The 2021 NCAA Tournament is finally upon us. The first round of March Madness matchups will begin on Thursday, which means you have just a few hours to send a bracket to the person in the office who organizes the group each year and sends a dozen emails about it in the process.
We at Sporting News have put together a wealth of content to help you prepare to make relatively informed decisions when completing your draw and to enjoy the tournament in general.
Here’s a rundown of our March Madness group predictions, regional previews, unexpected picks, tournament odds, and more to help guide you through the NCAA Tournament.
MARCH MADNESS: Get Your NCAA Tournament Bracket Printable
March Madness 2021 printable support
You can get a printable NCAA tournament bracket here to complete before and during tournament play. Sporting News will continue to update support as games are played.
Download the printable NCAA tournament bracket from Sporting News (PDF) by clicking the image above.
Who will win the NCAA Tournament in 2021?
Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan and Illinois have the best odds of winning March Madness in 2021, according to the FanDuel bookmaker. That makes sense, they are the four No. 1 seeds, and the undefeated Bulldogs will be a popular pick in many groups to win their first national championship.
Second tier Iowa, Houston, Alabama and Ohio State are slightly more sneaky bets to win it all, but they still have the top tier talent to turn the chalk.
A team ranked 3 or less has won the NCAA Tournament only five times since 1990, but it is always possible, especially in a season filled with so much uncertainty like this one. The lowest seed to win the NCAA Tournament was No. 8 Villanova in 1985.
March Madness 2021 odds
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You can check the opening odds for the entire field of 68 here.
HISTORY OF SEED DISORDERS:
15 against 2 | 14 against 3 | 13 against 4 | 12 against 5
March Madness 2021 Support Predictions
It wouldn’t be enough for an expert to tell you who they think will win everything, so we had several writers submit their NCAA Tournament predictions to help you deflect the blame when your group breaks down in the first round. Here are the experts’ picks to reach the 2021 Final Four with links to their full analysis.
Mike DeCourcy: Gonzaga, Alabama, Purdue, Illinois
Bill Bender: Gonzaga, State of Florida, State of Ohio, Illinois
Ryan Fagan: Gonzaga, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma State
Matt Lutovsky: Gonzaga, Texas, Baylor, Illinois
Vinnie Iyer: Gonzaga, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois
Annoying March Madness predictions
Surprises in the NCAA Tournament are never easy to predict. Otherwise it wouldn’t be called March Madness. However, there are always at least a few unranked teams each year that pull off a surprise or two on the opening weekend and do a Cinderella run. It’s just a matter of discovering them.
Bill Bender of Sporting News analyzed his nine sleeping teams most likely to pull off an upset in 2021.
Liberty (Round 1 Opponent: Oklahoma State -9.5): The Flames have won 12 straight games heading into the Big Dance, and this show is 82-16 in the past three seasons. Liberty had a 5-12 upset in 2019, and they have the guard play it takes to make a run with Darius McGhee and Chris Parker. Liberty is one of six Division I teams that averaged fewer than 10 turnovers per game. That efficient game could easily lead to a surprise. That style could make it interesting against Oklahoma State and the Tennessee-Oregon State winner. This is a 5-12 surprise that we like.
UC-Santa Barbara (Round 1 opponent: Creighton -6.5): The Gauchos have lost just one game since January 1. This is his first tournament appearance since 2011, but UC-Santa Barbara brings in an experienced team that has won more than 20 games in each of the last four seasons under Joe Pasternack. Jaquori McLaughlin is averaging 16.2 points and 5.2 assists per game. This is a team capable of beating Creighton and challenging the Virginia-Ohio winner. This is the other 5-12 malaise that we like.
Winthop (Round 1 Opponent: Villanova -6): The Eagles are back in the tournament for the first time since 2017, and this is the second appearance with ninth-year coach Pat Kelsey. Winthrop has four players who averaged double digits. Chandler Vaudrin, a senior, and DJ Burns, a freshman, are productive at the job, and the Eagles rank in the top 10 in the country in recovery as a result. That is a good formula to take into the tournament for a possible unexpected offer. Villanova is a tough matchup, but the post presence could make it interesting.
Read the rest of the Sporting News sleeper picks here.
NCAA Support Region Breakdowns
If simple picks aren’t your thing, Mike DeCourcy has gone ahead and broken down the four support regions for an in-depth look at the best stories, most likely surprises, and more. We also have statistics and sleepers that each region could decide.
West Region: Coming soon.
East Region: Coming soon.
Southern region: Upsetting predictions, Final Four pick
Midwest Region: Upsetting predictions, Final Four pick
NCAA tournament odds (and completion)
Play the odds: Learn about the history of each seeded player when choosing their Final Four and championship teams.
An idiot’s guide to completing your NCAA bracket: Self-explanatory.
TeamRankings Tournament Prediction Tool: Use it to identify the most likely tournament winners and the most likely NCAA surprise picks.
The best and funniest names for your group: Having trouble finding a clever name for your group? We have you covered.
More news from Sporting News’ March Madness
Sporting News’ 2020-21 College Basketball All-Americans: SN’s Mike DeCourcy names the top 15 players of the 2020-21 college basketball season.
Sports News Player of the Year: Luka Garza of Iowa became the first repeat award winner since … Michael Jordan.
Sports News Coach of the Year: Michigan’s Juwan Howard had to follow a legend, take over the program late, work through a pandemic, replace seniors at PG and C, and do all of that without coaching experience.
35 best teams that did not win the NCAA tournament: Sporting News picks teams from the last three decades that did not win a title. Which was the best?
March Madness Cinderella Players We Will Never ForgetStephen Curry is among the best Cinderella players in March Madness history, but he’s not number one on our list.
The most hated college basketball players of all time: Sporting News takes a look at the most hated college basketball players of all time. Don’t worry, there are plenty of Duke on this list.
10 Best Schools With No Final Four Appearance: Who are the best schools that have not reached a Final Four since the 64-team era began in 1984-85?
The best college players who never made it to the NCAA tournament: Say hello to Ben Simmons, Noah Vonleh, Nerlens Noel, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and others who watched March Madness on TV. It’s quite a list.
An oral history of Steph Curry’s breakup in 2008: In 2008, a little-known, baby-faced shooting guard from Davidson took full charge of the NCAA Tournament.
Deranged city: Reliving the Wildest Opening Venue in NCAA Tournament History.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.