After two weeks of exciting conference tournament action, the 2021 NCAA Tournament is set to tip-off on Thursday with four First Four games. The Round of 64 will begin on Friday with the first South region game starting at 12:15 p.m. ET. The region has plenty of top teams such as No. 1 Baylor, No. 2 Ohio State, and No. 3 Arkansas didn’t win their conference tournament, but had outstanding regular seasons.
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
In the South region of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, there’s a lot of momentum behind the first round matchup between No. 12-seed Winthrop vs. No. 5-seed Villanova in regards of an upset.
We’ll save the Cats vs. Eagles for the next section. As for upsets, two games to keep an eye out for are No. 11 Utah State vs. No. 6 Texas Tech, and No. 14 Colgate vs No. 3 Arkansas.
No. 11 seeds have been winning in the first round of late with a record of 9-7 against No. 6 seeds the last four tournaments. The Utah State Aggies were one of the many teams on the bubble, but made it to the Mountain West Conference and received an at-large bid on Selection Sunday.
The Aggies are one of the best rebounding teams in the country, averaging 40.8 rebounds per game (14th in the nation). They’re also averaging 16.3 assists per game, which is good for 25th in the nation. Utah State Center Neemias Queta is a player to watch in this game as he’s averaging a double-double consisting of 15.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
And the No. 14 Colgate could give the Razorbacks a run for their money in the first round. The Raiders are one of the best scoring teams in the nation, averaging 86.3 points per game (3rd) and 17.7 assists per game (8th). They are also shooting a ridiculous 48.4 percent from three-point range in their last three games behind star guard Jordan Burns.
Potentially popular picks to fade
When it comes to No. 12 Winthrop, there’s a contingent that believes this could be the 12-5 upset of the first round upset. However, this is becoming a trendy pick based on Nova losing co-Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie to a season-ending knee injury and how the Wildcats ended the season.
But do not let those two things scare you away because the Wildcats still have Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is averaging 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. And they still got Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels, who is averaging 11.8 points per game and shooting 40.3 percent from deep. The combo of Robinson-Earl and Samuels should be able to present Winthrop with some trouble.
But the Eagles will not go quietly as they have four players averaging 10 points or more and are tremendous at defending the three. This season, Winthrop is holding opponents to 32.4 percent shooting from distance and 24 percent in their last three games.
Who will reach the Final Four
The favorite out of this region is the Baylor Bears, who are phenomenal on both ends of the court. But don’t sleep on the Ohio State Buckeyes, who challenged Illinois in the Big Ten title game and was sitting within the top-5 of the AP Top 25 rankings. But when I have to give a definitive answer, then it would be the Bears.
Scott Drew has this team playing great basketball and good guards in Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, and Adam Flagler. If your team has good guard play plus can play defense like the Bears can led by Mark Vital, then there’s a chance for a run in the NCAAs.
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