Gonzaga leads the pack as the top overall seed, with Baylor, Illinois and Michigan rounding out the No. 1 teams. Bluebloods Duke and Kentucky headline the notable absences from this year’s field, while storied programs Michigan State and UCLA will meet in a First Four matchup.
Men’s 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket
Complete men’s 2021 NCAA tournament first round schedule, field
- (1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Norfolk State/Appalachian State
The dominant Bulldogs (26-0) enter the tournament undefeated after their best regular season in program history and are the favorites to cut down the nets in April. With three players — Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme — on the 2021 Wooden Award National Ballot, Gonzaga will be extremely difficult to beat. The Bulldogs are averaging 92.1 points per game and shooting a staggering 55.1% from the field.
- (8) Oklahoma vs. (9) Missouri
- (5) Creighton vs. (12) UC Santa Barbara
Coming off a Big West championship and a hot streak that has seen them win 20 of their last 21 games, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (22-4) are primed for an upset bid. Led by standout guard JaQuori McLaughlin, the Gauchos roster contains 10 players averaging over 10 minutes per game. That depth adds to the likelihood the Gauchos can knock off a Creighton team (20-8) that struggled in a 73-48 loss to Georgetown in the Big East championship.
- (4) Virginia vs. (13) Ohio
- (6) USC vs. (11) Wichita State/Drake
- (3) Kansas vs. (14) Eastern Washington
- (7) Oregon vs. (10) VCU
- (2) Iowa vs. (15) Grand Canyon
This talented Iowa team (21-8) might have had a good chance to advance to the Final Four — if it hadn’t been seeded in the same region as top overall seed Gonzaga. Behind 23.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game from Luka Garza, the Hawkeyes have bested strong opponents and matched up well against even stronger ones. But Gonzaga already beat Iowa once this season — a 99-88 win that didn’t feel that close — and could almost surely do it again should the Hawkeyes advance that far.
- (1) Baylor vs. (16) Hartford
Baylor (22-2) stumbled against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament semifinals, falling 83-74 in the Bears’ second loss of the year. Baylor shot just 21.4% from behind the arc, an uncharacteristic performance well below the Bears’ average three-point shooting mark of 41.8%. It’s difficult to picture a Final Four without Baylor in it, but a strong defensive performance by Oklahoma State provided a blueprint to make that possible.
- (8) UNC vs. (9) Wisconsin
- (5) Villanova vs. (12) Winthrop
- (4) Purdue vs. (13) North Texas
- (6) Texas Tech vs. (11) Utah State
Texas Tech (17-10), the 2019 NCAA tournament runner-up, has lost five of its last eight games entering the tournament. The Red Raiders likely won’t advance past the second round but should be able to beat a Utah State team (20-8) that turned the ball over 16 times against San Diego State in the Mountain West championship.
- (3) Arkansas vs. (14) Colgate
- (7) Florida vs. (10) Virginia Tech
- (2) Ohio State vs. (15) Oral Roberts
- (1) Illinois vs. (16) Drexel
Illinois (23-6) ran through the Big Ten tournament, finishing off its championship run with a 91-88 overtime win over Ohio State. Led by Ayo Dosunmu and his 20.9 points per game, the sharpshooting Fighting Illini are likely to emerge from the Midwest region — if they can avoid a Sweet 16 upset from an Oklahoma State team talented enough to deliver one.
- (8) Loyola Chicago vs. (9) Georgia Tech
- (5) Tennessee vs. (12) Oregon State
- (4) Oklahoma State vs. (13) Liberty
Oklahoma State (20-8) showcased its full-strength capabilities in an 83-74 upset of Baylor in the Big 12 tournament semifinals before falling to Texas 91-86 in the championship. Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham, who was out when the Cowboys first met Baylor in January, posted 25 points and eight rebounds in the latest matchup with the Bears. Led by Cunningham, the projected No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Oklahoma State could have the makings of a Final Four team.
- (6) San Diego State vs. (11) Syracuse
- (3) West Virginia vs. (14) Morehead State
West Virginia (18-9) has lost three of its last four games but might be better than its resume suggests. The Mountaineers have played a number of top teams close, falling 87-82 to Gonzaga and 94-89 to Baylor. Late in the season, though, West Virginia struggled against Oklahoma State, dropping back-to-back games to the Cowboys.
- (7) Clemson vs. (10) Rutgers
- (2) Houston vs. (15) Cleveland State
- (1) Michigan vs. (16) Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern
- (8) LSU vs. (9) St. Bonaventure
- (5) Colorado vs. (12) Georgetown
Patrick Ewing’s revival of his alma mater reached new heights when the Hoyas (13-12) knocked off Creighton in the Big East championship to secure their spot in this year’s NCAA tournament field of 68. Back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2015, Georgetown will seek its first tournament win under Ewing in the form of a first-round upset. Colorado (22-8) hit its stride late in the season and was on a six-game win streak before falling to Oregon State 70-68 in the Pac-12 championship game.
- (4) Florida State vs. (13) UNC Greensboro
- (6) BYU vs. (11) Michigan State/UCLA
This 11-seed First Four game features two teams that aren’t accustomed to play-in games, but BYU (20-6) is well-equipped to face either college basketball stalwart after giving Gonzaga trouble for the first half of the WCC championship game. Since early December, the Cougars have only lost to one team that wasn’t Gonzaga, which has handed the Cougars three of their six losses. Mark Pope’s BYU team will likely be able to handle whichever First Four opponent emerges from the play-in contest.
- (3) Texas vs. (14) Abilene Christian
- (7) UConn vs. 10 Maryland
- (2) Alabama vs. (15) Iona
On the heels of a football national championship, Alabama’s basketball program (24-6) is making a strong case for itself as a title contender. The Crimson Tide haven’t lost to an unranked team since December and enter the tournament coming off an exhilarating 80-79 SEC championship victory over LSU. Don’t be surprised if Nate Oats’ balanced Alabama team finds itself in Lucas Oil Stadium for the Final Four. Meanwhile, Rick Pitino is back in the NCAA tournament field, this time as Iona’s (12-5) first-year coach.
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