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Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

March Madness Bracket Breakdown By Ryan Marzock

March Madness Bracket Breakdown 3/17/2021


West Region


  1. Gonzaga
  2. Iowa
  3. Kansas
  4. Virginia
  5. Creighton
  6. USC
  7. Oregon
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Missouri
  10. VCU
  11. Wichita State/Drake
  12. UC Santa Barbara
  13. Ohio
  14. Eastern Washington
  15. Grand Canyon
  16. Norfolk State/Appalachian State


Storylines to Watch


Can the Zags complete the dream season? Gonzaga enters the 2021 NCAA Tournament with an unblemished 26-0 record and they are attempting to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976. On multiple occasions teams have entered the tournament undefeated in the last 45 years but none have been able to complete the perfect season. The Zags have a great shot at reaching the Final Four since they have already defeated the next 3 highest seeds in the region (Iowa, Kansas and Virginia) by double digits during the regular season.


How will positive COVID-19 tests affect Virginia? The Cavaliers were forced to withdraw from the ACC Tournament before their semifinal matchup with Georgia Tech after multiple positive COVID-19 results within the program. They will not be able to travel to Indianapolis until Friday and some members of the team may not be able to play in the first weekend of games. 13th seeded Ohio is a dangerous opponent in the first round with Jason Preston running the show. Preston is averaging 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 7.2 APG this season and will be the X-factor for the Bobcats if they pull off the upset.


Will a Cinderella team emerge from the West Region? Every NCAA Tournament provides plenty of upsets and more often than not it’s a team that not many people were expecting to make a deep run in the tournament. The West region is a very top heavy region with many experts expecting the high seeds to all reach the Sweet 16 but sometimes that is a recipe for disaster. UC Santa Barbara (Big West Champion), Ohio (MAC Champion) and Drake (started season 18-0) all have dreams of becoming the Cinderella team in the West Region.


Impact Players


G Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga) – 14.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG


C Luka Garza (Iowa) – 23.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG


F Sam Hauser (Virginia) – 16.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 43% 3PT FG%


G Marcus Zegarowski (Creighton) – 15.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 41% 3PT FG%


C Evan Mobley (USC) – 16.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.2 APG and 3.0 BPG


G Chris Duarte (Oregon) – 16.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.9 SPG


Upset Alert


UC Santa Barbara over Creighton Bluejays – 21% chance of upset


Ohio Bobcats over Virginia Cavaliers – 12% chance of upset


Wichita State Shockers/Drake Bulldogs over USC Trojans – 12.5% chance of upset


Dark Horse Final Four Pick


Oregon Ducks – The Ducks won the Pac-12 regular season title finishing with a 20-6 overall record and were tested off and on the court this season. They had to endure a long COVID-19 pause back in January along with a bevy of injuries throughout the season but now they are almost completely healthy and have five different players averaging double figures which could pose a problem for teams in the West region. Their offensive balance could lead them to a deep run in the tournament and don’t be surprised if they pull off a few upsets putting them in line for a trip to the Final Four.


Sportsvival Final Four Pick 


Gonzaga Bulldogs – The Bulldogs are the number one overall seed in the tournament this year and deserving of such an honor after their undefeated regular season. Many fans question Gonzaga’s schedule since they play in the weaker West Coast Conference but they challenged themselves during the non-conference with the likes of Iowa, Kansas, Virginia and West Virginia. They are battle tested and are poised to return to the Final Four and try to win their first NCAA Championship.


South Region


  1. Baylor
  2. Ohio State
  3. Arkansas
  4. Purdue
  5. Villanova
  6. Texas Tech
  7. Florida
  8. North Carolina
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Utah State
  12. Winthrop
  13. North Texas
  14. Colgate
  15. Oral Roberts
  16. Hartford


Storylines to Watch


Can Baylor reassert their dominance? The Bears started the season 23-0 and were the only team in the discussion that had a realistic opportunity to stake their claim as the best team in the country outside of Spokane, WA. That was until the Bears hit a bump in the road when they were forced to take a three week pause due to COVID-19 concerns within the program. They returned from their pause and were a little rusty out of the gate and they lost a game at Kansas which was their only loss in the regular season. When Baylor is hitting on all cylinders they can defeat anyone in the country and should be one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis.


How far can Villanova go with their key injuries? Head coach Jay Wright has always built a team that lives by the mantra “The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts.” They have had plenty of superstars in the past but they always bought into the system for the greater good of the team. This year may be more difficult for the Wildcats as they will be missing two key parts to their team as their starting point guard Collin Gillespie was lost to a torn MCL late in the season and fellow guard Justin Moore is dealing with a significant ankle injury. The Wildcats will need to find production elsewhere if they are going to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this season.


Can Arkansas keep the momentum going? The Razorbacks came out a little slow in SEC play, starting conference play with a dismal 2-4 record but after a loss to Alabama on January 16 they never lost again in the SEC regular season. They have four players who average double figures and should be a force to be reckoned with in this tournament. It is rare that all four number one seeds advance to the Final Four and Arkansas could be one of the favorites to crash the party in Indianapolis this year.


Impact Players

G Jared Butler (Baylor) – 17.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 43% 3PT FG%


F E.J. Liddell (Ohio State) – 15.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 46.5% FG%


G Moses Moody (Arkansas) – 17.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 38% 3PT FG%


G Mac McClung (Texas Tech) – 15.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 80% FT%


F Keve Aluma (Virginia Tech) – 15.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG


C Neemias Queta (Utah State) – 15.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.2 BPG


Upset Alert


Colgate Raiders over Arkansas Razorbacks – 35% chance of upset


North Texas Mean Green over Purdue Boilermakers – 22% chance of upset


Utah State Aggies over Texas Tech Red Raiders – 22% chance of upset


Dark Horse Final Four Pick


Texas Tech Red Raiders – The Red Raiders season was defined by close games that didn’t always go their way. With one-point losses to Kansas and West Virginia along with two overtime losses to Oklahoma State they are a team that is probably better than their seed indicates. Guard Mac McClung is one of those players that can catch fire and lead a team to a couple of upsets on their way back to the Final Four for a second consecutive NCAA Tournament.


Sportsvival Final Four Pick 


Baylor Bears – Prior to their COVID-19 pause in February the Bears were hitting on all cylinders, offensively and defensively. After their return to action their defensive effectiveness seemed to be missing but they can obviously regain that dominant defensive pressure that held 8 straight Big 12 opponents under 70 points. They lead the nation with a 43% 3-point field goal percentage and force turnovers at a ridiculous rate of almost 20% of their opponents’ possessions. The Bears will return to form with everything on the line and they will reach the Final Four for the first time since 1950.


East Region


  1. Michigan
  2. Alabama
  3. Texas
  4. Florida State
  5. Colorado
  6. BYU
  7. UConn
  8. LSU
  9. St. Bonaventure
  10. Maryland
  11. Michigan State/UCLA
  12. Georgetown
  13. UNC Greensboro
  14. Abilene Christrian
  15. Iona
  16. Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern


Storylines to Watch

Can Michigan survive without Isaiah Livers? The Wolverines were one of the hottest teams down the stretch of the regular season but the loss of their second leading scorer could be a big hurdle to overcome. Forward Isaiah Livers (13.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG) suffered a foot injury in the Big Ten Tournament and for a team that is built on a deep rotation they will need their bench to step up and fill the role if Livers can not return for the NCAA Tournament.


Rick Pitino’s return to the NCAA Tournament: Prior to the 2017 season Pitino was fired by Louisville in the wake of an escort sex scandal linked to his basketball team. After a year off from coaching Pitino took a job coaching overseas in Greece for Panathinaikos. After some time away from the college ranks his desire to return to the states returned and he took a job with Iona from the MAAC. After the Gaels victory in the MAAC Tournament Pitino joins Lon Kruger and Tubby Smith as the only three coaches to lead five different programs to the NCAA Tournament.


Can Florida State make a deep run with such a balanced squad? Florida State is a great team built on incredible depth. Superstars (i.e. future lottery pick Scottie Barnes) are on the roster but the system requires them to buy in and prioritize team victories over individual numbers. They have made deep runs in past years but they always seem to hit a wall late in the tournament when they need someone to step up and take over a game. Can Barnes or someone else step up when it is necessary to take the Seminoles to the FInal Four? 


Impact Players


C Hunter Dickinson (Michigan) – 14.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 60% FG%


F Herbert Jones (Alabama) – 11.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.8 SPG


G Scottie Barnes (Florida State) – 11.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG


G James Bouknight (UConn) – 19.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 45% FG%, 81% FT%


G Cameron Thomas (LSU) – 22.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 88% FT%


G Isaiah Miller (UNC Greensboro) – 19.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.6 SPG, 47% FG%


Upset Alert


UCLA Bruins/Michigan State Spartans over BYU Cougars – 32% chance of upset


Georgetown Hoyas over Colorado Buffaloes – 28% chance of upset


Abilene Christian Wildcats over Texas Longhorns – 13% chance of upset


Dark Horse Final Four Pick


UConn Huskies – The Huskies are always a dangerous team in March especially when they have a dynamic guard like James Bouknight. UConn is 11-3 when James Bouknight is on the floor this season. He missed some time due to injury but he is healthy for the NCAA Tournament and if he provides one of those unbelievable performances (see Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier) UConn could be a team that makes a deep run in the tournament.


Sportsvival Final Four Pick 


Alabama Crimson Tide – The Crimson Tide dominated the SEC this season winning the regular season title along with the SEC Tournament. They play a chaotic style that confuses defenses as they can play fast or slow and they had the SEC’s most efficient defense. Nate Oats’ squad is primed and ready to make a run to the Final Four especially if Michigan does not get Isaiah Livers back for the tournament. 


Midwest Region


  1. Illinois
  2. Houston
  3. West Virginia
  4. Oklahoma State
  5. Tennessee
  6. San Diego State
  7. Clemson
  8. Loyola Chicago
  9. Georgia Tech
  10. Rutgers
  11. Syracuse
  12. Oregon State
  13. Liberty
  14. Morehead State
  15. Cleveland State
  16. Drexel


Storylines to Watch


Can Oklahoma State make the NCAA pay for their delay in their investigation? In June of 2020 the Cowboys were hit with a 1-year postseason ban following an investigation into their recruiting practices. They appealed the decision and no ruling was made before the 2021 NCAA Tournament so they remained eligible for the tournament and they could make the most of it with projected #1 overall pick Cade Cunningham (19.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 SPG) running the show in Stillwater until he declares for the NBA Draft. Can Cunningham lead the Cowboys to a Final Four and will they be forced to vacate such an accomplishment when the ruling is made on their appeal? Only time will tell but for now Cunningham hopes to give Cowboys fans their first Final Four appearance since 2004.


Can Loyola Chicago make the NCAA Selection Committee pay for their disrespectful seed? The Ramblers finished the season as a top ten KenPom team but that clearly wasn’t enough for the NCAA Selection Committee. They handed Loyola Chicago an 8 seed which is clearly disrespectful to what the Ramblers accomplished this season. The decision runs deeper than just the Ramblers though as Illinois may be tested in the Round of 32 by a team stronger than any other #1 seed will have to deal with. If the Ramblers take out the Illini and make a deep run in the tournament it could be the changing of the tides for future mid-major teams that prove to be an elite team.


Who will emerge as the Cinderella from the Midwest region? The Midwest Region is chock full of teams that could make a run to the Final Four and be considered the Cinderella of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma State (4 seed), San Diego State (6 seed), Loyola Chicago (8 seed), Georgia Tech (9 seed) and Syracuse (11 seed) all have the components to frustrate their opponents and take down their higher seeded adversaries. Which one of these teams will find the right formula to make a deep run in the tournament?


Impact Players

G Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois) – 20.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 49% FG%


C Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) – 17.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 66% FG%


F Derek Culver (West Virginia) – 14.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 49% FG%


G Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State) – 20.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 85% FT%


C Cameron Krutwig (Loyola Chicago) – 15.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 58% FG%


G Jose Alvarado (Georgia Tech) – 15.3 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.0 SPG, 51% FG%


Upset Alert


Syracuse Orange over San Diego State Aztecs – 39% chance of upset


Liberty Flames over Oklahoma State Cowboys – 26% chance of upset


Morehead State Eagles over West Virginia Mountaineers – 12% chance of upset


Dark Horse Final Four Pick


Loyola Chicago Ramblers – As previously mentioned the Ramblers finished the regular season as a top ten team in the final KenPom rankings before the NCAA Tournament. Loyola Chicago was the Cinderella team back in 2018 reaching the Final Four as an 11 seed and they are back in 2021 to show that wasn’t a fluke. Cameron Krutwig (15.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.1 SPG) was a freshman standout on that Final Four squad and has played at an All-American level this season. They have the most efficient defense in the country and shoot an incredible percentage from inside the arc (58%). Both of these stats are better than their 2018 team that make it all the way to the Final Four.


Sportsvival Final Four Pick 


Illinois Fighting Illini – The Fighting Illini are led by a dynamic inside/out duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. After a Big Ten Tournament Championship they are poised to make another tournament run in Indianapolis and are one of the favorites to cut down the nets. They may have the toughest region to navigate through but if they can escape the tough Midwest Region they will be battle tested and ready for anything in the Final Four. The Illini have not reached the Final Four since 2005 when they lost to North Carolina in the national title game and this could be the year for them to end their drought.


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