NCAA Bracket 2021: Complete Guide to East Region
The East Region of the NCAA men's tournament is set, and some intriguing matchups could be on tap.
Two of college basketball's historically elite teams will be forced to play their way into the field of 64. A historic basketball coach is trying to bust some brackets with his mid-major squad, and Alabama is trying to prove it's no longer just a football school.
The Crimson Tide are a No. 2 seed behind Michigan for the top seed in the region. But No. 3 Texas poses a threat after it won the Big 12 tournament.
That's not to discount No. 4 Florida State. The Seminoles have a potential lottery pick in Scottie Barnes.
But this wouldn't be March without an upset, and Georgetown pulled off a massive one by winning the Big East tournament. A No. 8 seed in the conference tournament, Georgetown became the highest seed to win the conference since UConn did it as a No. 9 seed in 2011. The Huskies used that performance to win the Big Dance. Can the Hoyas pull off a similar feat?
Here is everything you need to know about the East Region.
1st-Round Schedule, and TV Info
All first-round games in the East Region will be played on Saturday, March 20. Game times are ET
Saturday (First Round)
No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Georgetown, 12:15 p.m., CBS
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro, 12:45 p.m., truTV
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure, 1:45 p.m., TNT
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's / Texas Southern, 3:00 p.m., CBS
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Iona, 4:00 p.m., TBS
No. 7 UConn vs. No. 10 Maryland, 7:10 p.m., CBS
No. 6 BYU vs. No. 11 Michigan State / UCLA, 9:40 p.m., CBS
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian, 9:50 p.m., truTV
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure
If the confrontation between LSU and Alabama before the SEC title game was any indication of what's to come, then it's safe to expect some passion from the Tigers. LSU took Alabama to the wire in Sunday's finale. They wouldn't meet the Crimson Tide again until the Elite Eight, but a tough St. Bonaventure team would be the first step toward an exciting rematch.
No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 11 Michigan State
It's not often you see two power-conference teams like these in the First Four, but the 15-12 Spartans sneaked into the tournament after a dismal season, and the Bruins ended the season in a freefall, losing four straight. Michigan State had some big wins down the stretch, including against No. 2 Michigan in the final game of the regular season, but the Spartans went one-and-out in the Big Ten tournament, which is what likely relegated them to a play-in game.
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Iona
Only eight times in history has a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2 seed. The Crimson Tide don't seem vulnerable to an upset after having won the SEC tournament. But Iona is hot after winning the MAAC as the ninth-seeded team. Also the Gaels are helmed by Rick Pitino, who knows a thing or two about coaching in March.
Pitino is back in the tourney for the first time since 2017, when he was forced to resign from Louisville after several infractions within the program. In his first season with the Gaels, they had several games canceled, including five during a 51-day stretch because of COVID-19. This matchup against Alabama is a battle of the old guard with Pitino and one of the more prominent up-and-coming coaches in 46-year-old Nate Oats, who is in his second season with Alabama.
Georgetown's Big East tourney win gave the team its first trip to the Big Dance since 2015. Patrick Ewing, who won the 1984 national title while a player at the school, is trying to restore the program to its former glory.
A shouting match between Michigan coach Juwan Howard and Maryland's Mark Turgeon broke out during their Big Ten Conference tournament game on Friday. As mentioned, things got heated at Alabama-LSU, with coaches involved. This edition of the Big Dance will lack some action without packed crowds, cheerleaders and bands, but the coaches are providing plenty of storylines.
Stars to Watch
Scottie Barnes, Florida State
Florida State's freshman power forward-turned-guard idolized Magic Johnson as a kid despite the fact the former Los Angeles Lakers great was way before his time. In true Gen Z fashion, he used social media to look up highlights.
They play different positions, but Barnes liked the way the 12-time NBA All-Star and three-time MVP always played with visible passion and excitement. The 6'9" Barnes is so versatile he can play 1-5, which makes him exceptionally tough to guard.
James Bouknight, UConn
The 6'5" shooting guard is electric, but his health has also been questioned. Bouknight has had issues with cramping on a few occasions and had an elbow injury that required surgery in January. The Huskies need him if they have any hope of making a deep run.
Andrew Jones, Texas
The Longhorns' leading scorer hit a game-winning three-pointer to give Texas the win over West Virginia on Jan. 9, three years to the day after head coach Shaka Smart informed the team the guard had been diagnosed with leukemia. A redshirt junior, he's part of Texas' experienced core.
Favorites to Fall
Michigan showed its vulnerability in recent weeks with losses to No. 4 Illinois, Michigan State and No. 9 Ohio State. The Wolverines might shoot a lot of threes (7.5 made per game), but they allow a lot of them, as well (6.6 per game).
You could make the same vulnerability argument about Florida State.
The Seminoles fell to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament, and head coach Leonard Hamilton said they seemed unsure of themselves at times. Heavy defensive pressure forced Florida State into bad turnovers, which has been a problem in past games.
Most Likely Cinderella
Georgetown is the favorite to be a bracket-buster out of the East.
The beginning of its March story was the stuff of fairytales: Patrick Ewing returned to the place where he had his best years, Madison Square Garden, and led his underdog squad to a Big East title underneath the jersey bearing his number in the rafters. Reaching a Final Four would be a fitting storybook ending.
The Hoyas are led by center Qudus Wahab, who averages 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, and guard Jahvon Blair and his 15.8 points per game. Freshman guard Dante Harris had a breakout performance in the Big East tournament with 18 points against Villanova, 15 against Seton Hall and 10 against Creighton. That outburst came after he averaged single digits all season.
If Harris can build on his performance and Georgetown can continue its stifling play, then it should be able to continue this fun ride.
Who Makes the Sweet 16?
No. 1 Michigan
One of the most accurate three-point-shooting teams in Division I, the Wolverines have four guys who are threats from long range. On the opposite end, Michigan doesn't give up a lot of points in the paint. This team knows how to protect the rim.
No. 4 Florida State
The Seminoles have a balanced attack led by M.J. Walker, RaiQuan Gray and Scottie Barnes. They tied a program record with four straight NCAA tournament bids this year, and they have excellent coaching from Leonard Hamilton.
No. 2 Alabama
Alabama throws up a lot of threes, more than any other team in the tournament. Senior forward Herbert Jones is tough and versatile. The Crimson Tide had a case for a top seed, but Michigan being in the ultra-deep Big Ten gave the Wolverines an edge.
No. 11 Michigan State
The Spartans proved they can beat big-time opponents, and they did so at the right time of the season. Rarely do the top four seeds all advance, and Michigan State could be the First Four team that ruins some brackets.
The Elite Eight Matchup Will Be…
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida State
These two teams have the fewest question marks. Florida State and Alabama, two schools known primarily for football, have built their basketball programs up to a point at which they seem ready for prominence.
It's a strange year without teams like Kentucky and Duke in the postseason, but these two are ready to knock the historic elites off their throne. It's a new era in college basketball, and these two are ushering it in.
And the Final Four Team Is…
No. 2 Alabama
Tuscaloosa is already known as Title Town, due in large part to the football team, but the basketball program could soon become a powerhouse program, as well.
Herbert Jones, a local out of Hale County, Alabama, who was named the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year, has a chance to become a home-state hero. He got big stops against LSU late in the game to help secure the win for the Crimson Tide, and Jahvon Quinerly, a transfer from Villanova, showed his big-game abilities in the SEC tournament and was rewarded with the MVP award.
If all goes according to plan, Alabama will have us all saying "Roll Tide" all the way through March and into April.