NCAA Bracket 2021: Complete Guide to South Region

Sean Highkin@highkinFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2021

NCAA Bracket 2021: Complete Guide to South Region

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    It was a season unlike any other, but we have made it to March Madness with Selection Sunday and the official announcement of this year's NCAA men's tournament bracket.

    Some big-name programs occupy the South Region—Florida, North Carolina, Ohio State, Villanova—as well as some schools casual fans don't normally associate with the tournament.

    It's tough to make any concrete predictions given all the inconsistencies in these teams' schedules, but here is the complete breakdown of the South Region in Indianapolis.

1st-Round Schedule and TV Info

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    All games are on Friday, March 19. All times in ET. 

    No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech, 12:00 p.m., CBS

    No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 14 Colgate, 12:30 p.m., truTV

    No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 Utah State, 1:30 p.m., TNT

    No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts. 2:45 p.m., CBS

    No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Hartford, 3:20 p.m., truTV

    No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Wisconsin, 7:00 p.m., CBS

    No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 North Texas, 7:15 p.m., TNT

    No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 12 Winthrop, 9:50 p.m., TNT

Must-See Games

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 14 Colgate

    Colgate may have been the team most shafted by the selection committee. The Raiders finished the season ranked ahead of Arkansas in NET (9 to 14), yet this was their first-round draw.

    So this isn't a typical 3-14 matchup. If there's a game in the first round that could see a major upset, and the winning team is good enough to make a real run instead of just being a fun early-round story, it's this one.


    No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Wisconsin

    In the middle of the bracket sits this matchup between two major programs vying for an opportunity to (likely) face top-seeded Baylor next. The Tar Heels finished the regular season strong and did well in the ACC tournament but still wound up at No. 8.

    The Badgers team they face has been inconsistent, but these are two relatively evenly matched teams on paper, each of which would present a unique challenge to Baylor in the second round. The winner could upset a lot of brackets.

Top Storylines

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Can Baylor capitalize on unprecedented No. 1 seed?

    Baylor made its first men's NCAA tournament 75 years ago. The Bears have made it 11 times since, leading into this year's selection. In that time, they have never been a No. 1 seed—until now.

    That doesn't mean their path will be easy. This side of the bracket is loaded, and they'll face either North Carolina or Wisconsin in the second round. It's no guarantee that they even reach the Sweet 16.

    Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Baylor has made four Sweet 16 and two Elite Eights, but never a Final Four. As the top overall seed, this is the Bears' best opportunity to break that drought, but their route will be tough.


    Will North Carolina overcome a bad draw?

    A great 4-2 finish to the season saw North Carolina pick up a No. 8 seed—and a potential matchup with Baylor in the second round.

    Since winning the national title in 2017, the Tar Heels have failed to make it back to the Elite Eight. They lost in the second round in 2018 and made it to the Sweet 16 in 2019. This year, their path is difficult but not impossible. As one of the bigger-name programs, UNC is worth keeping an eye on.

Players to Watch

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

    Moody is largely responsible for Arkansas' surprising success. He's had a terrific freshman season, developing into one of the country's most reliable sharpshooters. He's already established himself as a first-round talent in the upcoming NBA draft; a strong tournament run would only help his stock.


    Tre Mann, PG, Florida

    Mann has carried the Gators this far and gotten buzz as one of the country's most improved players throughout the season. His 22-point performance against Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament was particularly impressive. Florida will need a lot more than that out of him over the next three weeks if it's going to make a run as a No. 7 seed.


    Terrence Shannon Jr., SG, Texas Tech

    Shannon has improved greatly as a three-point shooter, posting 34.6 percent mark as a sophomore after shooting 25.7 percent as a freshman. That was his biggest question mark heading into the season, and he's answered that skepticism with an improved overall game. Continuing that improvement will be key to any potential run from Texas Tech.

Favorites Most Likely to Fall

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    No. 3 Arkansas

    Arkansas is a good team, but the Razorbacks drew one of the most dangerous low seeds in recent memory in No. 14 Colgate. The Raiders ranked ahead of Arkansas in the end-of-season NET rankings (No. 9 vs. No. 14). As one of the most consistent all-around teams in the country this year, the Razorbacks head into this game with the better seed, but Colgate's under-seeding could be reason to worry.


    No. 5 Villanova

    Villanova was looking like a Final Four-caliber team before it lost senior guard Collin Gillespie to a knee injury in early March. In the tough tournament field, that's likely going to be too big a loss to overcome. The Wildcats offense is still good, but their defense has gotten considerably worse. They have first- or second-round exit written all over them.

Most Likely Cinderella

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    John Munson/Associated Press

    No. 14 Colgate

    Colgate (14-1) has been underestimated because of how few games it played this season, and its weak strength of schedule in the Patriot League is a concern. But the Raiders have ranked well in NET all year, led by senior guard Jordan Burns, who is averaging 17.1 points per game and shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range.

    We'll find out if they're really as good as their regular-season rankings suggest, but it's hard to look at how they ran through their schedule and think that even as a low seed facing a good Arkansas team, it's a foregone conclusion that they'll just roll over in the first round.

Who Will Make the Sweet 16?

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    No. 2 Ohio State

    The Buckeyes have one of the best offenses in the country, which should be enough to get them to the Sweet 16, despite their defensive concerns.


    No. 6 Texas Tech

    If an Ohio State-Texas Tech matchup in the Elite Eight happens, it will be a battle of offense vs. defense—the Red Raiders are still incredibly frustrating to generate points against.


    No. 4 Purdue

    Starting center Trevion Williams has had an outstanding junior season. He's the Boilermakers' only reliable scorer at 15.6 points per game, but he's good enough to get them into the Sweet 16 given their draw.


    No. 8 North Carolina

    UNC got unlucky with its seed, as it could pit the team against top-seeded Baylor in the second round, but the Tar Heels defense is good enough to overcome that—and maybe take them further.

The Elite Eight Matchup Will Be...

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 8 North Carolina

    While Texas Tech's defense is still very good at No. 33 in the nation, it's not at the same level as its top-ranked unit two years ago. Ohio State's No. 11 offense will be enough to get past Texas Tech to set up a Sweet 16 showdown with North Carolina.

    The Tar Heels could upset Baylor in the second round, and if they do that, there's no reason to think they can't also knock off Purdue in the Sweet 16 to set up an Elite Eight run as a No. 8 seed.

    Both of these teams have been inconsistent, but inconsistency in this pandemic-ravaged year can be overlooked more than it can most seasons. The matchups are aligning for these two teams to make it here.

And the Final Four Team Is...

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    No. 2 Ohio State

    In the end, the Buckeyes offense can be counted on more than the Tar Heels' No. 109 unit, and that will be enough to get them into the Final Four.

    Ohio State seemed destined to be a No. 1 seed until the end of the season, when it went on a four-game losing skid in late February and early March. Projecting OSU to go this far in the tournament is a leap of faith that the team it was for most of the year is more representative of what it really is.

    If there's ever a time to get right, it's now.


    Stats via Sports Reference unless otherwise noted.