Elite 8 2021: Full Schedule and Final Four Bracket Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

Elite 8 2021: Full Schedule and Final Four Bracket Predictions

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Only eight teams remain in pursuit of championship bliss.

    The 2021 men's NCAA Tournament has rolled through three rounds with a wave of upsets, a couple of Cinderella runs and a boatload of wins for the Pac-12.

    Three top seeds are still in the hunt with Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan. Houston and Arkansas are the sole second and third seeds left standing, respectively. Then, there's the bracket-busting trio of sixth-seeded USC, 11th-seeded UCLA and 12th-seeded Oregon State.

    Chalk it up to Madness.

    With more games on deck for Monday and Tuesday, let's lay out the remaining tournament schedule and peer into the future with our Final Four predictions.

Elite Eight, Remaining Tournament Schedule

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Elite Eight

    Monday, March 29

    No. 12 Oregon State vs. No. 2 Houston, 7:15 p.m. ET (CBS)

    No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 1 Baylor, 9:57 p.m. ET (CBS)


    Tuesday, March 30

    No. 6 USC vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 7:15 p.m. ET (TBS)

    No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 1 Michigan, 9:57 p.m. ET (TBS)


    Final Four

    Saturday, April 3

    Game 1, 5 p.m. ET (CBS)

    Game 2, 8:30 p.m. ET (CBS)


    National Championship

    Monday, April 5

    Title Game, 9 p.m. ET (CBS)

Bracket Predictions

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    After three rounds of tournament play, you can throw the seeding designations out the window. UCLA and Oregon State might've had up-and-down seasons, but both are rolling now, and that's what really matters.

    Saying that, if you reseeded the tournament right now, USC might get the biggest jump. The Trojans are steamrolling everyone and everything in their path. They not only have three tournament wins in three tries, they've bulldozed all three opponents by double digits. They rolled to a 34-point win over Kansas while shooting 61.1 percent from distance, then dumped Oregon by 14 points while hitting 58.8 percent from range.

    USC is becoming increasingly treacherous to game-plan against. It has a top-five pick manning the middle in freshman Evan Mobley, and his older brother, sophomore Isaiah, is a former five-star recruit in his own right. But teams can't focus too much on the interior, or they'll get burned by guards Tahj Eaddy and Isaiah White.

    The Trojans can hang with almost anyone—but coach Mark Few's Bulldogs look like the exception. Gonzaga has three double-digit wins of its own and eyes on punctuating this season with an undefeated run to the national championship.

    Gonzaga could be one of three top seeds to reach the Final Four. Baylor is clicking again after a late season COVID pause, and Michigan has more perimeter firepower around interior anchor Hunter Dickinson than teams can handle.

    So, does that mean we might actually see an upset-free round? Not if Oregon State has anything to say about it.

    The Beavers are playing their best basketball of the season at the perfect time. They've lost just once in their last nine games. In NCAA Tournament play, they've seen senior guard Ethan Thompson skyrocket to stardom (48 points on 24 field-goal attempts his last two games) and supported his offense with suffocating defense (sub-35 percent shooting against in every contest).

    Maybe Houston junior guard Quentin Grimes will be the scorer who solves this defense, but our crystal ball isn't buying it. Oregon State moves on.

Crowning a Champion

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    For all of the twists and turns taken during this college basketball season, it's still very possible three No. 1 seeds reach the semifinals. That's how our bracket breaks down, at least.

    From there, the 12th-seeded Beavers round out the field and serve as the embodiment of the unpredictability of the past calendar year.

    Gonzaga and Michigan would square off on one side of the bracket. Baylor and Oregon State would have the other.

    All due respect to coach Juwan Howard and the Wolverines, but we can't pick against the Zags. Jalen Suggs is a star, Corey Kispert could be another lottery pick and Drew Timme completes the puzzle inside. With no Isaiah Livers for Michigan, there isn't enough firepower for the Wolverines to keep up.

    In the other matchup, this could be where the glass slipper no longer fits for the Beavers. Baylor's perimeter trio of Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell can all create off of the dribble, make shots for themselves or their teammates and shred the nets from long range. That's too much for even Oregon State's defense to handle.

    So, that leaves a national championship with Gonzaga and Butler, which might be a direct gift from the basketball gods. These are the two-highest rated squads on KenPom, and each roster could send multiple players into this year's NBA draft.

    It should probably be a coin flip, but we're giving Gonzaga a better chance than that. The Suggs-Kispert-Timme trio is a handful at every level, and that's before even factoring in Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard.

    The Bears will put up a fight, but the Bulldogs are headed to the history books with perfection personified.