Final Four Predictions 2021: Updated Bracket, Picks to Make NCAA Championship

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIMarch 23, 2021

Final Four Predictions 2021: Updated Bracket, Picks to Make NCAA Championship

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    After the first five days of the men's NCAA tournament, a field of 68 teams is down to the Sweet 16 and chaos once again proved to be the opening weekend's winner. 

    No. 3 Kansas, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 Illinois are all done for the year, while No. 15 Oral Roberts, No. 11 UCLA, No. 11 Syracuse, No. 8 Loyola-Chicago and the undefeated No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs continue their march toward the Final Four.

    According to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, this year's first two rounds have produced the highest seed total to reach the Sweet 16 in tournament history at 94—an average seed of 5.88. 

    And things have only just begun.

    As March moves along—and teams get the week to remain quarantined inside the the Indianapolis bubble—the upsets are becoming less shocking and the true contenders begin to separate themselves from the field. 

    Here's a look at what's ahead next weekend and which teams will be staying in Indiana for the Final Four.

Sweet 16 Bracket

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    This year's Sweet 16 features no shortage of must-see matchups. 

    No. 1 Baylor will have its hands full with an experienced No. 5 Villanova team, No. 3 Arkansas will have to face this year's biggest Cinderella in Oral Roberts, and a revived Syracuse program takes on a No. 2 Houston seeking its first Final Four since the Phi Slama Jama days of the 1980s—and that's just on one side of the bracket. 

    The other half of the field still has plenty of title contenders preparing for their moment.


    Sweet 16 Schedule

    Saturday, March 27

    No. 12 Oregon State vs. No 8. Loyola Chicago, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS

    No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 1 Baylor, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS

    No. 15 Oral Roberts vs. No. 3 Arkansas, 7:25 p.m. ET, TBS

    No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Houston, 9:55 p.m. ET, TBS


    Sunday, March 28

    No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 2:10 p.m. ET, CBS

    No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 1 Michigan, 5 p.m. ET, CBS

    No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 2 Alabama, 7:15 p.m. ET, TBS

    No. 7 Oregon vs. No 6. USC, 9:45 p.m ET, TBS


    Elite Eight to follow on March 29 and March 30

Final Four Matchup: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 1 Gonzaga

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    The East and West regions won't be all chalk, but it'll be close to it. 

    Through five days of the tournament, the only thing that's certain is that Gonzaga remains the best team in the field. Head coach Mark Few's team ran roughshod over No. 16 Norfolk State and No. 8 Oklahoma, barely breaking a sweat in the process. 

    Alabama had a small scare with Iona but looked to be back on track in a rout over Maryland in the second round. 

    Look for the Bulldogs to continue overpowering weaker opponents, starting with No. 5 Creighton and likely to continue regardless of who advances between Oregon and USC.

    The Trojans put on an all-time performance in handing the Kansas Jayhawks their worst postseason loss in the program history behind Evan and Isaiah Mobley. That could easily push them past a battle-tested Ducks team USC has already handily defeated earlier in the season.

    But it shouldn't matter much once they run into Gonzaga. Between Drew Timme, Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert, the Bulldogs have too much depth and talent to hold back. 

    Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide get a favorable bracket with No. 11 UCLA waiting for them in the Sweet 16, while either Michigan or Florida State will await in the Elite Eight.

    Alabama scores in bunches and can wear teams down in transition. That will power it to a first Final Four in school history.  

    Prediction: 81-70, Gonzaga

Final Four Matchup: No. 8 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 3 Arkansas

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    If taking down the best Illinois team since Deron Williams wore the orange and blue wasn't convincing enough, the Ramblers will make everyone believers when they knock off Oregon State in the Sweet 16. 

    With Cameron Krutwig, Lucas Williamson and Aher Uguak leading the way—not to mention Sister Jean on the sidelines—there's little reason to believe a Loyola team that marched all the way to the Final Four in 2018 with victories over No. 6 Miami (FL), No. 3 Tennessee and No. 7 Nevada, can't do it again against the likes of No. 11 Syracuse or No. 2 Houston.

    Head coach Porter Moser could have left the Ramblers after taking the team to within two wins of a national title three years ago. But he's back to finish the job in 2021.

    Once the Ramblers get to the Final Four, they'll come face-to-face with another pleasant surprise from this postseason: the Arkansas Razorbacks.

    Head coach Eric Musselman's team took care of No. 14 Colgate after a brief first-half scare and then hung on late to pull off a two-point victory over No. 6 Texas Tech. 

    The Razorbacks will breeze past Oral Roberts and should match up favorably with either Baylor or Villanova. The last time Musselman found himself in the second weekend of the tournament, he was leading an overachieving Nevada team. 

    Now he's back with another team capable of reaching the Final Four, and there's little to suggest they won't. 

    Prediction: 60-54, Arkansas