Projecting how far each SEC team will get in the NCAA Tournament
The NCAA Tournament bracket is out. It is so awesome to finally type that sentence again.
Despite some analysts calling for the NCAA to release a bracket even after the tourney was canceled last year, the NCAA never did. This is our first bracket since the 2019 season, when Auburn made a Final Four run.
Sign up with DraftKings Sportsbook and take advantage of ridiculous 64-1 (+6400) odds on March Madness by clicking here.
The Tigers aren’t in the field of 68 teams after a lackluster season (and a self-imposed 1-year postseason ban), but 6 SEC squads did hear their names called during the Selection Sunday bracket reveal.
Here’s the full bracket:
So, how far will each team go in this year’s tournament? Here are my predictions, starting with the SEC’s highest seed (Alabama) and ending with its lowest (Mizzou):
Seed: No. 2 in the East
First game: vs. No. 15 seed Iona
Potential second game: vs. No. 7 seed UConn or No. 10 seed Maryland
How far will the Crimson Tide go?
Based on what I saw in the SEC Tournament, I think this team has Final Four written all over it. Iona won’t be an easy 15-seed, but the Tide should take care of business. Then, I think they’ll play James Bouknight and the UConn Huskies. Herb Jones shuts him down and the Tide advance.
In the Sweet 16, I’m going to predict my first wackiness. We traditionally see 1 of the teams that play in the First Four make a run to the Sweet 16. I predict that will be Michigan State out of the Big Ten. But the Spartans’ run ends at the hands of the Crimson Tide.
Then, they’ll take on No. 4 seed Florida State with a spot in the Final Four on the line. KenPom.com has the Seminoles as the No. 10 offense and the No. 48 defense. He has the Tide as the No. 34 offense and No. 2 defense. This game comes down to a buzzer-beater, but the Tide win and make it to the Final Four for the first time.
Then, their title dream comes to an end against Gonzaga. No shame in that.
Seed: No. 3 in the South
First game: vs. No. 14 seed Colgate
Potential second game: vs. No. 6 seed Texas Tech or No. 11 seed Utah State
How far will the Razorbacks go?
Colgate plays a really fast-paced style, so this will be a track meet. But, the Hogs have too much depth and talent and pull away in the second half after a tighter-than-expected first half.
In Round 2, Arkansas gets past a tough Texas Tech defense thanks to another huge game from star freshman Moses Moody. That puts the Hogs in the Sweet 16, where I predict they’ll play Ohio State. The Buckeyes have an efficient offense, but their suspect defense will hurt them against the Razorbacks. Arkansas wins a really tight battle to advance to the Elite Eight.
That’s where the year comes to an end for the Hogs, as they lose to No. 1 seed Baylor with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
Seed: No. 5 in the Midwest
First game: vs. No. 12 seed Oregon State
Potential second game: vs. No. 4 seed Oklahoma State or No. 13 seed Liberty
How far will the Vols go?
I actually really like this draw for the Vols. Oregon State had a great run in the Pac-12 Tournament, winning the title to steal a bid from another bubble team. But the Vols should be able to handle the Beavers with ease.
Then, in Round 2, I like the Vols’ odds against Oklahoma State. Yves Pons going head-to-head with star Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham, the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is going to be must-see television. If Pons can lock down Cunningham, it would really help his own draft stock. Then, the Vols would need big games from Santiago Vescovi, Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson, but they’ve shown they’re up to the task.
I think the Vols make a Sweet 16 run before losing in that round to the buzzsaw Illinois Fighting Illini. They’ll keep it close via their defense, but the Illini have so many guys who can make shots. The Vols struggle with that too much to win.
Seed: No. 7 in the South
First game: vs. No. 10 seed Virginia Tech
Potential second game: vs. No. 2 seed Ohio State
How far will the Gators go?
The Gators have been up-and-down all year. After losing to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, though, I think Florida will be hungry to pick up another win before the season ends. Keve Aluma leads the Virginia Tech offense. Tre Mann leads the Gators’ offense. The way Mann has played of late, I think he leads the Gators to a narrow win against Virginia Tech.
Then, in the second round, the Gators get blown out by Ohio State. After all, this team can’t string together any sort of success this year under coach Mike White.
Seed: No. 8 in the East
First game: vs. No. 9 seed St. Bonaventure
Potential second game: vs. No. 1 seed Michigan
How far will the Tigers go?
Here’s my bold prediction: LSU is the first team to knock off a 1-seed in this bracket. Michigan is reeling after losing standout Isaiah Livers to a stress fracture in his foot during the Big Ten Tournament. Livers isn’t likely to return by the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and that will hurt the Wolverines.
No, the Tigers can’t sleep on Atlantic 10 champion St. Bonaventure in Round 1, and no, it won’t be easy to get past Michigan even without Livers. Freshman big man Hunter Dickinson is a beast. He’ll have a big day against LSU’s lackluster defense, but I think Javonte Smart and Cam Thomas have even bigger games in the absence of Livers.
Then, the Tigers will suffer a letdown. I predict, with a potential Elite Eight matchup against Alabama looming, the Tigers will stumble against a tough, athletic Florida State team — the No. 4 seed in the East.
The Seminoles have length and athleticism that will be tough for LSU’s spotty defense to handle. The Tigers’ run ends against Leonard Hamilton’s squad.
Seed: No. 9 in the West
First game: vs. No. 8 seed Oklahoma
Potential second game: vs. No. 1 seed Gonzaga
How far will the Tigers go?
Yeah, the Tigers aren’t making it out of the first weekend. But that’s the sort of seed they deserve after the way they limped to the finish line of the regular season.
Back in mid-February, I actually predicted that Mizzou would play its way into an 8/9 seed with a potential game against Gonzaga in Round 2:
Somehow, Mizzou is gonna play its way into an 8/9 seed and lose by 50 to Gonzaga in the second round.
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) February 17, 2021
But getting to Round 2 is no given. Oklahoma also limped to the finish line during the regular season, losing 5 of its last 6 games, with its only win against lowly Iowa State — a team that went 2-22 overall and 0-18 in Big 12 play. Yikes.
I’ll be optimistic, though, and predict the Tigers win against the Sooners in an old Big 12 matchup. Then, they might fulfill my prediction from Feb. 16 and lose to Gonzaga by 50.