March Madness 2021: Printable NCAA Bracket, Schedule and Upset PicksMarch 15, 2021
March Madness 2021: Printable NCAA Bracket, Schedule and Upset Picks
The wait is finally over: March Madness has arrived. Selection Sunday brought college basketball prognosticators a new bracket to pore over in search of the right picks to earn bragging rights and the potential of a financial windfall.
Winning your bracket also stimulates the ego, and one of the greatest pleasures in life is calling that perfect upset.
The key to winning a bracket pool is nailing the Final Four and eventual champion, but it can give you an early advantage to pick upsets correctly while avoiding putting any vulnerable teams too far into your projections.
While there is some luck in predicting those upsets, there are some trends that are worth looking into.
So it's time to print off a bracket and start looking into some of the less heralded teams in the NCAA mens basketball tournament. A printable version of the tournament can be found here.
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2021 NCAA Tournament Schedule
First Four: March 18
First round: March 19-20
Second round: March 21-22
Sweet 16: March 27-28
Elite Eight: March 29-30
Final Four: April 3
National championship: April 5
March Madness TV Schedule
First Four: TBS, truTV
First and second rounds: CBS, TBS, TNT, truTV
Sweet 16 and Elite Eight: CBS, TBS
Final Four and national championship: CBS
No. 13 North Texas over No. 4 Purdue
Let's start with a bold prediction: The Purdue Boilermakers should be on high alert in their matchup against the Mean Green of North Texas.
Purdue had a strong season in the deepest conference in college basketball this season, the Big Ten. That's why most people will fill in Purdue without a second thought, but the matchup should give pause for those picking the Boilermakers.
First, this game will be played at a slow pace. According to KenPom.com, Purdue is 274th in pace and North Texas is even slower at 350.
That shrinks the game and gives Purdue fewer possessions to build a lead over the underdog. Now consider that Grant McCasland's team is one of the better three-point shooting teams in the tournament. As a team, they shoot 37.3 percent from the three-point line.
By comparison, Purdue shoots just 33.5 percent as a team.
Purdue is the better program, but a team that plays incredibly slow and has the ability to catch fire is what first-round upsets are made of.
No. 12 Winthrop over No. 5 Villanova
There are a variety of factors at play when it comes to the matchup between the Winthrop Eagles and the Villanova Wildcats. Almost all of them are good signs for the underdog.
First, the team Winthrop will see isn't the same one that had the best regular season in the Big East. Injuries to Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore have severely hampered the Wildcats, as evidenced by their Big East tournament loss to Georgetown.
Even without those issues, Winthrop profiles well as a team capable of pulling off an upset. With a starting lineup that features three seniors and a junior, they bring experience to the table, and their ability to snag offensive rebounds creates extra possessions.
They were 12th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. They also excel in creating havoc for opposing offenses, as they rank 21st in defensive turnover percentage.
With no Gillespie and a potentially hobbled Moore taking responsibility as the primary ball-handler for the Cats, their ability to cause turnovers could be a serious problem.
Winthrop has some star power too. Senior guard Chandler Vaudrin is a do-it-all player who is tailor-made to shine in the tournament. He's averaging 12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists with 1.3 steals on the other end.
If both Winthrop and North Texas pull off the upset, we would see the two square off with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.
No. 11 Michigan State over No. 6 BYU
We don't know who out of Michigan State and UCLA will advance to the actual first round, but BYU will be rooting for the Bruins to get past the Spartans.
Ever since the First Four was instituted, picking at least one of the winners to advance to the round of 32 has been a safe bet. 2019 is the only year it didn't happen, and even then Belmont lost to Maryland 79-77 in the first round.
So that means one of Michigan State, UCLA, Drake or Wichita State is likely to continue the trend, even if the tournament skipped a year.
This pairing seems the most dangerous. If Michigan State advances, the Cougars will face a Spartans team that holds wins over Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State. BYU wouldn't be close to the best team they have beaten this season.
Aaron Henry gives the Spartans a legitimate go-to scorer in crunch time, and they are 35th in defensive efficiency.
Don't count out a Tom Izzo-coached squad in the tournament. The veteran head coach has only been eliminated in the first round twice in the past 10 years.