NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament 2021: Odds, Picks for Monday's Bracket

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2021

Texas forward Charli Collier (35) runs the court against TCU during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

The 2021 NCAA women's basketball tournament is entering its second day across Texas on Monday.

All four No. 1 seeds were in action on Sunday, with Stanford, Connecticut, North Carolina State and South Carolina punching their ticket to the second round.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark (23 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals) and Tennessee's Rennia Davis (24 points, 14 rebounds, two assists) also delivered standout performances in winning efforts.

In general, the opening day provided little in the way of surprises since so many of the tourney's strongest contenders took the court. That should set the stage for a wilder closing finish to the first round of the Big Dance.


Monday Schedule

No. 14 Drexel vs. No. 3 Georgia (-19.5), 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 11 BYU vs. No. 6 Rutgers (-9.5), 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU

No. 10 North Carolina (-1.5) vs. No. 7 Alabama, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 13 VCU vs. No. 4 Indiana (-18.5), 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU

No. 14 Stony Brook vs. No. 3 Arizona (-19.5), 2 p.m. ET, ESPN2

No. 13 Wright State vs. No. 4 Arkansas (-8.5), 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 12 Belmont vs. No. 5 Gonzaga (-10.5), 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2

No. 15 Mount St. Mary's vs. No. 2 Maryland (-34.5), 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 10 UCF vs. No. 7 Northwestern (-3.5), 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU

No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Iowa State (-2.5), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 15 Troy vs. No. 2 Texas A&M (-16.5), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2

No. 12 UC Davis vs. No. 5 Missouri State (-9.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

No. 11 Bradley vs. No. 6 Texas (-8.5), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

No. 15 Marist vs. No. 2 Louisville (-19.5), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

No. 11 South Dakota vs. No. 6 Oregon (-3.5), 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

No. 14 Wyoming vs. No. 3 UCLA (-20.5), 10 p.m. ET, ESPN

Odds via Bovada


Players to Watch

Aari McDonald, Arizona

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

When she announced her decision to return to Arizona for this season, Aari McDonald lamented how the Wildcats were unable to embark on an NCAA tournament run because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is now back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2005, and McDonald is a big reason why.

The 5'6" guard is averaging 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Her field-goal percentage has dipped from 45.8 to 38.9, but Arizona's schedule might have had something to do with that. Seventeen of the Wildcats' 21 games were against conference opponents, and they saw four games canceled midway through the year.

Finding a scoring rhythm can be tricky under those circumstances.

According to Her Hoops Stats, McDonald's 35.3 percent usage rate ranks seventh in Division I, so Arizona's hopes of a first-ever trip to the Elite Eight will rest squarely on her shoulders.


Charli Collier, Texas

Shawn Millsaps/Associated Press

Unlike in some years, there isn't a consensus No. 1 player in the 2021 WNBA draft. However, Charli Collier is the likeliest candidate to be the first name off the board on April 15.

The Texas center is putting up 20.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. She has also flashed an ability to stretch the floor, going 13-of-41 from beyond the arc.

Collier has struggled in some of the Longhorns' toughest games, though.

In three matchups against Baylor, she had 17 total points on 5-of-14 shooting. She went 5-of-20 for 10 points and 17 rebounds in a 68-51 loss to Oklahoma State on Jan. 27. She had another double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) against Texas A&M but missed seven of her 11 shots.

Those performances could be less an indictment and more a reflection of her supporting cast. Good teams can focus more of their attention on Collier inside without worrying about how Texas might hurt them from long range since the Longhorns are collectively hitting 32.1 percent of their threes.


Ashley Joens, Iowa State

Matthew Putney/Associated Press

When Iowa State reached the second round of the tournament in 2019, Ashley Joens ceded the spotlight to Big 12 Player of the Year Bridget Carleton. Now, it's time for Joens to take center stage.

Joens is ninth in Division I in scoring at 23.6 points per game while also averaging 9.2 rebounds. The 6-foot wing almost single-handedly carried the Cyclones to a 75-71 win over Baylor on Jan. 16, putting up 14 of her 27 points in the fourth quarter.

In general, Iowa State is a lot of fun to watch for neutral fans. The team is 21st in scoring (76.7 points per game) and 271st in scoring defense (70.8 points per game). The Cyclones' leaky defense would be a far bigger problem were it not for the explosiveness Joens provides.


Ashley Owusu, Maryland

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Six different players are scoring in double figures, so it's not totally fair to single out just one player. However, the impressive depth available to head coach Brenda Frese makes Ashley Owusu's ability to stand out even more impressive.

Still only a sophomore, Owusu is the team leader in points (18.3) and assists (5.8) while averaging 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

Through her scoring and playmaking, she helps spearhead an offense that sits first in points per 100 possessions (122.1) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.69) and third in field-goal percentage (49.3), according to Her Hoops Stats.

In general, the Terrapins should be one of the teams you go out of your way to watch Monday.