Like all of you, I was just happy to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. It was wonderful. Comforting. Familiar. 

Also familiar? Immediately hating pretty much every single one of my picks. It’s possible, if the bracket had been set up differently, that I could have had Illinois and Oklahoma State facing off in the national title game, or at least the Final Four. That was kind of the dream scenario, picking two teams that are fun to watch square off on the biggest stage. 

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

MORE: Get your printable March Madness bracket here

March Madness bracket predictions 2021

West Region

Iowa deserves its 2 seed, no doubt, but I was still prepared to pick the Hawkeyes as an early upset victim heading into the bracket reveal. Maybe even the second round. But looking at their draw, I don’t see anyone in the bottom half of the West region beating them. They have a much easier trip to the Elite Eight than Illinois, which is the No. 1 in the Midwest, or Michigan, which is the No. 1 seed in the East.

It’s always fun when you have a second-round matchup of two double-digit seeds, and I think we get that in this region. Creighton, the No. 5 seed, has been wildly hit-and-miss this year, and that’s a troublesome trait in March. Could easily see UC Santa Barbara pulling off that upset. And Ohio is the best of the 13 seeds, facing a Virginia team that won’t even be able to practice this week because of Covid issues in the program. Yikes. 

MORE BRACKET PICKS: DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Iyer (Gonzaga)

South Region

Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see two Big East teams exit on the wrong side of the 12/5 matchups. We mentioned Creighton in the West, and in the South region, that’s Villanova. The Wildcats are hurting, and Winthrop is a beast as the 12 seed.

I wouldn’t be stunned to see anyone come out of this region. If Baylor plays to its potential and locks down on defense, nobody’s beating the Bears. But Baylor hasn’t done that a lot recently. Ohio State looked great in the Big Ten Tournament, but that was after losing four in a row. To me, this region is wide open. 

MORE: The best sleeper picks, upset predictions for NCAA Tournament

East Region

I can’t decide whether to have Florida State get upended by a very good UNCG team — I love Isaiah Miller’s game, and have for a couple years now — in the opener, or go all the way to the Elite Eight. In the end, I’m betting on Leonard Hamilton. His teams are always difficult to face in March. 

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

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

15 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5

Midwest Region

If you’re an Illinois fan, you’re not happy right now. The Illini still are talented enough to win it all, but their road is brutal. They could have to face an outstanding Loyola team — the best No. 8/9 seed, for my money — in the second round, then either Oklahoma State or Tennessee in the Sweet 16. If Illinois does make it to the Final Four, the Elite Eight game — no matter who advances out of the bottom half of the Midwest region — will be the “easiest” opponent after Drexel in the opener. I think Syracuse, the No. 11 from this region, will be the last double-digit seed standing.

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