Predicting the Final Four After the First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament
The men’s 2021 NCAA basketball tournament has provided the chaos and excitement that we are so accustomed to seeing. With only 16 teams remaining, let’s dive into the madness and predict which teams will emerge from each region to reach the Final FOur.
Starting in the West Region, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will look to continue their dominance against the Creighton Blue Jays, while the USC Trojans are set to face the Oregon Ducks.
Gonzaga’s trio of Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme and Corey Kispert will have no problem with an inconsistent Creighton squad. Even if Marcus Zegarowski has a career night, don’t expect the Bluejays to keep this one close.
The matchup between Oregon and USC may be the best game of the Sweet 16. After VCU was forced to withdraw from its first-round matchup against Oregon, the Ducks advanced to the round of 32. They then dropped 95 points on a dangerous Iowa team and won convincingly. Chris Duarte led the offensive attack with 23 points. It’s clear that this team is one of the most athletically gifted in the field.
USC will look to put a stop to this hot Oregon squad, and with projected NBA lottery pick Evan Mobley, they have a strong chance to do so. In its game against Kansas, USC made 61% of its 3-pointers and looked dominant in an 85-51 victory in the second round.
This game will come down to the wire and will be a back and forth affair. Look for Oregon to put a stop to a hot-shooting USC team and move on to face Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. Here, the Ducks will put up a fight, but Mark Few and the Bulldogs will emerge victorious.
In the East region, Michigan will square up against the Seminoles of Florida State; UCLA will then battle a dangerous Alabama team.
In this region, Alabama will come out on top. In their second-round matchup against a defensive-minded Maryland team, the Crimson Tide put up 96 points and made it look easy. According to ESPN, it was the most points that Maryland has allowed over Mark Turgeon’s tenure with the Terps.
This Alabama team holds opponents to 28% from 3-point land and could be the most underrated team in the field. The Crimson Tide can push the tempo and can shoot the 3-pointer as well as any team in the nation. To put it succinctly, they’re strong on offense and sound on defense. UCLA will not be able to keep up with Alabama in this Sweet 16 matchup, and the Crimson Tide will stop Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang from taking over.
Michigan, meanwhile, will escape a tough test from Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles. Even without Isaiah Livers, Michigan has the depth and talent to get past a turnover-prone Florida State squad.
In the Elite Eight, Jahvon Quinerly and John Petty Jr. will shoot the lights out in a close one. If there is one team that can keep up with Gonzaga on the offensive end, it’s the Crimson Tide.
On the other side of the bracket in the South region, Baylor will face Villanova, and Arkansas will face Oral Roberts. Yes, Oral Roberts. No 15-seed has ever made it to the Elite Eight in the history of March Madness. That trend will continue, as Arkansas will roll over the Golden Eagles.
Moses Moody will lead the Razorbacks to an Elite Eight matchup with the Baylor Bears, victors in the Sweet 16 over Villanova. Senior MaCio Teague and junior Jared Butler provide one of the best one-two punches at the guard position in the nation.
Vilanova has made a nice run even without senior leader Collin Gillespie, but that will end here against the Bears. Winthrop and North Texas were solid opponents, but Baylor is a top-two team in the nation.
In the Elite eight, Baylor will shut down the offensive attack of Arkansas and advance to the Final Four.
The Midwest region may be the most interesting region remaining. The No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago Ramblers will face the No. 12 seed Oregon State, and No. 11 seed Syracuse will look to take down No. 2 Houston.
Most like Loyola Chicago to come out of the Midwest, and there’s a good reason for it. Against a more talented Illinois team, the Ramblers controlled the tempo and shut down the Fighting Illini. This was by far the best win of the season for Loyola, and it should be able to stop Ethan Thompson and a hot Beavers team. If they can get off to an early start and limit the confident offensive attack of Oregon State, the Ramblers will find themselves in the Elite Eight.
The Syracuse Orange barely snuck into the field of 68, but they have caught fire in the tournament. Buddy Boeheim has been nearly unstoppable, and the hallmark 2-3 zone defense remains solid. If they can limit Houston on the offensive glass, the Orange have a fighter’s chance to advance.
In a projected Elite Eight matchup between Loyola Chicago and Syracuse, Sister Jean and the Ramblers are the pick to advance to the Final Four. The Cinderella run will end against Baylor, but it won’t be a blowout.
Charlie Lebowitz is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.