March Madness is officially back this year after being absent from our lives in 2020, and we can once again join the rest of the world in making NCAA Tournament bracket predictions for this year's event!
There is no better time to be a fan if you're into NCAA basketball. Whether it's burying yourself in gambling lines, or researching to fill out your bracket for a pool you're taking part in, or both...the days following Selection Sunday make for one of the most exciting weeks on the sports calendar.
Here, we'll combine these two elements, showing off our bracket picks while also previewing some of the March Madness betting lines that go along with those picks.
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March Madness Bracket Predictions
In the West region, it's all about whether anyone can stand up to undefeated Gonzaga. According to KenPom, they're one of the very few teams that rank top 10 in adjusted offense and defense, and they're a more complete team than Iowa or Kansas, one of which they'll likely have to play in the Elite Eight.
Despite being a major program that beats up on a mid-major conference all season, this Zags team looks every bit the part of a Final Four team, although the odds aren't so great from a betting perspective. Visit our March Madness betting picks page for some suggestions on where to put your money before the tournament begins.
Our favorite matchup in this region is a potential No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 3 Kansas meeting in the Sweet 16, along with the winner of that game facing Gonzaga with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
One team from this area of the bracket that is getting very little love is MAC champion and 13-seed Ohio, which faces No. 4 Virginia coming off a very long COVID-related layoff. We're taking a shot in the dark that Ohio can top the 2019 champion Cavaliers and the winner of the Creighton-UCSB matchup, which could be another upset in the making. If the Bobcats find a way to the Sweet 16, remember you heard it here first.
The bracket buster in this region is Oregon, which is playing some of its best basketball late in the season. While we still think Iowa wins in the second round, there is plenty to like about the Ducks as an underdog in that game, and in a potential Sweet 16 meeting with Kansas.
West Region Prediction: No. 1 Gonzaga reaches the Final Four (-175 at BetMGM)
West Region Sleeper: No. 7 Oregon
West Region Upset Picks: No. 13 Ohio advances to the Sweet 16
The East region is headlined by No. 1 Michigan but is pretty stacked the rest of the way with Alabama, Texas, and Florida State all included. The Wolverines are another team that rank in the top 10 in adjusted offense and defense, but they aren't quite playing their best basketball at the right time. Michigan is also dealing with an injury to one of its stars in Isaiah Livers.
Combine all of that, and we think this part of the bracket is wide open. In fact, we have the top seed going down in the second round to a red-hot LSU team that was a short putback away from winning the SEC Tournament this past week. Hey, you've gotta pick upsets somewhere.
Because of their potential to score on anyone, we think LSU is the bracket buster in this region. If they do get past Michigan, they have as good of a chance as anyone to represent the region in the Final Four.
In the end, we think the No. 2-seeded Crimson Tide find their way to the Final Four in Indianapolis. Alabama can score but also plays some of the country's best defense, and that versatility can't be found anywhere else in this region.
The potential matchup we are looking forward to most would pit No. 2 Alabama against No. 3 Texas in the Sweet 16. Texas is fresh off a Big 12 title in the league tournament and may also be primed for a deep run.
East Region Prediction: No. 2 Alabama reaches the Final Four (+400 at DraftKings)
East Region Sleeper: No. 8 LSU
East Region Upset Picks: No. 8 LSU over No.1 Michigan in Round 1
The Baylor Bears have been in a class with only Gonzaga for most of the reason, and they're the top seed in the South for good reason. The way this bracket has shaped up, we think they have a great chance to run the table right to the Final Four after beating programs like Purdue and either Ohio State or Arkansas.
For our money, No. 3 Arkansas is the team to watch out for in this region. They shoot the ball well and they can run opponents out of the gym with relative ease. A potential matchup with No. 6 Texas Tech would feature an interesting construct in styles and if Arkansas were to go down, the Red Raiders would have the rest of the region on upset alert.
The way we have it, Arkansas manages enough offense to beat Tech and then upsets Ohio State in the Sweet 16. It's hard picking against a strong team from the best top-to-bottom conference in NCAA basketball, but we're not sure Ohio State can slow down the Razorbacks enough. Either way, this matchup would be a good one.
South Region Prediction: No. 1 Baylor reaches the Final Four (+100 at FanDuel)
South Region Sleeper: No. 3 Arkansas or No. 6 Texas Tech
South Region Upset Picks: No. 12 Winthrop over No. 5 Villanova in Round 1, No. 3 Arkansas over No. 2 Ohio State in Sweet 16
Illinois heads another extremely interesting region with tons of other quality teams such as Houston along with Big 12 standouts West Virginia and Oklahoma State. This may have been the toughest region to call of all and we didn't land where most will on this one.
Again, the upsets have to come from somewhere, right? Illinois, a team we've loved from the start of the season and is fresh of a Big Ten championship, looks primed for a deep run. And it wouldn't surprise us if they delivered all the way to a title. But if they meet West Virginia in the Elite Eight, we think the Mountaineers have the ability to pull off an upset and reach the Final Four.
West Virginia would have to first beat Houston, a team we think is a bit overrated and susceptible to an early exit. Bob Huggins' team wins games in a variety of ways and is alive for 40 minutes, proving that by coming back from large deficits on the road multiple times this year. They also have over-inflated odds from a betting standpoint due to the success of Illinois.
Oklahoma State went on a terrific run at the end of the season and are surely a team people have their eyes on. It's unfortunate that they're slated to run into Illinois in the Sweet 16 but if you're looking for a bracket buster beyond the top three, the Cowboys are it with freshman standout and potential No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.
Midwest Region Prediction: No. 3 West Virginia reaches the Final Four (+750 at FanDuel)
Midwest Region Sleeper: No. 4 Oklahoma State
Midwest Region Upset Picks: No. 11 Syracuse over No. 6 SDSU in Round 1, West Virginia over Illinois in Elite Eight
2021 Final Four Bracket Picks
In the Final Four, we've got two No. 1 seeds (Gonzaga, Baylor), a No. 2 seed (Alabama) and a No. 3 seed (West Virginia). Admittedly, this doesn't feel like a likely combination, but that's how it normally feels unless you pick all No. 1 and 2 seeds in the Final Four.
Once you get to this point, every team is either elite or playing at an elite level, though for the most part we will see big-name programs in the Final Four.
Eventually, we've got Baylor meeting with Big 12 rival West Virginia in a rematch from one of the very best games of the season just a couple of weeks ago. In our minds, Baylor has too much of everything. Too much firepower, too much defense, and the best combination of the two.
On the other side, Gonzaga will likely meet its toughest opponent yet. To us, that's Alabama but the same could be said for Michigan if the Wolverines make it there. I usually look for reasons to fade Gonzaga but this team is the total package and even Alabama's defense will struggle to get stops for an entire game.
We think Gonzaga meets Baylor with the national championship on the line in a game between the two best programs in the nation this year. For much of the season, it's been these two and then a huge dropoff to everybody else. So only appropriate.
History says that Baylor, a team that has struggled with defense since coming back from its COVID-related pause, won't win the title. We say, throw everything you thought you knew out of the window in a season like this one. We're taking the Bears anyway.
Final Four Picks: Baylor wins National Championship (+500 at DraftKings)
Printable NCAA Tournament Bracket
There are few things more exciting for a college basketball fan than printing out their own bracket and filling it in from start-to-finish. Sure, brackets can be filled out online but for this one occasion, there's something about holding it in your hands and going through a few drafts until it's just right.
For those who share the feeling, we've got you covered. Click on the photo above for your own printable March Madness bracket and get it filled out by the time the first round tips off on Friday!
Photo Credit: Associated Press