After two weeks of exciting conference tournament action, the 2021 NCAA Tournament and March Madness betting season is set to tip-off on Thursday with four First Four games. The Round of 64 begins on Friday with the first East region game starting at 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday, March 19. This region is loaded with high-powered teams such as Big Ten regular season champs Michigan, dangerous LSU, steady Florida State, Texas, white hot UConn, and SEC double-champion Alabama.
For this region and the other three in the tournament, we’ll take a look at games where we could see upsets, teams you should fade, and ultimately who will reach the Final Four on April 3rd.
Which games are ripe for an upset
The East region does not have many potential upset games as most of the higher seeds should be favored to move on. Michigan and Alabama should be able to handle their business, while No. 8 LSU vs. and A-10 champ No. 9 St. Bonaventure could be an absolute barn-burner.
However one game that could be an upset alert watch is No. 12 Georgetown vs. No. 5 Colorado. The Hoyas walk into the tournament as the Big East champion, taking down both Villanova and Creighton in the conference tournament. Meanwhile, Colorado got here as an at-large bid out of the Pac-12.
The Hoyas are one of the better teams in the country, averaging 40.2 rebounds per game (20th in the NCAA), which should be able to keep them competitive. They are also holding teams to 36.9 percent shooting from the field in their last three games. And Georgetown is shooting 41.7 percent from behind the arc, which is impressive and what they will need on Saturday.
Colorado, however, has done a great job defending the three, only allowing teams to shoot 33.3 percent this season. But that number has gone up for the Buffs to 37.5 percent in their last three games.
Potentially popular picks to fade
A popular pick to fade in the first round is LSU over St. Bonaventure. A lot of people might be inclined to take the Tigers based off what we saw them do them in the SEC Tournament and how they can put up points in a hurry. However we’ve also seen LSU not take care of the ball and not be locked in on defense sometimes.
The Bonnies have five players averaging at least 10 points or more this season. St. Bonaventure does a good job sharing the ball too, averaging 14.8 assists per game (86th in the nation). They are also averaging 37.3 rebounds per game, which will be key against LSU.
Who will reach the Final Four
The favorite is Michigan, but with Isaiah Livers out indefinitely that hurts their chances to advance. Alabama is another popular pick to advance deep into the tournament, but they need the three-point shot to fall a consistent rate.
Therefore I’m looking at the Texas Longhorns to reach the Final Four. It might be crazy considering who else in the region, but the Longhorns’ path might include Alabama or UConn in the Sweet 16. Texas should be able to handle both teams as they have good big men in the front court and have solid guard play on the perimeter, which helped them win the Big 12 Tournament.