March Madness 2021: Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Top Seeds

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 4, 2021

March Madness 2021: Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Top Seeds

0 of 4

    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    One of the best things about March Madness is its unpredictability. With 68 teams participating in the NCAA men's basketball tournament each year, you never know who's going to get hot and make a run. It could be a heavy favorite or an underdog team making a Cinderella run.

    It always helps to get a No. 1 seed, though. Since the NCAA tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 1 seed has won the national championship 22 of 35 years, as pointed out by's Eric Vander Voort. There have been 34 No. 1 seeds to reach the national title game and 57 to make it to the Final Four.

    Plus, there's only been one No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the opening round (Virginia fell to UMBC in 2018). So the path to making a run typically gets off to a much easier start than it does for other seeds.

    This year, Selection Sunday is taking place March 14. While there are several teams that appear to be on their way to earning No. 1 seeds, there's still time for others to make their cases to the NCAA tournament selection committee, especially with conference tournaments taking place over the next week-and-a-half.

    Here's a look at the upcoming March Madness schedule, followed by predictions for which teams will earn No. 1 seeds this year.

March Madness 2021 Schedule

1 of 4

    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Selection Sunday: March 14

    First Four: March 18

    First Round: March 19-20

    Second Round: March 21-22

    Sweet 16: March 27-28

    Elite Eight: March 29-30

    Final Four: April 3

    National Championship: April 5

Gonzaga Remains Undefeated, Earns No. 1 Overall Seed

2 of 4

    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Gonzaga has dominated the West Coast Conference tournament over the years.

    Since the tourney began in 1987, the Bulldogs have won it 18 of 33 times, which includes seven of the past eight. After falling short in 2019, they won it last year, as the WCC tournament was one of the conference tourneys to conclude before the coronavirus pandemic ended the season early.

    If the Bulldogs win the WCC tournament again this year, they'll surely earn the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament. They enter the conference tourney with a 24-0 record and are the only remaining undefeated team in the country.

    While Gonzaga hasn't faced much tough competition while going 15-0 in WCC play, it earned some quality wins over strong non-conference opponents early in the season. It owns victories over No. 13 Kansas (Nov. 26), No. 6 West Virginia (Dec. 2), No. 5 Iowa (Dec. 19) and No. 21 Virginia (Dec. 26).

    Gonzaga's toughest test in the WCC tournament will likely be a potential matchup against No. 2-seeded BYU in the championship game. However, the Bulldogs handily defeated the Cougars both times they played during the regular season (86-69 on Jan. 7 and 82-71 on Feb. 8).

    After impressing all season, the Bulldogs are showing no signs of slowing down. Expect them to be at the top of the March Madness bracket.

Baylor's Big 12 Dominance Leads to No. 1 Seed

3 of 4

    Kathy Batten/Associated Press

    Baylor suffered its first loss of the season Saturday, falling at Kansas 71-58 after it had won its previous 18 games.

    How did the Bears bounce back? By beating No. 6 West Virginia on the road three days later, outlasting the Mountaineers for a 94-89 victory in overtime.

    Although Baylor is no longer undefeated, it appears poised to start a new winning streak and secure a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament. The Bears still have two regular-season matchups to play, both at home, and they will be tested against No. 17 Oklahoma State on Thursday and No. 18 Texas Tech on Sunday.

    However, Baylor continues to prove it's the top team in the Big 12 this season (it's already secured the conference's regular-season championship for the first time since joining in 1997), and now it's looking to win the conference tournament for the first time. By doing so, it would prove that its sole loss was just an off night against a strong team.

    The Bears are averaging 85.4 points per game, while no other Big 12 team is averaging more than 77.6. Expect their offensive success to continue, and they'll use that and their efficient shooting (a Big 12-best 49.6 field-goal percentage) to power their way to a conference tournament title and a No. 1 seed for March Madness.

Pair of Big Ten Teams Earn No. 1 Seeds

4 of 4

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    In this week's AP Top 25 poll, four of the top seven teams are from the Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan, No. 4 Illinois, No. 5 Iowa and No. 7 Ohio State.

    The conference has a bunch of talent at the top of its standings, and it should be exciting to watch these teams battle it out next week in the Big Ten tournament.

    So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that two of these teams are set to earn No. 1 seeds for March Madness. And it's likely going to be the two teams that went head-to-head on Tuesday night: Michigan and Illinois.

    Facing off for the first time this season, the Fighting Illini had an impressive showing, dominating the Wolverines and pulling away for a 76-53 road victory—and they didn't have their leading scorer, junior guard Ayo Dosunmu, who suffered a facial injury last week.

    If Illinois continues to play like it has during its recent hot stretch (10 wins in 11 games to improve to 19-6), it could be tough to beat in March.

    Michigan may have lost Tuesday, but that was only its second defeat of the season, as it opened by winning 18 of its first 19 games. The Wolverines are likely going to bounce back, and they could win the Big Ten tournament (and maybe get some revenge against the Fighting Illini, too).

    If Illinois and Michigan meet again in the Big 10 tourney championship game, don't be surprised if both earn No. 1 seeds for March Madness. It's clear both are among the strongest teams in the country, and they've proved it by playing so well in a challenging conference.