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.
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.
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).
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.