucky & Duke End Seasons With NCAA Tournament Out of Reach

USA Today: NCAA Tournament Teams Heed Warning: Duke Proves Seasons Can End at Any Time



The Players: Sergio Shines in Round 1

Photo: Ben Jared / Getty Images

Sergio Garcia Fires Opening Round 65 (-7) for Solo Lead at TPC Sawgrass


Round 1 at The Players Championship brought an old friend back to the forefront. Sergio Garcia — who has won one PGA Tour event since his 2017 victory at The Masters — holds a commanding two-stroke lead after his opening round 65 (-7). The 41-year-old Spaniard carded two eagles on Thursday before play was suspended due to darkness. Only a few players failed to finish their rounds.


The Sinister 17th: If Garcia was the winner of Round 1, the iconic island green on Hole 17 was a close second. The water on 17 ate up 35 balls in the opening round. That’s the second-most shots in the drink in a single round at TPC Sawgrass in the ShotLink era. Watch Video


Round 1 Leaderboard

S. Garcia (-7)

B. Harman (-5)

M. Fitzpatrick (-4)

C. Conners (-4)

S. Lowry (-4)


Other Notable Scorecards: B. DeChambeau (-3), W. Zalatoris (-3), J. Spieth (-2), P. Reed (-2), J. Day (-2), P. Mickelson (-1), C. Morikawa (-1)


Round 1 Highlights | Round 2 Tee Times


Additional Storylines

GolfWeek: Among the Wreckage, Sergio Garcia Sparkles With 65 to Grab Lead at The Players

Golf Channel: Rory McIlroy (+7) Suffers Epic Collapse With Quadruple Bogey on 18th Hole



More Shocking Cap Casualties

Photo: Joe Sargent / Getty Images

Chiefs Stun NFL by Cutting Starting Tackles Eric Fisher & Mitchell Schwartz


No one saw this coming. The Kansas City Chiefs released starting offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz on Thursday. The move frees up more than $18 million in cap space, but it also leaves questions about the Chiefs’ protection issues for QB Patrick Mahomes. If you recall, Mahomes was rendered mediocre in Super Bowl LV due to the Tampa Bay pass rush.


Making Sense of Cents

The head-scratching cuts came just one day after the NFL announced a decreased salary cap for next season. And while the Chiefs found a way to save some cash, they axed two very good pass protectors, including Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Neither played in SBLV due to injuries. Their absences played a big role in Mahomes’ pressure-filled night.


Expect more big cuts before free agency begins next week.


Additional NFL Storylines

ESPN: Saints Release Veteran CB Janoris Jenkins in Cost-Cutting Move

B/R: Texans Reportedly Sign RB Mark Ingram to 1-Year, $3 Million Deal

FOX Sports: Chiefs Cut Starting OTs in Effort to Get Under the Cap



NCAA Tourney Previews

🏀 Tickets to March Madness

In a week’s time, Central Indiana will be home to an unprecedented slate of NCAA basketball. But if you’re a pandemic-era sports fan mulling over buying tickets, you’ve got an important choice to make. (USA Today)


🏀 Indiana’s Hallowed Hardwoods

March Madness is going to look a little different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the first time a singular state will host the entire NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament — and the NCAA could not have picked a better place. (ESPN)



The Must-Watch List

We’ll keep it simple. Turn on the TV and you can binge college hoops games all weekend long. Mix in some golf and enjoy a weekend of sports with spring vibes. Catch ya Monday!


NCAA Tournament Selection Show

Sunday, 6:00 pm ET (CBS)


NCAA Conference Tournaments (Men’s)

Big Ten Bracket & Schedule

ACC Bracket & Schedule

Big 12 Bracket & Schedule

Pac-12 Bracket & Schedule

SEC Bracket & Schedule

Big East Bracket & Schedule


NCAA Conference Tournaments (Women’s)

Big Ten Bracket & Schedule

Big 12 Bracket & Schedule

SEC Winner: South Carolina

Pac-12 Winner: Stanford

Big East Winner: UConn

ACC Winner: NC State


PGA Tour

The Players Championship (All Weekend)



Mavericks at Nuggets (Sat. 10:00 pm)

Jazz at Warriors (Sun. 4:00 pm)

Clippers at Pelicans (Sun. 9:00 pm)

Full NBA Schedule



Capitals at Flyers (Sat. 7:00 pm)

Kings at Avalanche (Sun. 7:00 pm)

Full NHL Schedule


*All Times Eastern