NCAA Tournament 2021: Predictions for Top Seeds Ahead of Bracket Reveal

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2021

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert (24) and forward Drew Timme (2) stand on the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pacific in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Young Kwak/Associated Press

The battle for the four No. 1 seeds is always the most anticipated, last-minute flourish before the start of NCAA men's basketball tournament and this year is no different.

Gonzaga is a lock for the top seed after capping their 26-0 season with an impressive 88-78 comeback win over BYU in the West Coast Conference tournament final last week. All eyes will be on the Bulldogs as they enter the tourney on a mission to be the first undefeated team to win it all since Indiana did it in 1976.

One of the most competitive and influential conferences this year is the Big Ten. With teams like Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State still vying for the conference championship, the outcome of the remaining games and the final will have a significant impact on the committee's choices for No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.

Then there’s Baylor, who should retain their No. 1 seed for the Big Dance despite their stunning 83-74 loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 semifinals game on Friday night.

Duke and Kentucky won't be dancing this year, but there's still plenty of big name programs to cheer on for March Madness.

Here’s a few predictions for the top seeds ahead of Selection Sunday.

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Predictions for Top Seeds


David Becker/Associated Press

Led by Naismith College Player of the Year finalists Corey Kispert and Drew Timme, Gonzaga has already cemented its case as the No. 1 overall seed.

So now that they’re armed with the certainty of where they are, the Bulldogs have to focus on where they go from here.

They’ve been dominant all season thanks to their top-ranked offense and they’re looking to do something no team in the modern era has been able to do: carry an undefeated season all the way to the finish line.

It’s a tall order for any team, but this Gonzaga squad has a really good chance to pull it off.

With quality wins over Kansas, Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia, the Bulldogs have the experience and firepower to roll through the tournament without getting tripped up by Cinderella.

But that’s the rub. Cinderella always bears her glass slipper when least expected.


Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Selection Sunday will be a case of good news and bad news for Michigan.

While it’s likely that they’ll beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal game and ultimately win the championship, they’ll have to do both without Isaiah Livers, who is out indefinitely with a stress injury to his right foot.

"Livers will be out indefinitely after an MRI following yesterday's Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal game against Maryland revealed a stress injury to his right foot," Michigan announced in a press release. "Livers will wear a protective boot while he immediately begins rehabbing."

The senior wing started all 23 games this season and averaged 13.1 points, six rebounds and two assists. The Wolverines will miss his scoring ability and 43.1 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Michigan is on track to land the No. 1 seed for the Big Dance, but without Livers, its chances at winning its first championship since 1989 are down.

Second year head coach Juwan Howard will have to lean on Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner if he wants his squad to live up to expectations.


Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Illinois is on the verge of doing something it hasn't done since 2005: secure the No. 1 seed for the tournament.

The Fighting Illini are one of the hottest teams in college basketball, having won five straight and are likely a lock for the top seed even if they don't win the Big Ten Tournament outright.

On the heels of an easy 90-68 win over Rutgers, Illinois will take on Iowa in the semifinal.

The Hawkeyes will be out to avenge their 80-75 loss to the Fighting Illini back in January now that they have guard Joe Wieskamp to backup leading scorer Luka Garza.

They'll also have their sights set on landing a No. 2 seed.

But even if Illinois loses to Iowa, the selection committee will still give Ayo Dosunmu and his hard-nosed defense playing squad the nod for the top seed over Alabama.


Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Losing to Oklahoma State might have been a blessing in disguise for Baylor.

They've only lost two games all year, so it won't topple their chances at landing the No. 1 seed for the tournament, but it will serve as a wakeup call.

The Bears' defense wasn't up to par on Friday night, but to be fair, they were up against the Cowboys and the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Cade Cunningham.

Cunningham led all scorers with 25 points (20 in the second half) and added eight rebounds and five assists. He got a lot of help from Avery Anderson, who chipped in 20 points.

"They scored like 80-something on us," MaCio Teague told ESPN's Jeff Borzello after the game. "[We have] bigger problems than shooting."

Teague and Jared Butler finished with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

Look for Baylor to take their upset loss in stride and bring their A game to March Madness.