NCAA Bracket 2021: Tournament Schedule, Bracket Predictions for March Madness

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IMarch 4, 2021

NCAA Bracket 2021: Tournament Schedule, Bracket Predictions for March Madness

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    The 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament will provide fans with a March Madness unlike any other.

    The NCAA announced in January that the tournament will be held in the state of Indiana, with most of the games being played in Indianapolis. There will be limited attendance, with up to 25 percent capacity at the six venues.

    While the atmosphere and feel of the event will be different than in past years, its intense energy is sure to remain the same.

    It could be a wild ride for powerhouses, though. Four Big Ten teams are in the top seven of the latest AP Poll, but major ACC names such as North Carolina and Duke are struggling to even make the tournament, with the Blue Devils likely on the outside looking in.

    The next few weeks (and especially the conference tournaments) will provide clarity in terms of seeding and bubble teams. For now, let's take a look at the tournament schedule, followed by some early predictions.

Full Tournament Schedule

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    2021 NCAA Tournament Schedule

    Selection Sunday: March 14

    First Four: March 18 at Mackey Arena and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

    First Round: March 18-20 at Mackey Arena, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and Lucas Oil Stadium

    Second Round: March 21-22 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, and Lucas Oil Stadium

    Sweet 16: March 27-28 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse

    Elite Eight: March 29-30 at Lucas Oil Stadium

    Final Four: April 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium

    National Championship: April 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium


    All dates and TV schedules can be found on the tournament website.

2 Big Ten Teams Reach Final Four

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Let's talk about the Big Ten, shall we? It's a powerhouse.

    As mentioned, four Big Ten teams are ranked in the top seven of the latest AP Poll: Michigan (No. 2), Illinois (No. 4), Iowa (No. 5) and Ohio State (No. 7). There is ample fluidity even between those two teams.

    The Wolverines won back-to-back games against the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, only to be steamrolled by the Fighting Illini Tuesday night in Champaign. Iowa crushed Ohio State this past weekend after a blowout loss at Michigan, and the Buckeyes take on a rejuvenated Illinois team after defeating the Fighting Illini in January.

    Exhausting, isn't it? Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    Purdue (No. 23) and Wisconsin (No. 25) were also ranked in the AP Top 25. The Boilermakers are ahead of Ohio State in the Big Ten standings and have won four straight after beating the Badgers Tuesday night at Mackey Arena. Maryland is also knocking on the door after five consecutive wins of its own.

    There has been at least one Big Ten team in the Final Four in each of the past two NCAA tournaments. But this is arguably as strong as the conference has ever been, especially at the top.

    Seeding might be a bit preventative in this regard, but it would not be a surprise to see a pair of Big Ten squads in the Final Four.

VCU, St. Bonaventure Pull 1st-Round Upsets

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The Atlantic 10 is not nearly as prolific as the Big Ten in churning out national title contenders, but it is a conference made for Cinderella runs.

    Two teams from the A-10 stand a good chance of at least making it past the first weekend: the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.

    The Rams and the Bonnies rank 24th and 25th in RPI, respectively (h/t CBS), and both squads defend like crazy. The former ranks 55th in the country in defensive scoring average, while the latter is eighth in the nation in that department.

    All five of St. Bonaventure's starters average double figures in scoring. The Bonnies are a respectable 56th in the country in three-point shooting percentage, running opponents off the line on the other end.

    The Rams, meanwhile, have one of the more underrated scorers in the nation in Nah'Shon Hyland. The sophomore guard is averaging 19.2 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc on 8.0 attempts per game. He is also averaging 2.0 steals per game.

    Scoring is typically at a premium come March. But the Bonnies and Rams defend well, and both teams have guys they can go to when they need a bucket.

    Andy Katz of projects both A-10 squads will be No. 11 seeds. A couple of 6-11 upsets are entirely possible.

Gonzaga Wins 1st National Title

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    For all the success Mark Few has had at Gonzaga, he has never led the Bulldogs to an NCAA title. That could change in April.

    The Zags remain undefeated after defeating Loyola Marymount over the weekend. They lead the nation in scoring at 92.9 points per game, with four players in double figures. Gonzaga also ranks third in the country in assists.

    This is as talented and diverse a roster as Few has had in his long tenure. Freshman Jalen Suggs is likely to be one of the top selections in the 2021 NBA draft. He is the total package as a tall and athletic point guard who can get to the rim while also showing great court vision.

    Corey Kispert is Gonzaga's leading scorer (19.5 points) and a sniper who is shooting 46.3 percent from beyond the arc on 6.1 attempts per game. He has a quick release and is not afraid to take and make contested jumpers.

    Drew Timme is the third Zags star on the 2021 Wooden Award Late Season Top 20. He dominates the interior and is exceptionally nimble for someone his size. He can spin and make fallaway jumpers in the post, and he also uses his size and drop step successfully on the low block.

    That does not even account for Joel Ayayi or Florida transfer Andrew Nembhard, two guards who excel in different areas. The former is an excellent off-ball cutter and fills space quite well, while the latter is at his best breaking opponents down off the dribble.

    There will likely be skepticism regarding the Zags' conference schedule, but they also beat Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa and Virginia in non-conference play.

    Gonzaga has been the best wire-to-wire team in the country. Expect that to continue as March Madness begins.


    All stats obtained via Sports Reference unless otherwise noted.