NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Elite 8

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for Elite 8

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    UCLA's Johnny Juzang
    UCLA's Johnny JuzangAssociated Press

    The 2021 NCAA men's tournament field has been narrowed down to four teams. 

    An unlikely combination of programs remain alive in Indianapolis. The Gonzaga Bulldogs, Baylor Bears, Houston Cougars and UCLA Bruins will play on Saturday in the Final Four. 

    Gonzaga and Baylor were expected to make it this far, and they both asserted their dominance in their Elite Eight victories. 

    Houston had potential to make a Final Four run, but no one expected the Cougars to defeat four double-digit seeds on their way to the national semifinal.

    UCLA's path was the unlikeliest, as it became just the fifth No. 11 seed and the second program to play in the First Four to advance to the Final Four. 

    The Bruins relied on Johnny Juzang's scoring ability and a terrific defensive performance to eliminate the Michigan Wolverines in the final Elite Eight showdown. 

    UCLA will try to end Gonzaga's undefeated season on Saturday, while Baylor and Houston square off in a battle of old Southwest Conference rivals. 

No. 1 Gonzaga 85, No. 6 USC 66

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    Gonzaga's Drew Timme
    Gonzaga's Drew TimmeDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    The push for perfection continues.

    Top-seeded Gonzaga improve its record to 30-0 with a comfortable 19-point win over USC in Tuesday's NCAA West Region Final in Indianapolis.

    Known for their high-tempo, high-scoring offense, the Zags lived up to the hype. They put the pedal to the metal right out of the gate, scoring the first seven points and building a 17-4 lead before the game was five-and-a-half minutes old. By halftime, the score was 49-30. 

    As good as they are offensively, the Bulldogs also brought an impressive defensive effort against the No. 6 Trojans, holding them to under 40 percent shooting even after taking their foot off the gas in the second half. Six first-half steals helped set the tone for the game.

    Early in the first half, medics were called onto the court to attend to official Bert Smith after he collapsed at his position near the baseline. Smith was alert and sitting up as he was wheeled off the court on a stretcher. He is being monitored but will not been taken to hospital, according to the NCAA (via ESPN).


    Top Performers 

    Drew Timme imposed his will on the game right from the opening tipoff. The 6'10" Bulldogs sophomore finished with 23 points, five boards, four assists and three steals. 

    His teammate, Jalen Suggs, got close to recording the first triple-double in a regional final since Dwyane Wade did so in 2003. His night ended with 18 points, 10 boards and eight assists.

    For the Trojans, the Mobley brothers unsurprisingly led the way. Isaiah, the sophomore, had 19 points while 7'0" Evan, the freshman, had 17.


    Next Round

    Saturday's Final Four will see the Bulldogs match up against the 11th-seeded UCLA Bruins.


    —Updated by Carol Schram

No. 11 UCLA 51, No. 1 Michigan 49

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    UCLA's Johnny Juzang
    UCLA's Johnny JuzangMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    The UCLA Bruins became the second team to ever reach the Final Four after playing in the First Four. 

    Mick Cronin's side frustrated the Michigan Wolverines with its defense for the majority of the contest, as it held the No. 1 seed to 49 points. 

    Michigan had a handful of looks to secure the game in the final minute. Franz Wagner's three-point attempt failed to reach the rim with 12 seconds left on the clock. Eli Brooks did not convert on the layup that followed. 

    The Wolverines had two more chances in the final 10 seconds to secure the win. Mike Smith and Wagner both missed three-point attempts in those sequences. 

    UCLA held Michigan to 3-of-11 from three-point range over 40 minutes, and the Bruins did not have a single point come from their bench players.

    In fact, Johnny Juzang scored over half of UCLA's points. The transfer from Kentucky put up a game-high 28 points. 

    Michigan did its best to try to counter the poor three-point shooting by sending the ball into the paint, but even with some UCLA big men in foul trouble, it failed to consistently convert on those chances. 

    UCLA extended its winning streak in Indianapolis to five. It entered the NCAA tournament on a four-game losing streak in Pac-12 play.


    Top Performers

    As he has been all tournament, Juzang was the offensive star for the Bruins. He made 11 of his 19 field-goal attempts. He has three 20-point games in the last five contests. Tyger Campbell was the only other UCLA player to reach double figures. 

    Hunter Dickinson was the lone Michigan player above 10 points. The freshman finished with 11 points.


    Next Round

    UCLA will face Gonzaga in second of two Final Four games on Saturday night.


    Updated by Joe Tansey.

No. 2 Houston 67, No. 12 Oregon State 61

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    Houston's Quentin Grimes
    Houston's Quentin GrimesMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    If defense wins championships, the Houston Cougars are right where they want to be.

    The No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region got a bit of a scare but punched its ticket to the Final Four on Monday by eliminating No. 12 Oregon State at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

    By halftime, the Cougars had doubled up the Beavers, leading 34-17.

    Neither team shot especially well. But Houston was relentless on the offensive glass, outrebounding Oregon State 8-1 and logging five steals. That set up 34 field-goal attempts, including 15 from long range. Oregon State went just 7-of-20 from the field, including 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.

    In the second half, Oregon State chipped away and took better care of the ball. A 10-0 run by the Beavers cut the lead to 52-48 with just over six minutes left to play, and then a triple by Gianni Hunt tied the game at 55 with 3:48 to go. From there, the Cougars calmly regained control and finished up with a six-point win.

    Top Performers

    Marcus Sasser had a big first half for Houston. With Quentin Grimes struggling to sink shots and scoring just five points, Sasser led his team with 11 points, two steals and two rebounds.

    Sasser had 19 points when he came out of the game with 14:54 to play in the second half after a hard collision, but he returned less than three minutes later.

    Grimes found his stroke in the second half, finishing with 18 points, while Cougars defensive dynamo DeJon Jarreau tallied 10 points, eight boards, eight assists and two blocks.

    At the half, Oregon State's leading scorer was Maurice Calloo. He had five points off the bench, while no Beaver starter had more than two points. Calloo finished with 13 points, and Ethan Thompson was the only other Beaver to hit double digits with 11.

    Next Round

    Houston will face South Region champion Baylor in the Final Four on Saturday.

    —Updated by Carol Schram

No. 1 Baylor 81, No. 3 Arkansas 72

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    Baylor's Davion Mitchell
    Baylor's Davion MitchellMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Baylor Bears clinched their spot in the Final Four by fighting off a second-half challenge from the Arkansas Razorbacks.

    Arkansas got within eight points of the Bears at halftime and cut the deficit to four points twice in the second half. However, the combination of Baylor's defense, a few key shots from the Bears and a cold streak for the Razorbacks secured the Bears' path into the national semifinals.

    Arkansas missed 11 consecutive field-goal attempts during a seven-minute stretch in which Baylor opened up a double-digit advantage.

    Mark Vital provided the dagger with a thunderous jam, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua followed that up with a rejection of Justin Smith to deny any late surge from the SEC side.

    Baylor was the better team for long stretches of the contest. It broke out to a 12-point advantage in the first four-and-a-half minutes and was up 17 halfway through the opening period.  Arkansas did its best to challenge the Bears, but the poor shooting in the second half did it in for good. 

    Baylor's Final Four berth is its first since 1950, and it will face an old foe from the Southwest Conference in the Houston Cougars.

    That matchup guarantees one team from Texas will play for a national championship for the second straight tournament.

    Top Performers

    MaCio Teague was Baylor's top offensive standout. He led the Bears with 22 points. Jared Butler (14) and Davion Mitchell (12) also found their way into double figures.

    Davonte Davis and JD Notae both finished with 14 points for Arkansas. Notae was unable to make more of an impact since he fouled out with 13 minutes left in the contest.

    Next Round

    Baylor faces Houston for a spot in the national championship on Saturday.

    —Updated by Joe Tansey.