2021 NCAA Tournament Region Breakdown: It Will Be An Absolute Failure For Gonzaga Not To Make The Final Four
I’ll be looking at each region over the next couple of days as the NCAA Tournament gets ready to tip. We’ll look at matchups to watch, previews, picks, players to watch and what team could be a sleeper to come out of each region. I’ll be releasing my entire bracket on Thursday morning so there won’t be a ton of revealing here.
1. It will be a failure if Gonzaga doesn't make a Final Four: I've talked a bunch about how grading everything strictly on the NCAA Tournament isn't the smartest thing, but Gonzaga needs to make a Final Four this year. They have the best team in the school's history and more importantly they got a real favorable draw here. They already beat the 2, 3 and 4 seeds this year. The 8/9 game shouldn't scare them.
2. Does Iowa have the toughest draw as a 2 seed: Oregon is one of the most underseeded team based on talent. I've said it before but Oregon is a top-15 talent in the country now that Richardson is healthy. Iowa drawing them is a BRUTAL draw fora 2 seed. They don't have the size to straight up guard Garza, but their wings can really bother Iowa. Plus, Altman is one of the best Tournament coaches out there. All Oregon does is make the Sweet 16.
3. COVID team: We have to talk about it. Kansas and Virginia both got hit by COVID this last week. We know Jalen Wilson is out for at least the first game for Kansas. We know Virginia won't have someone and they won't even travel until Friday. Virginia is currently in a full on quarantine. How do they look after that? It's something we've faded all year from a gambling side, does it roll over to the NCAA Tournament?
4. Can USC make an Elite 8: That bottom half of the bracket can break for USC. I mentioned Oregon as a dangerous 7 seed, well look up at the 6 seed. They get a play-in 11 seed and then Kansas, who we talked about with COVID concerns. Also throw in that Kansas looked its worse when Wilson wasn't playing well and it's a real concern for them there. If Oregon does pull off the upset USC becomes the favorite. If Iowa gets there Garza goes up against top-5 pick Evan Mobley who is 7'0". Sneaky 6 seed.
5. Everyone is going to pick the 12 over the 5: The last image we have of Creighton is Georgetown beating the everliving shit out of them in the Big East title game. UCSB is also a damn good team. Oregon State transfer JaQuori McLaughlin is a 40% three point shooter and can create his own shot. They also have a top-100 defense nationally. This will be one of the 12s over the 5s that everyone is on.
Players to Watch:
There are a couple ways to look at this, but I’m looking at this strictly as an intrigue factor. These are players that could be lottery picks in the NBA Draft, could put a team on their back or are just flat out good players.
1. Luka Garza (Iowa) - Duh
2. Corey Kispert (Gonzaga) - Yes, Jalen Suggs gets most of the attention and he's a top-5 pick, but Kispert is really what makes Gonzaga go. They can play him at the 3 or 4 and he's a complete mismatch. He's also unreal in transition. Throw in the fact that he's a lottery pick and he's a large reason as to why Gonzaga is undefeated.
3. Evan Mobley (USC) - Two top-5 picks are in this region with Suggs and Mobley. He's a 7-footer who does a little bit of everything for USC. He draws a ton of comparison to Chris Bosh and it's not hard to see when you watch him.
4. Jason Preston (Ohio) - The best mid-major player in the Tournament is Preston. He's averaging 16/7/7 and went toe-to-toe with Ayo already once this season in a 2-point loss. He can do pretty much everything for Ohio and he's the reason why Ohio can make a Sweet 16.
5. Chris Duarte (Oregon) - This guy doesn't get enough pub. If he played for one of the bigger names he'd be automatically a 2nd or 3rd team All-American. He's a 6'6" guard putting up 17 and 4 while shooting 43% from three. Just remember the name.
Other Names: Bones Hyland (VCU), Marcus Garrett (Kansas), Marcus Zegarowski (Creighton), JaQuori McLaughlin (UCSB), Austin Reaves (Oklahoma)
Best 1st Round Matchup
No. 5 Creighton vs No. 12 UCSB
I talked about this game before so don't need to go really in depth here. You have Creighton's fast pace offense and looking to get open threes vs UCSB's 15th ranked 3pt defense nationally. I know UCSB hasn't beaten a top-100 team this season, but just watch them play and they can play with pretty much anyone.
Most likely to reach the Final Four
12. Wichita State/Drake
16. App State/Norfolk State
Team underseeded: Oregon (7), Missouri (9)
Team overseeded: None
Matchup you want to see: No. 1 Gonzaga vs No. 2 Iowa in the Elite Eight
Most likely first round upset: No. 13 Ohio over No. 4 Virginia
Best value bet (via Barstool Sportsbook) USC makes the Elite Eight +600