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East region preview for the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament

We take a look at how the bracket for the East Region has come together ahead of the 2021 NCAA tournament, including a preview of what and how to watch following Selection Sunday.

Michigan Wolverines center Hunter Dickinson reacts after making a shot against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines hold onto the final No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament despite faltering in the Big 10 tournament. Michigan appeared to be the third best team behind Gonzaga and Baylor until Illinois went on its run. Behind them will be SEC champion Alabama and the Crimson Tide. The East bracket also has another conference champion in the Longhorns from Texas, a team that knocked off OK State to win the Big 12.

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 3:00 p.m. ET, CBS

If the Gonzaga Bulldogs are on their own tier, the Michigan Wolverines are inching closer to being right there. Michigan went through a COVID pause but returned and didn’t miss a beat. The Wolverines rank inside the top 10 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency and should be a title contender in Juwan Howard’s second season in charge of this program.

The Texas Southern Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament from the SWAC once again. Playing at a fast pace with the 24th most possessions per game in the country, Texas Southern will be looking to get a ton of shots up. They led the conference in scoring and have a fantastic rebounding margin at 6.1. The Tigers are led by senior guard Michael Weathers, whose 16.7 points per game is the third best in the conference.

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Iona, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 4:00 p.m. ET, TBS

The Alabama Crimson Tide became one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this year when they controlled the SEC’s top spot for almost all of conference play. The Crimson Tide are led by defense, which ranks second in adjusted efficiency ratings. This is a well-balanced team this year, and Nate Oats has this program in the right direction in his second season in Tuscaloosa.

The Iona Gaels are making their 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament after defeating Fairfield in the MAAC championship game. The last time the Gaels were in the tourney was in 2019, where they lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels 88-73 in the first round. Rick Pitino will be hoping to change their fortunes this time around and try to make it out of the Round of 64.

No. 3 Texas vs. No. 14 Abilene-Christian, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 9:50 p.m. ET, TruTV

The Texas Longhorns pulled through in a season in which head coach Shaka Smart needed his program to have success. The Longhorns do not do one thing incredibly well compared to the rest of the Big 12, but this is a quality program that has seven players averaging at least eight points per game. Andrew Jones leads the team with 14.8 points per game, and Courtney Ramey puts up 13.7 points per matchup, shooting 42.7% from the three-point line.

The Abilene Christian University Wildcats get an assist on over two-thirds of their made baskets, and their ability to share the ball is how they got this far. Two blowout wins in the Southland Tournament shows they’re in form, and will have a chance to steal a game or two on the opening weekend using a deep bench.

No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 12:45 p.m. ET, TruTV

Senior guard M.J. Walker has stepped up huge for the Florida State Seminoles this season with 13.1 points a game to go along with 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest.Raiquan Gray has offered 11.7 points to go along with his 6.9 boards a game while freshman Scottie Barnes is putting up 10.1 points and 4.4 assists per contest.

UNC-Greensboro isn’t the most efficient shooting team, but makes up for its lack of touch by getting second and third opportunities by crashing the boards. The Spartans are one of the top rebounding teams in the country and average just over 39 per contest. They actually lead the entire country in total rebounds with 1,142. Whether UNCG can continue to be dominant on the glass against bigger, more physical teams remains to be seen.

No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Georgetown, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS

The Colorado Buffaloes are back in the NCAA Tournament with a team talented enough to make it to the second weekend. Colorado plays a slow style, ranked No. 295 in possessions per game but they enter fairly high in the KenPom metrics. The Buffaloes will typically rotate in 10 players, so this is a deep squad led by McKinley Wright IV, who averages 15.3 points per game with a conference-high 5.7 assists.

The Georgetown Hoyas are making their 31st NCAA tournament appearance after an incredible run in the Big East tournament. The Hoyas were the eighth seed and made it through the gauntlet to win the Big East title. The last time they were in the NCAA tournament was in 2015, where they lost to Utah Utes 75-64 in the Round of 32.

No. 6 BYU vs. No. 11 Michigan St./UCLA, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, CBS

BYU is on a separate tier behind the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference as it is clearly the second best team in the league. The Cougars are playing well at the right time of the season and rank inside the top 25 in KenPom as well as the latest adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency metrics. Senior guard Alex Barcello leads the Cougars with 15.7 points per game and is shooting nearly 50% from three-point range.

The Michigan State Spartans are making their 34th NCAA tournament appearance in school history. They’ve been to the Final Four ten times and ended up winning it in 2000. The last time Sparty was in the tournament was in 2019. They made a deep run that season, winning four games before losing 61-51 to Texas Tech in the national semifinal.

The UCLA Bruins have proven to be a resilient bunch without key pieces Chris Smith and Jalen Hill on the floor. UCLA is led by their ability on the offensive end of the floor, as they come in with the No. 25 offense in the country in adjusted efficiency. The Bruins use a guard-heavy rotation, and Johnny Juzang leads the team with 14 points per game. Additionally, Jaime Jaquez Jr. is averaging 12.6 points to go along with teams highs with six rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

No. 7 UConn vs. No. 10 Maryland, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, CBS

The Connecticut Huskies saw plenty of games canceled or postponed this season, but they appeared to find their stride in mid-to-late February, which coincides with the return of their star James Bouknight. He bumped his average to 20.5 points per game heading into the tournament and is playing his best basketball of the season after being sidelined with an injury. Most of the production comes from UConn’s guards, and the team ranks inside the top 30 in KenPom as well as adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

Maryland made Big Ten opponents work for their points, limiting league foes to just 23.1 field goals per game on just 41 percent shooting, further backing up KenPom slating them as one of the more efficient defensive units in the nation.

No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure, Saturday, March 20

Time/TV: 1:45 p.m. ET, TNT

The LSU Tigers are back in the NCAA Tournament and if you like offense, you’ll need to check out LSU. They rank in the top ten in adjusted offensive efficiency and average more than 80 points per game. LSU’s 46.9 field goal percentage is second in the SEC, as is their 74.6 free throw percentage. Opposing offenses can do some damage against this defense, but it’s up to players like freshman guard Cameron Thomas to outscore them. He is averaging 23.1 points per game, which is fourth in college basketball this season.

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies are out of the A-10, which is a relatively weak conference outside of SBU and VCU at the top. Those two teams dominated the competition all season long. Without having one player for opposing teams to key on, the balance of the Bonnies should be tough to eliminate from the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament.