CollegeBasketballEyeTest.com Author Matty D’s March Madness 2021 Picks

BY MATT DE SARLE

When it comes to college basketball experts, I am the 15 seed. I play with an independent league of opinionated amateurs on Facebook and Twitter, but I am also the budget bettor that no sports book “wants to see” in its bracket. There’s no major sponsor or platform here.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s roll into my official picks for March Madness 2021!

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball West Region

When it comes to this West Region, I agree with CBS’s Gary Parrish. There is no imagination coming from the committee when you have the possibility of rematches between Gonzaga and either/all of Kansas, Iowa, and/or Virginia. And that’s why I think only one of those rematches will happen: the most important one. This is also why I think Iowa is the first sexy futures bet at 16-1 as of March 16th. A rematch is always tricky for any victor. And in the December showdown between Iowa and Gonzaga, the Hawkeyes were simply blown out. Although Iowas has since lost Jack Nunge, the cliche is true when you can say they are “battle tested” by a historically great Big 10. I mean, to put the greatness of the Big 10 into context, this COVID-19 shortened season still cost the jobs of Indiana coach Archie Miller and 8 year head man at Minnesota, Richie Pitino. But I digress. Iowa can legitimately beat Gonzaga, I would comofortably have them covering any 2-3 possession line, but I have to go with Jalen Suggs and Gonzaga to advance.

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Everyone is picking against Creighton, and they clearly had a rough start to the month of March. But maybe they’ll be the team that goes in like a lamb and out like a lion. Its win against a popular UConn team showed us what telnet they have. I am also taking Ohio because Jason Preston is someone I cannot root against. As ESPN documented in the game telecasts, he lost his mother as a 16-year-old to cancer. And he plays like the moniker says, “life is short.” His imagination passing the ball and risk taking could capture the nation’s imagination. That’s the emotional side of my brain on that pick. The logical side of my brain also says that UVA is having a rough patch with COVID-19 scares and may not even play the game as the 4 seed there.

The West Region can include a Sweet 16 of two Pac-12 teams

Oregon and USC will represent the PAC-12 well in this region. Each had disappointing losses in the conference tournament, but should not be the judge of how talented each team is.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball East Region

I watched Colorado and Texas all season. They’re too talented to come up short in this tournament. And I also watched Saint Bonaventure shred VCU in the A-10 Championship game. That game was not as close as the score would lead you to believe. I have major upsets happening in this region, because you’re not truly picking a March Madness bracket without the madness part. I will have 9 seed advance to the Elite 8 and 3 seed Texas represent the region in the Final Four.

The triangles that you see on my bracket are the underdogs who I like to cover the point spread along the way.

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Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball South Region

When you look at the history of the bracket, the cumulative total when you add up all the seed number is the Final Four is normally almost always 10 or more. And so this is where I am picking the hometown team Purdue Boilermakers to represent the South region as the highest seed to enter the Final Four and get my cumulative seed count up to 10 exactly. Everyone and their mom expects UNC’s size and muscle to give Baylor a run for their money. But I am looking a step ahead and saying that Purdue’s size will actually give Baylor trouble, paired with the Boilermakers outstanding freshmen class. Players like Jaden Ivey just haven’t gotten enough publicity this season. I expect this team to be March Madness-ready after, again, the rigors of the Big 10 Conference have prepared them.

I also like 6 seeds to show up in the Sweet 16 this year and won’t be surprised if one of them break into the Final Four. A 6 seed hasn’t made the Final Four since 1991-1992 with the Fab Five.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Midwest Region

The committee did Illinois no favors in its draw. If we are looking for a 1 seed to have a difficult time, I think this would be the region for it. And who better to spoil the party than Cinderella herself, Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean? I would love to see a field of 32 matchup between Cam Krutwig and Kofi Cockburn. It would harken back to my childhood and watching giants tussle in the WWE (formerly WWF). Here are 8 other field of 32 player matchups I am hoping to see.

If Illinois avoids a field of 32 upset from a scrappy Georgia Tech or Ramblers bunch, they have #1 overall NBA pick Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State to look forward (potentially).

Texas wins the National Tittle among a Final 4 of Houston, Purdue and Gonzaga.

A team often overlooked is Houston because it plays in the American Athletic Conference (which got weaker with UConn’s exit). I also think the college basketball powers to be aren’t trying to promote Kelvin Sampson, a once-disgraced coach for NCAA infractions. However, with the shooting stroke of Quentin Grimes, return of Fabian White, and a great balance among other upper/underclassmen in the rotation, I think this team is destined for the Final Four. They return really the entire nucleus from a canceled 2019-2020 season with exception of Caleb Mills.

8 Sharpshooters Who Can Torch Your March Madness 2021 Bracket

BY MATT DE SARLE

The college basketball is unique and completely different from the NBA game. In a short 40 minute game clock, a hot streak by an unconscious shooter can put an opponent away. And, in March Madness, it can light a fire to your bracket.

Here are eight sharpshooters to beware of before you sharpie that bracket of yours.

8. Mitch Ballock, Creighton Bluejays

The fun thing about watching Mitch Ballock is that he can knock down three pointers from feet back from the 3 pt line and also while running the fast break. While watching a Creighton game mid-season, Ballock’s ability to change the mood of a game actually had Fox1 color commentator (and former Big East great) Donny Marshall actually lamenting aloud how he needs to be more selfish. Ballock is actually the only Creighton player who was on its 2018 team that lost to K-State in the Big Dance. In that game, he knocked down 4 of 11 three point shots and finished with 16 points. His threes normally come in droves, which is the name of the game and the theme of this article. Let’s continue to get hotter.

7. Michael Almonacy, App State Mountaineers

Michael Amoncacy jumped on this list with his stellar performance against Georgia State in his conference championship performance. The cool thing about the tournament is that one guy can get hot and an entire team can get on his back and ride his hot play to advance. We’ve seen this a lot with mid-majors. And what Almonacy did against Georgia State can transfer in the NCAA Tournament.

6. Johnny Juzang, UCLA Golden Bears

Johnny Juzang is back at home in the Golden State after a brief season with Kentucky. The sophomore is one of those shooters who doesn’t touch rim when he gets hot. He is not just a three point threat, but can also light it up from mid-range. As UCLA struggled down the stretch in the regular season, perhaps its time to turn more volume over to Juzang.

5. Quentin Grimes, Houston Cougars

Quentin Grimes’s jump-shot can remind you of Alan Houston’s. The technique is as pure as you can see. When his feet are set, the motion is super fluid. He also doesn’t need to be behind the three point line to get hot and alter the pace of a game. There were many moments in this season when Grimes got hot in NBA Jam-type style, where the Cougars couldn’t feed him the ball quick enough. One of those moments was on national TV as he scored 18 of 34 points in an important statement game against Western Kentucky.

4. Duane Washington, Ohio State Buckeyes

We just saw this guy go off against Michigan in the Big 10 semifinal game. On this list, Duane Washington Jr. has the quickest release. And the Buckeyes know to feed him from behind-the-line when it’s that time.

Photo courtesy Big 10 Network

3. Jared Bulter, Baylor Bears

Jared Butler is voted the Big 12 Player of the Year and its best shooter of the year. You’ll have to have a strong argument to keep his team out of the Final Four in your bracket. And if you’re an opponent, check the heat map of “his spots” on the floor.

2. Jordan Schakel, San Diego Aztecs

San Diego State’s senior glue guy does so much on the floor, and is also one of America’s most efficient three point shooters. Jordan Schakel has shot 47% from three this season, dropping 77 baskets from beyond the arc.

  1. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga Bulldogs

    Corey Kispert is just an amazing college basketball shooter. And when BYU shot 70 percent form the field in the WCC Championship game, a quick sequence in the second half where Kispert knocked down three 3’s reminded everyone what’s up. You better double team this guy from behind the arc if you plan on winning a national championship this year. He can put on a clinic real soon.

Honorable mention: John Petty Jr. of Alabama is a familiar face in the NCAA Tournament and a usual suspect when it comes to getting hot. He hits about 2.5 of 6-and-a-half three pointers every game and averages only 12 points. However Petty Jr. can go off on big games. He shot 8 of 10 from three against LSU this season and 4-4 against Tennessee.

Meanwhile, at Oral Roberts Max Abmas is the nation’s leading scorer and has made the third highest amount of three point baskets nationwide this season.

About the First Six Tickets Punched for March Madness 2021

BY MATT DE SARLE

The first six tickets punched for the 2021 Men’s Basketball “March Madness” are revealed by their play on national TV. And I would argue that the “first four in” are more important than the “last four” bubble teams. The first four teams in were Loyola Chicago, Winthrop, Morehead State, and Liberty, followed by App State and UNC Greensboro. Liberty has won an NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament game in recent years, and the teams whose tickets that proceeded theirs are passing the eye test in a major way. Let’s recap.

Loyola Chicago Ramblers Return to March Madness

The Loyola Chicago Ramblers got a fortunate draw with their MVC Championship Tournament layout, but any team will be unlucky to face them in the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. Loyola made it look easy at times against this year’s bitter in-conference rival, Drake. Unfortunately for college basketball fans, Drake finished the season without its leading scorer and without its starting point guard. And so Drake put up a fight in this championship game, but Loyola Chicago capitizaed on every mistake that Drake did make. And so now Cameron Krutwig and a small handful of holdovers from the 2018 Final Four team returns to March Madness to defend its Rambling reputation. One of those hold-overs is of course coach Porter Mosier, who did not entertain the major conference inquiries that of course would follow his Cinderella run in 2018. This team is actually better on paper than the 2018 Final Four team.

Winthrop Men’s Basketball Marching in 2021

For college basketball fans nationally, this Winthrop Eagles team has already been a celebrated mid-major focus of fascination. And they didn’t let anyone down during their conference tournament. Center DJ Burns looked like a vintage Zach Randolph, rolling around his defender down low and dropping left handed hook shots easily. In a COVID-19 shortened season, Burns’ minutes and his production had both decreased slightly as compared to the 2019-2020 season. And so it was a great sign to see Burns especially carry Winthrop in the first half. However, this program is not about one individual. In fact, this team literally plays in shifts as head coach Pat Kelsey likes to exhaust his players before quickly giving them full relief with a substitution of 4 or 5 guys. Winthrop has a 6-7 point guard who can operate, a freshman big man who can vault onto the national stage, and wings who can defend, rebound, and finish. Watch more eye test analysis of this team on YouTube where I interview super fan Michael Covil.

Morehead State Dominates Mid-Major Darling Belmont Bruins

When it comes to mid-major teams that college basketball fans were eager to see entering the tournament, Belmont and Winthrop probably entered Championship neck-and-neck. But Belmont’s conference tournament championship game was not neck-and-neck. Morehead State dominated from start to finish. Its guards took advantage of loose perimeter defense to begin the game. And Morehead State’s freshman big man star Johni Broome got some back-breaking put backs and dagger baskets down the stretch. He came into the game averaging about 12 points and 9 rebounds. The two Coopers on the perimeter are not brothers, but their point production brings a family of trouble to defenders. Ta’lon and DeVon average 8 and 12 points respectively. They garnered the respect from Bruin defenders after knocking down some early threes, and so their rim runs late caused problems. I can see this team being a 15 seed with similarities to recent successful 15 seeds in Florida Gulf Coast and Middle Tennessee State. Like them, this will not be a 15 seed that lacks size and lives-or-dies from three point land.

Liberty Re-appears in March Madness Two Years Later with Totally New Look

Credit Liberty for returning to March Madness for a consecutive tournament, but this team looks a lot different from the 2019 team that beat Mississippi State. This year, it’s star is 5-9 guard Darius McGhee. He played only 12 minutes two years ago when the 12 seed knocked off the 5 seed. That team featured current G League player Caleb Homesley and do-it-all power forward Scottie James. This Liberty team also defended a North Alabama team that was a 5 seed in its own conference and ineligible to play in March Madness because its program hasn’t aged into the Division 1 circuit quite yet, according to another mind-numbing protocol by the NCAA. And so Liberty shouldn’t scare a high seed the way it should have two years ago, but this program has to be respected at this point.

App State Knocks Off Talented Georgia State To Enter March Madness

If you are looking for a super duper super sleeper in March Madness, App State is your ticket. They had a senior shooting guard absolutely go off against a talented Georgia State team, whose roster is laced with transfers from bigger schools. This championship game featured crisp play from both ends, with a freshness you would not expect for a fourth game in four nights. Both teams looked efficient on offense. App State’s Michael Almonacy, a former Division 2 player who missed (not just COVID-19 related) all of last season, scored 32 points in the win.

UNCG Spartans Make March Madness Old Hat

It seems like yesterday UNC Greensboro and head coach Wes Miller gave #1 seed Gonzaga a scare in 2018. Now Miller and his star player Isaiah Miller (no relation) return to March Madness. The 7 seed in-conference, Mercer, showed some fight, but Miller was too strong down the stretch both on the defensive and offensive end. Miller is the lone holdover from that 2018 bunch. His senior night of sorts for this championship game was fun to watch, while his mother was masked-up in attendance and looking to enjoy every moment of it!