NCAA Tournament bracket reaction: West and Midwest loaded, Michigan’s East Region is the place to be

Mike Smith of the Michigan Wolverines
Photo of Ricky Dimon

Ricky Dimon

NCAAB· 7 months ago

Show Bio

Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Gosh was it fun to watch a selection show again. Two years between selection shows are two too many, so let’s make sure we never have another NCAA Tournament cancelled—which was the case, of course, in 2020. Fast forward 12 months and Selection Sunday just capped off an outstanding week of March Madness in which automatic bids were handed out to conference tournament champions. Now we know the at-large qualifiers, as well, as the committee has announced its much-anticipated field of 68.

With no further ado, let’s discuss what the 2021 NCAA Tournament may have to offer as we begin the process of helping you fill out your bracket.

West Region: Zags have plenty of competition

Gonzaga may be the No. 1 overall seed, but the committee otherwise didn’t do the Bulldogs any favors. Following a date with either Appalachian State or Norfolk State, they have to go up against Oklahoma in the second round. Virginia, technically the defending national champion since there was no tournament last year, could loom large in the Sweet 16. The West also boasts Iowa a soon-to-be Wooden Award winna Luka Garza in addition to arguably the Pac-12’s two best teams—Oregon and USC. Gonzaga may be the favorite to win it all, but the Zags will have to be on their A-game from start to finish simply to reach the Final Four.

Prediction: Gonzaga (-230)

Value potential: Virginia (+1000)

The Gonzaga Bulldogs

East Region: Where Madness happens

Michigan is no slouch of a No. 1 seed, but with Isaiah Livers plagued by a stress fracture the Wolverines could be vulnerable. There is no shame in being weaker than the likes of Gonzaga, Baylor, and Illinois. But that appears to be the current story for head coach Juwan Howard’s club. If you’re an underdog looking to make a Cinderella run, Michigan’s region is the one you would select as your destination. That means the news is good for No. 2 seed Alabama, No. 3 Texas, No. 4 Florida State, and others. Either LSU or St. Bonaventure could get a shot at the Wolverine as early as round two before a potential UM-FSU Sweet 16 showdown. Also don’t sleep on surprise Big East champion Georgetown and whichever blueblood wins a first-four showdown between Michigan State and UCLA.

Prediction: Florida State (+400)

Value potential: Texas (+450)

South Region: A whole bunch of championship-game experience

Villanova has won two of the last four NCAA Tournaments. North Carolina finished runner-up to Villanova on one of those occasions and then captured the title one year later. Texas Tech lost to Virginia in the 2019 title game, an overtime thriller. All three of those programs find themselves in the South Region, where the road is not going to be easy for top-seeded Baylor. The Bears and Tar Heels could collide in the second round, with Villanova potentially awaiting the winner in the Sweet 16. In the other half of this section, Texas Tech is on a collision course with Arkansas for the last 32 and with Ohio State for the Sweet 16.

Prediction: Baylor (-134)

Value potential: Arkansas (+800)

Jared Butler of Baylor

Midwest Region: Group of Death

If you divide the bracket into eighths, Illinois’ half of the Midwest Region is the toughest of the tournament. The Big Ten Tournament champion (Illinois) and the ACC Tournament champion (Georgia Tech) would go head-to-head in the second round; that is pretty much unheard of. Of course, the Yellow Jackets would do well just to get out of round one (their opponent is Loyola-Chicago, which was everyone’s favorite Cinderella story in 2018 and may be even better in 2021). The Sweet 16 matchup in this section could be Illinois against either Oklahoma State or Tennessee. At the bottom of this region, No. 2 seed Houston may not be a huge name but it cannot be discounter. The Cougars humiliated Cincinnati 91-54 in the AAC Tournament final.

Prediction: Illinois (+150)

Value Potential: Oklahoma State (+400)

Pickswise is the home of March Madness Predictions. Check out all of our March Madness Picks, including daily March Madness Parlays throughout the NCAA Tournament.

See All
DraftKings

$200

Bet $5 on the NFL, Get $200!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $5+ on the Money Line of any NFL game

If your team wins, you will be issued a $200 free bet bonus!

Must be 21+ located in AZ, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, MI, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WY or WV to play. Offer valid only for new customers. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$150

Bet $5, Win $150 CASH on the Cardinals vs. Texans!

Register for a new account with FanDuel Sportsbook and make a deposit of $10+

Bet $5 on the Cardinals vs. Texans

If you pick the winner correctly, you win $150 in CASH!

21+ and new players only. Max bet $5, max reward $150. Must deposit $10+ to be eligible for promotion. Full terms available on FanDuel Sportsbook.

Unibet

$50

Bet $5, Win $50 if Your Team Makes a 3-Pointer!

Sign up for a new account with Unibet and make your first deposit

Bet $5 on any NBA team to win their next game

If your team hits a 3-pointer during the game, you win a bonus $50 - regardless of the game's outcome!

Max bet $5. 21+ and new players only. Full terms available from Unibet.

DraftKings

$200

Bet $5 on the NBA, Get $200!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $5+ on the Money Line of any NBA Basketball game

If your team wins, you will be issued a $200 free bet bonus!

Must be 21+ located in AZ, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, MI, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WY or WV to play. Offer valid only for new customers. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

BetMGM

$200

Bet $10, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new BetMGM account & deposit $20+

Bet $10 on your team to win Money Line

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

PointsBet

$200

Bet $20, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+

Bet $20 on your team to win Money Line (NFL or NCAAF)

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

Caesars Sportsbook

$5,000

Get a $5,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $5,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose - up to $5,000!

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Unibet

$500

Get a $500 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $500 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $500

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

BetAmerica Racing

$200

$200 Sign Up Bonus!

Fast, reliable and fast payouts - you'll have your money in 72 hours, if not sooner!

Proud history of providing safe, secure, and fun betting to American patrons

BetAmerica is owned by the iconic Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of 150 years of wagering history and the world-famous Kentucky Derby

Players who sign up using ‘BET200’ code will get a $200 sign up bonus. Offer valid for 7 days after registering on BetAmerica Racing product only. 21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$200

Get a $200 Sign Up Bonus with TwinSpires Racebook!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code BET200

Make a deposit and start wagering on horse racing

Earn $100 in bonus cash for every $400 wagered!

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.