Monday, August 2

March 2021 Madness Group: Ryan Fagan’s predictions for the NCAA tournament

Like all of you, I was happy to complete an NCAA tournament draw. It was wonderful. Dildo. Family.

Also familiar? Immediately hating almost each and every one of my picks. It’s possible, if the bracket had been set up differently, that it could have had Illinois and Oklahoma State square off in the national title game, or at least the Final Four. That was the dream scenario, choosing two teams that are fun to see face off on the bigger stage.

Instead of? Somehow, Oklahoma State would rise to a No. 4 seed and now the Cowboys will face Illinois in the second round (assuming both win their opening games, of course). Yuck. Selfishly, I HATE having to knock out one of my Final Four teams so soon.

MORE: Get your March Madness printable media here

March Madness 2021 Support Predictions

West Region

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Iowa deserves its second place, to be sure, but it was still prepared to cast the Hawkeyes as one of the first upset victims heading into the bracket reveal. Maybe even the second round. But looking at their tie, I don’t see anyone in the lower half of the West region beating them. They have a much easier trip to the Elite Eight than Illinois, which is No. 1 in the Midwest, or Michigan, which is the No. 1 seed in the East.

It’s always fun when you have a double-digit two-seeded second-round showdown, and I think we get it in this region. Creighton, the No. 5 seed, has been wildly unpredictable this year, and that’s a troublesome trait in March. You could easily see UC Santa Barbara achieving that disorder. And Ohio is the best of the 13 seeds, facing a Virginia team that won’t even be able to practice this week due to Covid issues on the show. Oh!

Southern region

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It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see two Big East teams come out on the wrong side of the 12/5 matchup. We mentioned Creighton in the west, and in the south region, that’s Villanova. The Wildcats are suffering, and Winthrop is a beast like the 12 seed.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone leave this region. If Baylor plays to his full potential and stays defensive, no one will beat the Bears. But Baylor hasn’t done much of that recently. Ohio State looked great in the Big Ten Tournament, but that was after losing four in a row. For me, this region is very open.

MORE: Top Sleeper Picks, Upsetting Predictions for the NCAA Tournament

Eastern Region

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I can’t decide whether to get Florida State knocked down by a really good UNCG team – I love Isaiah Miller’s game, and have done it for a couple of years now – in the first game, or go all the way to the Elite Eight. In the end, I bet on Leonard Hamilton. Their teams are always tough to face in March.

I worry about Michigan without Isaiah Livers. Even if he rushes back, I’m worried.

I didn’t enter the National Team on Sunday expecting to pick Texas to the Final Four, but crazy things happen in March, and I like the draw for Shaka Smart and his Longhorns.

Midwest Region

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If you’re a fan of Illinois, you’re not happy right now. The Illini are still talented enough to win it all, but their path is brutal. They might have to face a standout team from Loyola, the No. 8/9 top seed, for my money, in the second round, then Oklahoma State or Tennessee at Sweet 16. If Illinois makes it to the Final Four, the El Elite Eight game, no matter who advances in the lower half of the Midwest region, will be the “easier” opponent after Drexel in the first match. I think Syracuse, number 11 in this region, will be the last double-digit seed standing.

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