NCAA Bracket 2021: Schedule, Title Picks and Predictions After Selection Sunday

Jenna CiccotelliAnalyst IIMarch 15, 2021

NCAA Bracket 2021: Schedule, Title Picks and Predictions After Selection Sunday

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    After two years, thanks to the cancellation of the 2020 tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the field for the NCAA men's basketball tournament has been determined.

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    After the 2020-21 season, Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois and Michigan were given the top seeds, while other Big Ten teams weren't too far behind, considering there were nine of them selected to the tournament.

    The Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conferences were right behind with 12 combined teams appearing in the bracket.

    The first part of March Madness has come and gone. Hours removed from Selection Sunday, here's what to expect over the next several weeks.

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    Schedule and TV Information

    First Four: March 18 (truTV, TBS)

    First and Second Rounds: March 19-22  (TNT, truTV, CBS, TBS)

    Sweet 16: March 27-28 (TBS, CBS)

    Elite Eight: March 29 (CBS) and March 30 (TBS)

    Final Four: April 3 (CBS)

    National Championship: April 5 (CBS)


    Now, let's look at which teams are in position to contend for a spot in the Final Four. 

West: Gonzaga

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    In Gonzaga's perfect season, it hasn't won by fewer than five points. That was way back in the third game of the season against West Virginia, and after that, the margin of victory never was lower than 11 points.

    While they haven't been as tested during their in-conference games—with BYU the only other tournament team out of the West Coast Conference, there's no reason to assume the Zags won't dominate. Corey Kispert's 19.2 points per game combined with Drew Timme's 18.7 points and 7.1 rebounds will carry the Bulldogs past their less-than-challenging draw in the West.

    The winner of the First Four—whoever it is—will be no test for the Bulldogs, and a No. 8/No. 9 matchup against either Oklahoma or Missouri should also be a breeze.

    Things might get dicey against No. 3 Kansas if both teams get to a potential Elite Eight matchup, but the Zags already beat the Jayhawks 102-90 in the first game of the season.

East: Texas

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Balanced scoring from Andrew Jones (14.6 points per game), Matt Coleman III (13.3 points) and Courtney Ramey (12.6 points) propelled the Longhorns to a 19-7 season and a 91-86 victory over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament.

    As the No. 3 seed in the East, the Longhorns should make quick work of their side of the bracket, starting with No. 14 Abilene Christian. Michigan State and UCLA are strong contenders to knock out No. 6 BYU, and then it would be smooth sailing for Texas.

    Even a potential matchup with No. 1 Michigan isn't a reason to sweat, as the Wolverines lost three of their final five games this season, including a 68-67 defeat to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament.

South: Baylor

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Baylor was another contender to have a perfect season prior to suffering two late losses, including a Big 12 tournament elimination, but does it really matter?

    Unlike Gonzaga, they're not facing the pressure of carrying a perfect record through March, a feat no team has accomplished since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.

    With its first No. 1 seed, the Bears are in position to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1950.

    Similarly to Texas, there isn't one star on the Baylor team. The group is led by balanced offensive contributions from three key guards—Jared Butler (17.1 points per game), MaCio Teague (16.2 points per game) and Davion Mitchell (14.1 points per game).

    After a matchup with Hartford, which is playing in its first NCAA tournament, the Bears will draw either North Carolina or Wisconsin in the second round.

Midwest: Illinois

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Fighting Illini are playing their best basketball right now, having won 13 of their past 14 games.

    With a defeat of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game in the books, Illinois closed the season by playing four Top 10 opponents in its last five games—defeating them all. There was also a defeat of No. 23 Wisconsin right before that stretch of opponents.

    Illinois was without one its best players for a brief stretch when Ayo Dosunmu went down with a facial injury against Michigan State on Feb. 23. He returned to drop 17 points against Ohio State in his first game back, and went on to help the team to a strong final stretch of the season.

    "I thought that last year we had a chance to do something special. So this year I think we have a great chance to be special," he told Yahoo's Krysten Peek. "And I knew coming back with the coaching staff and the recruits coming in, the players who [were] returning, I know that we had a chance to be special."

    Illinois has a relatively easy draw in the Midwest bracket, starting off with the Colonial Athletic Association automatic qualifier in 12-7 Drexel, then getting the winner of a No. 8/No. 9 matchup between Loyola Chicago and Georgia Tech. The real test starts in a potential matchup with star freshman Cade Cunningham and No. 4 Oklahoma State.

    With their pedigree in recent matchups, the Illini are prepared to make a run deep this year.