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March Madness predictions 2021: Matt Lutovsky’s expert NCAA Tournament bracket picks

Very few individuals be ok with their March Madness bracket after they make their preliminary picks. They really feel even worse after their second or third move. The remaining draft normally is not prepared till shortly earlier than tip-off of the primary event recreation, and even then, there are in all probability three or 4 picks you would like you could possibly have again. 

Not us. We produced “the answer key” on our first strive, and while you’re observing perfection, why tinker with it? Just click on “submit” and go about your day. Do you assume Michelangelo had any second ideas after he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? No, he knocked that unhealthy boy out and shortly moved on to different cool stuff, like designing a library or no matter. 

Sure, the opposite Sporting News faculty basketball consultants might need extra “experience” (overrated), “logic” (yawn), and “knowledge” (useful for those who’re a nerd), however we have now one thing extra vital than all three put collectively: Heart. That’s proper. Some would possibly refer it to as grit; others, scrappiness. Whatever you name it, there’s merely no denying it is important when filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket. 

You is likely to be pondering, “Hey idiot — that doesn’t make any sense. ‘Heart’ doesn’t give you any insight when comparing college basketball teams. Idiot.” Yeah, properly, “love” is not an precise meals ingredient, however your grandma’s home made hen noodle soup at all times tasted higher than something out of a can, and that is as a result of she made it with love, so…identical factor.

We’ll be shocked if we get any video games fallacious, so we might advise copying the whole lot beneath until you assume you might have extra coronary heart than us — in all probability not attainable, however that is so that you can determine. Sure, three No. 1 seeds making the Final Four has occurred simply 5 occasions in historical past, but it surely’s vital to keep in mind that earlier than it occurred for a fifth time, it had solely occurred 4 occasions, so it is clearly trending upward. (Nailed it.)

Anyway, let’s simply transfer on to the picks and a few transient explanations as to why we made them. We would possibly even drop the bit and attempt to be severe. 

MORE MARCH MADNESS: TV schedule | Printable bracket | Odds

March Madness bracket predictions 2021

West Region

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The COVID points hanging over Kansas and Virginia make this a tough area to handicap as an entire, however selecting Gonzaga to win it’s doubtless a default setting for a lot of. Iowa has the capturing and inside play to present Gonzaga matches ought to the groups meet within the Elite Eight, however the ‘Zags had been dominant all season, leading the nation in margin of victory (23) en path to a 26-0 report. Even extra encouraging: Gonzaga beat every of Iowa, Kansas, and Virginia by double-digits this 12 months. That’s greater than sufficient motive to belief the ‘Zags all the way in which to the title recreation.

USC, which is ranked 14th on kenpom.com, is probably the most intriguing “long-shot” decide. While everybody is concentrated on Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham having a Carmelo Anthony-like run by means of the event, the Trojans’ Evan Mobley is likely to be simply as doubtless. The athletic 7-footer averaged 16.8 factors, 8.6 rebounds, and an eye-popping 3.0 blocks per recreation this 12 months. We have Kansas knocking off USC within the second spherical due to the Jayhawks’ many spectacular wins, but it surely was by far our hardest decide of the area. 


MORE BRACKET PICKS: DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Fagan (Gonzaga)

South Region

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Baylor is our nationwide champion, so clearly we just like the Bears, however boy is that this a troublesome area. Ohio State simply proved it will possibly go toe-to-toe with anybody, whereas each Wisconsin and Arkansas can dial up the protection in a rush (thirteenth and 14th, respectively, in kenpom.com‘s adjusted protection metric). Purdue is a dwell 4 seed that may get both a banged-up Villanova or Winthrop within the second spherical if it survives North Texas, so Baylor will not have any simple video games after Round 1. Nevertheless, the Bears had been dominant all season, have a number of go-to gamers, and led the nation in three-point percentage (41.8 %). Defense and rebounding are slight worries, however not sufficient for us to doubt Baylor’s superior offense.

We hated selecting Winthrop as a result of it is so chalky, but it surely’s chalky for a motive. ‘Nova simply appears previous the breaking level. Utah State has a troublesome protection (eighth in kenpom.com‘s adjusted protection metric), and given Texas Tech’s mediocre outdoors capturing (34.6 percent on threes), we just like the upset there. Colgate is a really intriguing first-round upset decide provided that the Raiders ranked fourth in average margin of victory (17.7) and tied for tenth in three-point percentage (38.7), however we’ll belief Arkansas’s protection and tempo. We’re not so assured in Arkansas in its potential second-round matchup in opposition to Utah State, however we’re nonetheless going full chalk with our Sweet 16 picks from this area. 

MORE: The best sleeper picks, upset predictions for NCAA Tournament

East Region

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Can we decide nobody from this area and get two from the South or West? It’s not that the groups within the East are unhealthy, however none stand out, a minimum of not with Isaiah Livers (foot) sidelined for Michigan. The Wolverines are nonetheless lots able to coming out of this area, however they’re the best No. 1 seed to omit, in order that’s why we seemed elsewhere. This area is extensive open, with legit circumstances to be made for just about each staff seeded 1-12.

Florida State can bomb from three, which is among the causes we like them to get sizzling and make an Elite 8 run, however LSU has a top-five offense in line with kenpom.com and St. Bonaventure remains to be ranked higher overall than the Tigers, so the ‘Noles will not have a straightforward Sweet 16 recreation irrespective of who it faces — and that is assuming it will get there. 

Ultimately, we select Texas to come back out of this area due to its latest sizzling streak and Shaka Smart’s big-game teaching expertise, however Alabama shall be a troublesome out for anybody. Shooting might be a difficulty for the Tide, although (not that it will possibly’t for Texas, too), so we’re going out on slightly little bit of a limb and selecting the Longhorns to outlive this area.


REGION BREAKDOWNS:
WEST | EAST | SOUTH | MIDWEST

Midwest Region

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It’s fashionable to choose Oklahoma State to come back out of this area, and whereas that very properly might occur, we pivoted and have the Cowboys dropping within the second spherical. We virtually had them dropping within the first spherical to a Liberty staff that may light it up from deep, however finally caught with Oklahoma State. Illinois and Oklahoma State precise ranked Nos. 1 and a couple of in Quad 1 wins in the course of the common season, however Illinois is a far superior rebounding and outside shooting team, so we had been going to have the Illini successful that recreation regardless. Because of that, we opted for Tennessee and its nasty defense within the second spherical to present us slightly differentiation.

The backside half of the bracket has a bunch of groups we’re not enthusiastic about. Houston appears to be like good on paper, but it surely has simply two wins in opposition to groups that made the event (Texas Tech, Wichita State). It received its 24 video games by an average of 17.2 factors, which is an effective signal, however that is not sufficient for us to choose the Cougars previous the Sweet 16. San Diego State has the 3-and-D instruments we like to tug off upsets in opposition to doubtless overrated West Virginia and Houston squads — however not in opposition to favourite Illinois.



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