Printable NCAA Bracket 2021: Downloadable Bracket and Picks AdviceMarch 15, 2021
Printable NCAA Bracket 2021: Downloadable Bracket and Picks Advice
March Madness is back, and it's time to start filling out those brackets. After last year's NCAA men's basketball tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 edition is ready to go, as the 68-team field is now set and every game is scheduled to take place in the Indianapolis area.
On Thursday, the First Four matchups will decide which four of those eight teams will get to move into the first round. That's when the action will really start to pick up, as there will be 16 opening-round games on Friday, followed by 16 more on Saturday.
If you're looking for a downloadable bracket that you can fill out by hand, NCAA.com has made those available. The deadline to fill in brackets for this year's tournament is Friday at noon ET, which is when the first round will get underway.
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As you begin to fill out those brackets, here's some early advice to consider while doing so.
Illinois Could Be Poised for Run to Final Four
Illinois has a ton of momentum heading into its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013. The Fighting Illini have won seven straight games and 14 of their past 15, as they took down Rutgers, Iowa and Ohio State on their run to the Big Ten tournament championship.
Not only has Illinois been playing well, but it's been doing so against a lot of tough competition. The Big Ten has nine teams in this year's NCAA tournament field, and four are either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, including the Fighting Illini, who are the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.
It's unlikely that Illinois has already peaked. With the way the bracket is set up, the Fighting Illini are going to be facing some teams that aren't as strong as the ones they've been playing for the past few months. Their biggest competition in their region will likely be No. 2-seeded Houston, No. 3-seeded West Virginia and No. 4-seeded Oklahoma State, but Illinois could probably beat any of those teams down the line.
There are always upsets possible in March Madness, but the Fighting Illini are a strong offensive team (they scored at least 82 points in all three of their Big Ten tourney wins), and they're one of the hottest teams in the country. Feel comfortable picking them to make a run to the Final Four and potentially even further.
Baylor Should Bounce Back to Make Deep Run
While Illinois enters the NCAA tournament with a lot of momentum, Baylor will not. The Bears are also a No. 1 seed, but that's because of their earlier accomplishments, which led to them winning the Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time in program history.
Baylor, which owns a 22-2 record, has now lost two of its past six games, which included falling to Oklahoma State in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament. The Bears could have won the conference tourney for the first time in their history, but they fell two wins short.
Early in the NCAA tournament, Baylor could face some tough competition. No. 4-seeded Purdue, No. 5-seeded Villanova, No. 8-seeded North Carolina and No. 9-seeded Wisconsin are among the potential teams it could face in either the second round or the Sweet 16. And if the Bears reach the Elite Eight, they could potentially run into No. 2-seeded Ohio State.
But Baylor is likely going to get back to looking more like the team it was earlier in the season. When it faces No. 16-seeded Hartford on Friday, it will be the Bears' first game in a week. So don't be surprised if the Bears regroup, pick up an easy win to open the tournament and then make a run to at least the Elite Eight, potentially deeper.
Georgetown Is the Best No. 12 Seed to Pick for an Upset
Heading into the Big East tournament, Georgetown had one path to the NCAA tourney: win four games and earn the conference tourney championship. And as the No. 8 seed, it didn't seem likely that the Hoyas were going to be successful in doing so.
But March can be full of surprises, and Georgetown defeated Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall and Creighton on four consecutive days to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015. It'll also be the Hoyas' first March Madness appearance under head coach Patrick Ewing, who took over for John Thompson III in 2017-18.
So although Georgetown is a No. 12 seed, it has momentum and may be on its way to upsetting No. 5-seeded Colorado in a first-round matchup on Saturday. That could be one of the best potential opening-round upsets to pick when filling out your bracket, as the Hoyas are playing some of their best basketball of the season at the right time.
After that, Georgetown would face either Florida State or UNC Greensboro. And while Florida State is a strong team, perhaps the Hoyas could keep it going and make it to the Sweet 16. So if you're looking for a double-digit seed to potentially pull off an upset or two, Georgetown may be the best one to pick.