NCAA Bracket 2021: March Madness Schedule, Bracket Predictions for Marquee Teams

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 5, 2021

NCAA Bracket 2021: March Madness Schedule, Bracket Predictions for Marquee Teams

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    March may be here, but the madness hasn't arrived just yet. But it won't be long before the NCAA men's college basketball tournament field is set and the 68 teams convene in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas for an unorthodox version of March Madness.

    Last year, there was no NCAA tournament, as the coronavirus pandemic caused the college basketball season to end before many of the major conference tourneys had even been completed. This year, everything is a go. But instead of taking place at multiple sites like usual, the entirety of the NCAA tournament will take place in Indiana.

    Before that, many of the major conference tournaments will take place over the next week or so. And then the NCAA tournament selection committee will set the bracket, which will be announced on Selection Sunday on March 14.

    Here's a look at the full schedule for this year's March Madness, followed by some bracket predictions for several marquee teams from around the country.

March Madness Schedule

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    Charles Krupa/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 Enters March Madness with Unblemished Record

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    No team has won the NCAA tournament and ended the season with an undefeated record since Indiana went 32-0 in the 1975-76 campaign. But Gonzaga is going to have an opportunity to try to end that drought when March Madness begins.

    Currently, the Bulldogs are 24-0, which includes going 15-0 during West Coast Conference play. They faced some challenging teams earlier in the season (such as No. 5 Iowa, No. 6 West Virginia, No. 13 Kansas and No. 21 Virginia) and established early momentum before getting into their conference schedule.

    Gonzaga is the No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament, which it has dominated over the years. The Bulldogs are 18-time champions of the tourney (which began in 1987), and they've won seven of the past eight years. They're likely going to win the tournament title again this year, as they've had no trouble in conference play during the regular season.

    By winning the WCC tourney championship, Gonzaga will secure the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament.

Michigan, Illinois Both Earn No. 1 Seeds

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Illinois has been on a roll of late, winning 10 of its past 11 games. That's improved the No. 4-ranked Fighting Illini's record to 19-6 heading into Saturday's regular-season finale against No. 7 Ohio State.

    And their most recent victory was their most impressive yet, as they bested No. 2 Michigan 76-53 on the road.

    However, that result wasn't indicative of Michigan's entire season. Prior to that game, the Wolverines had only lost once during their first 19 games, beating other strong Big Ten competition such as No. 5 Iowa and Ohio State. And after the loss to Illinois, they bounced back with a 69-50 win over Michigan State on Thursday.

    It wouldn't be surprising if Illinois and Michigan meet again in the championship game of the Big Ten tournament. If that happens, the Wolverines will surely be looking for revenge, while the Fighting Illini will be aiming to prove their dominance.

    Either way, if both teams reach the conference title game (and the prediction here is they will), then both should earn No. 1 seeds for the NCAA tournament. Michigan and Illinois has each had to face tremendous competition throughout the regular season, and with each being a top team, both should be rewarded by the selection committee.

North Carolina Gets In, but Duke Misses Out

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    When North Carolina and Duke face off, it's usually a matchup between two of the top teams in the country. But that won't be the case when the Tar Heels and Blue Devils conclude the regular season on Saturday. Instead, both are trying to build a strong enough argument to be included in March Madness.

    For North Carolina, it should make it into the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels are 15-9 and have gone 9-6 in ACC play, which includes a quality victory over No. 11 Florida State this past Saturday. Expect them to beat Duke and have at least a decent showing in the ACC tournament to make their way into March Madness.

    Duke isn't going to be as fortunate. It is 11-10 after losing each of its past two games in overtime (against Louisville and Georgia Tech). It has struggled to find consistency all season, never winning more than four games in a row, and it doesn't have much momentum with the ACC tourney right around the corner.

    So while North Carolina will reach the NCAA tournament, Duke will miss out for the first time since 1995. The Blue Devils won't make it deep enough into the ACC tourney to build a more impressive resume, and the selection committee will determine that it's not strong enough to give them an at-large bid.