NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament 2021: Monday's Schedule, Bracket Predictions

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 22, 2021

Central Florida guard Alisha Lewis passes the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Houston in the semifinal round of the American Athletic Conference women's tournament Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Sixteen games are in the books in the 2021 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament following the conclusion of play on Sunday, and 16 more are scheduled to tip off Monday in San Antonio.

There will be 12 hours of non-stop action beginning at noon ET with a trio of games, and the evening will conclude with a pair of matchups set to start at 10 p.m.

You can take a look at Monday's schedule of first-round games below in addition to picks for each game and write-ups on a pair of upset choices.


Monday Schedule (Round of 64)

12 p.m. ET

No. 7 Alabama vs. No. 10 North Carolina, ESPN (Hemisfair Region) 

No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 14 Drexel, ESPN2 (Alamo Region)

No. 6 Rutgers vs. No. 11 BYU, ESPNU (Mercado Region)


2 p.m. ET

No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 13 Wright State, ESPN (Alamo Region)

No. 3 Arizona vs. No. 14 Stony Brook, ESPN2 (Mercado Region)

No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 VCU, ESPNU (Mercado Region)


4 p.m. ET

No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 15 Mount St. Mary's, ESPN (Hemisfair Region)

No. 5 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 Belmont, ESPN2 (Mercado Region)

No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 UCF, ESPNU (Alamo Region)


6 p.m. ET

No. 7 Iowa State vs. No. 10 Michigan State, ESPN (Mercado Region)

No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 15 Troy, ESPN2 (Mercado Region)

No. 5 Missouri State vs. No. 12 UC Davis, ESPNU (Alamo Region)


8 p.m. ET

No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 Marist, ESPN (Alamo Region)

No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Bradley, ESPN2 (Hemisfair Region)


10 p.m. ET

No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Wyoming, ESPN (Hemisfair Region)

No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 11 South Dakota, ESPN2 (Alamo Region)


Bracket Predictions

No. 7 Alabama over No. 10 North Carolina

No. 3 Georgia over No. 14 Drexel

No. 6 Rutgers over No. 11 BYU

No. 4 Arkansas over No. 13 Wright State

No. 3 Arizona over No. 14 Stony Brook

No. 4 Indiana over No. 13 VCU

No. 2 Maryland over No. 15 Mount St. Mary's

No. 5 Gonzaga over No. 12 Belmont

No. 10 UCF over No. 7 Northwestern      

No. 7 Iowa State over No. 10 Michigan State

No. 2 Texas A&M over No. 15 Troy

No. 5 Missouri State over No. 12 UC Davis

No. 2 Louisville over No. 15 Marist

No. 6 Texas over No. 11 Bradley

No. 3 UCLA over No. 14 Wyoming

No. 11 South Dakota over No. 6 Oregon


No. 10 UCF over No. 7 Northwestern    

No team has allowed fewer points per game than UCF, which finished No. 1 in scoring defense by allowing just 49.9 points per game.

The Knights will be put to the test against the Wildcats given the splendid play of Northwestern guard Veronica Burton, who leads the team with 16.7 points and 4.9 assists per game. She also happens to be the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year.

Teammate Lindsay Pulliam pours in 16 points per game, and she can be a serious problem for any team if she gets hot, like when she dropped 28 on 12-of-23 shooting against Illinois.

However, this matchup could ultimately favor the Knights.

Northwestern shoots just 40.1 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from three-point range. That could play into the hands of the Knights' tremendous defense in a low-scoring affair.

In addition, the Knights have a height advantage down low with the 6'3" Masseny Kaba and 6'3" Brittney Smith patrolling the paint. They're helped by 6'1" guard Courtajia Sanders, and that trio combines to grab 16.8 boards per game. Only one Northwestern starter (6'1" first-year Paige Mott) stands above six feet.

As far as X-factors go, UCF guard Alisha Lewis could prove to be the difference.

No UCF player has made more than 10 three-pointers all season outside of Lewis, who has canned 39-of-86 shots from beyond the arc.

The sophomore guard has struggled of late, going just 2-of-13 from the field over her past two games. But she can take over games when she's on, notably when she scored 27 points against USF earlier this month. If she gets going, watch out.

On the flip side, Northwestern is clearly playing with an edge. The Wildcats were set to land a high NCAA tournament seed last year after winning 26 games and a Big Ten title, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceled March Madness.

"I felt like we could have made a run to the Final Four," head coach Joe McKeown said to Drew Schott of the Daily Northwestern.

"We just had that type of team chemistry. This team right now...they have a little redemption chip on their shoulder type attitude. And that's why I like this team."

That extra motivation to play with something to prove may be the difference.

However, if Lewis rounds back into form and the UCF defense can prevent Burton and Pulliam from taking over this game, then look for the Knights to survive and advance in a close one.


No. 11 South Dakota over No. 6 Oregon

It's been a trying year for Oregon, which could have easily challenged for a No. 3 or No. 4 NCAA tournament seed if not for numerous hardships along the way. 

COVID-19 protocols within the Ducks program forced Oregon to pause team-related activities in the winter, leading to three postponed Pac-12 games. The Ducks were 11-3 pre-pause but have gone just 2-5 since.

Oregon has also been hit hard with injuries. 

Point guard Te-Hina Paopao, who is first on Oregon with 84 dimes and third with 10.2 points per game, remains out with a right foot injury that has cost her the last two games, per James Crepea of the Oregonian on Saturday.

In addition, redshirt sophomore Nyara Sabally, who averages a team-high 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds, and guards Taylor Chavez and Jaz Shelley "have been missing or limited in practice," per Crepea. All three played in Oregon's last game against Oregon State on March 4.

Per Crepea, Oregon coach Kelly Graves provided more details on their statuses on Saturday.

"We hope to have them in the game. Obviously not going to be 100 percent; that's still kind of to be determined. I'm anticipating that at least two of those three will be good to go. I couldn't tell you which two at this point, but they're doing a good job, our training staff is going a great job trying to get them back."

Graves said that Chavez practiced in a limited capacity on Friday, and Crepea noted that all three were photographed at the Saturday practice. Sabally in particular was noticeably putting in work during some half-court action in video shot of Oregon's Sunday practice:

Oregon Women’s Basketball @OregonWBB

Tomorrow, we dance. #GoDucks x #ncaaw https://t.co/7uRrFECFxU

On the other sideline, the 19-5 Coyotes are rolling into March Madness with a nine-game winning streak.

Center Hannah Sjerven and guards Chloe Lamb and Liv Korngable serve as the offensive stars. Sjerven averages a team-high 17.2 points and 10.0 rebounds, and Lamb has hit 60 total three-pointers en route to her 15.8 points per game. Korngable leads the Coyotes with 3.9 assists per night in addition to her 14.7 PPG.

That group has helped South Dakota hang tough against No. 1 South Carolina (81-71 loss) and Gonzaga (54-50 defeat). The Coyotes shot a combined 5-of-34 from three in those games. They make 33.7 percent of their threes normally, so those performances were clear outliers.

As for Monday, if Sabally goes and isn't too limited, she can take this game over. At 6'5", she has a two-inch height advantage over every Coyote player. The Ducks' balanced scoring attack (five players average 9.6 points or more per game) could be an issue as well.

The prediction here is that an epic Sjerven-Sabally battle ensues with this game staying close throughout. In the end, look for Lamb's three-point shooting to be the difference.