We probably watched about 13 minutes of college basketball this season so that qualifies us to make the most accurate March Madness predictions, right? Heck, we weren’t even aware it was already tournament time but here we are and the First Four games tip off tonight.
All games this year will be played in Indiana due to the COVID pandemic. But despite all the changes and upheaval, we believe in the end, college basketball purists will get a dream matchup in the Final.
COAL REGION CANARY – MARCH MADNESS PREDICTIONS
So, let’s get right to our bold, but not so bold predictions for the 2021 NCAA tournament. If you take gambling advice from people who don’t watch much college basketball since they ruined it with the one-and-done rules, here you go …
2021 Round of 64 Predictions
In the West bracket, we’re taking:
- Gonzaga over the 16 seed (Appalachian St.)
- Oklahoma over Missouri
- Creighton over UC-Santa Barbara
- Virginia over Ohio
- USC over the 11 seed (Wichita St.)
- Kansas over Eastern Washington
- VCU over Oregon
- Iowa over Grand Canyon St.
In the East bracket, we’re taking:
- Michigan over the 16 seed (Texas Southern)
- St. Bonaventure over LSU
- Georgetown over Colorado
- Florida St. over UNC-Greensboro
- UCLA (the 11 seed play-in winner) over BYU
- Texas over Abilene Christian
- UConn over Maryland
- Iona over Alabama
In the South bracket, we’ve got:
- Baylor over Hartford
- North Carolina over Wisconsin
- Winthrop over Villanova
- Purdue over North Texas
- Texas Tech over Utah State
- Arkansas over Colgate
- Florida over Virginia Tech
- Ohio State over Oral Roberts
And in the Midwest bracket, we’re taking:
- Illinois over Drexel
- Georgia Tech over Loyola Chicago
- Tennessee over Oregon St.
- Liberty over Oklahoma St.
- Syracuse over San Diego St.
- West Virginia over Morehead St.
- Clemson over Rutgers
- Houston over Cleveland St.
Round of 64 Upset Picks
As you can see, we’ve got a few big upsets (and some not so big ones) predicted in the Round of 64.
In the West, we’re thinking this bracket will hold pretty much as it’s drawn up and the top seeds advancing to the Round of 32. The lone upset in the West is VCU taking down Oregon. That’s mostly because we’re backing Mahanoy City native and VCU Rams head coach Mike Rhoades. We actually have his Rams going to the Sweet 16 (more later).
In the East bracket is where things go a little sideways. Most notably, we’re taking Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels, the 15 seed, as one of our big surprise picks this year. We’ve got them getting by #2 Alabama in the first round and then upsetting UConn in the Round of 32.
We’ve got some other shocking picks in the East, too. OK, picking the Bonnies over LSU isn’t that shocking. But we’ve got #12 Georgetown taking out Colorado and UCLA, the 11 seed play-in winner, getting by BYU in the Round of 64.
In the Midwest bracket, we like Georgia Tech taking out Loyola Chicago in a 9 over 8 upset. And we’re liking Liberty over Oklahoma St. in another upset. Tournament pedigree is why we’re taking #11 Syracuse over San Diego St. as another upset pick in the Midwest.
Finally, in the South, and this may irk some local readers … we like #12 Winthrop over Villanova in the Round of 64. It just feels like one of those years where Nova bows out early. It happens. We have more upsets in the South but those are down the road a bit.
2021 Sweet 16 Predictions
So, we didn’t have any #1 seeds getting taken out in the Round of 64 but that’s not going to be true of the Round of 32. We think the first top seed to fall will be Baylor in the next round. They’ll face North Carolina, if our picks are correct and we’ve got the Tar Heels moving on to the Sweet 16 (and beyond).
We don’t see too much happening out of the ordinary in the Midwest in the Round of 32 but we like Iona getting by UConn to reach the Sweet 16. And we’re sticking with Rhoades’ VCU team in an upset of Iowa in the Round of 32.
Here’s our full Sweet 16:
- North Carolina
- Ohio St.
- West Virginia
Elite Eight Predictions
We have the 3 remaining top seeds (Illinois, Michigan, and Gonzaga) getting by their Sweet 16 opponents and reaching the Elite 8.
And at this point, we really only have one surprise team left in the tournament at the Elite 8 level. Is it fair to call North Carolina a surprise?
Here is our full Elite 8:
- North Carolina
- Ohio St.
With the exception of the Tar Heels, all the Cinderellas are gone. In fact, the remaining 8 teams on our bracket – with the exception of UNC – are either a 1, 2, or 3 seed. But only a pair of #1s are getting through to the Final Four …
Final Four Predictions
We think the Zags are the next top seed to go. They won’t be making the trip to Indianapolis as we see the Jayhawks taking them down in the Elite 8 round.
Here’s our Final Four picks:
- Kansas vs. Michigan
- North Carolina vs. Illinois
Now, at this point, you’re dreading the idea of an all-Big 10 championship game. But don’t worry. Neither of them is making it. And for all the stories you hear about how the bottom part of the bracket is closing the gap on the top teams in the country, in the end we think you’ll be left with one of the most traditional NCAA Men’s Championship games you can find: Kansas vs. North Carolina.
And in the end, we like Kansas, 79-68.