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5 reasons Kentucky fans can still be excited about the NCAA Tournament

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March Madness will still be great, even without the Wildcats.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 09 Men’s Final Four Preview Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2021 March Madness for Big Blue Nation fans is a little, uh, different—mostly because it doesn’t have, uh, Big Blue in it. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be excited about when it all starts Thursday night! Here’s five reasons why we can still be excited about the NCAA Tournament:

1. Duke and Louisville won’t be there either

This is the first NCAA tournament without Duke and Louisville since 1976. Neither of them can win a national title in 2021. Sweetest of all was the fact that Louisville was the first team out of the field and no one called the Cards to replace anybody.

At least Kentucky had no shot at making it in. But Duke and Louisville? They could almost taste their bids.

And they didn’t get them. First. Team. Out.

Go ‘Cats!

2. Gonzaga can dethrone Indiana’s unbeaten record

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the last time a team won the NCAA Tournament undefeated was 32-0 Indiana in 1976. Kentucky fans aren’t very fond of the Hoosiers, and seeing Gonzaga edit that sentence to “the last undefeated was 32-0 Gonzaga in 2021” would be very pleasing to BBN. And 2015 Kentucky would still have their 38-0 start in 2015 to tout, which Gonzaga can’t interfere with since they haven’t played as many games this year.

3. There are so many potential underdog stories

Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago trying to repeat their Final Four run? The Ohio Bobcats dethroning the reigning champions in round 1? The Big Ten finally winning another championship? A 15 seed beating a 2? There are so many storylines that could unfold in Indy—and by the second round we’ll be all over them.

4. You might win your office pool

This is the year, right?

4. We have a 2021 Tournament

Last year a crazy thriller of a season was rolling towards a highly Selection Sunday and NCAA Tournament that a lot of people thought would be one for the ages.

Then on March 12th, 2020, it was all gone like a dream vacation dangled before our eyes and snatched in an instant by a virus. That was it. We went from 3 days till Selection Sunday to 368.

But last Sunday 68 tickets were punched. Greg Gumble’s iconic voice on the Selection Show was back. There’ll be 16 first round games Friday and 16 more Saturday. A champion will be crowned April 5th.

It’s all back. It feels almost too good to be true, like a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moment. But there’ll be balls bouncing tomorrow night and the NCAA Tournament will be back for the first time in over 700 days.

Yeehaw!