The 2021 NCAA Tournament is finally here after a nearly two-year hiatus. April 8, 2019: This was the last time that an NCAA Tournament game was played with the Virginia Cavaliers defeating the Texas Tech Red Raiders 85-77 in overtime. The 2020 NCAA Tournament was supposed to happen but COVID-19 happened which gave the NCAA no choice but to cancel the whole tournament.
Now, here we are, the 2021 NCAA Tournament is now in session. With the tournament beginning this week, I like to take a look at the 5/12 matchups and rank them from the least likely to the most likely to see a bracket-busting upset. Without further ado, let’s get this show started.
(5) Colorado vs (12) Georgetown – 2021 NCAA Tournament East Region
Saturday, March 20, 12:15pm (CBS). Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
No disrespect to the Georgetown Hoyas and the path that Patrick Ewing and the team carved to get an automatic bid in the tournament after finishing 9-12 in the regular season, but the fantastic story ends in the first round.
The Colorado Buffaloes can hold their own on both ends of the floor, ranking second in the country in free throw percentage at 82.2% and averaged the second-fewest turnovers in the conference with 11.2. Look out for Jeriah Horne to find his stroke from 3-point land, shooting 42.1% from downtown. Also, McKinley Wright IV is another name to look out for in Colorado, averaging 5.6 assists per game, leading the PAC-12.
(5) Creighton vs (12) UC Santa Barbara – 2021 NCAA Tournament West Region
Saturday, March 20, 3:30pm (truTV). Lucas Oil Stadium Unity (South), Indianapolis, Indiana
Creighton won two games in the Big East Tournament before losing in the championship to Georgetown. Unfortunately, the off the court issues involving coach Greg McDermott have clouded the BlueJays road to the tourney.
All five starters are averaging double-digit points, so making a game plan against them is difficult. UC Santa Barbara has not played a top-tier opponent all year but maybe that what gives them a puncher’s chance. Creighton should win this game in the end in a competitive first half.
(5) Tennessee vs (12) Oregon State – 2021 NCAA Tournament -Midwest Region
Friday, March 19, 4:30pm (TNT). Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
The SEC takes on the PAC-12 in this first-round matchup at the home of the Indiana Pacers. The Tennessee Volunteers have talent all over the board and their road to the tourney features victories over Colorado, Missouri, and Kansas.
The key to the Volunteers victory is the status of John Fulkerson, who is currently day-to-day. This game is low on my list because Oregon State barely won their conference tournament, and without those three games in four days’ run, we would not even be talking about the Beavers. Look for the Vols to have a decent game if Fulkerson is available as a key player.
(5) Villanova vs (12) Winthrop – 2021 NCAA Tournament – South Region
Friday, March 19, 9:57pm (TNT). Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis, Indiana
This matchup might be a gimme due to the situation with the Wildcats. Collin Gillespie, a senior point guard who was a key member of Villanova’s 2018 national championship squad suffered a season-ending MCL Tear two weeks ago.
Without Gillespie, Villanova is 0-2 but those two losses were one-possession games to Providence and Georgetown. Winthrop is led by Chandler Vaudrin, the Big South Player of the Year, averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game, becoming one of three players in the D-1 ranks averaging 12-6-6. With Vaudrin as the senior leader and a Wildcats squad that is missing their key contributor, that smells like signs of the classic 12/5 upset.
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