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 Midwest region game starting at 1:15 p.m. ET. This region has plenty of conference champions with No. 1 Illinois and No. 2 Houston leading the way. No. 6 San Diego State, No. 8 Loyola-Chicago, and No. 9 Georgia Tech all won their league tournaments, as well as every team from 12-16 in the quadrant.
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 public will tell you to look out for No. 11 Syracuse as they take on No. 6 San Diego State as an upset special. But it might be more based on what we’ve seen ‘Cuse do in the past, and not many people staying up to watch the Aztecs. a game that we could see an upset in is No. 10 Rutgers vs. No. 7 Clemson Tigers.
The Scarlet Knights enter the NCAA tournament with a record of 15-11, which is not bad considering how good the Big Ten is this season. RU doesn’t do anything particularly well, but they are a tough team with three players who are averaging 10 points or more, led by Ron Harper Jr. with 15.4 points per game.
Meanwhile Clemson only has one player averaging double figures in Aamir Simms (13.3 points per game), who leads them in every major statistical category. The Tigers are also one of the worst scoring offenses, averaging 65.3 points per game (344th).
Potentially popular picks to fade
This region is tough to pick in this category. A majority of the higher seeded teams should be able to get through to Sunday and Monday. A team to fade is the Syracuse Orange, were on the bubble heading into Sunday Selection and snuck in as an 11 seed.
Many casual fans will likely choose the Jim Boeheim-led Orange because of their infamous 2-3 zone defense, even though zones are for cowards. The last time ‘Cuse were in the tourney as a double-digit seed in 2016, they found themselves in the Final Four. But this isn't the same type of Orange team, and the Aztecs are not a joke with scorers Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel.
Who will reach the Final Four
It’s tough to say who will reach the Final Four out of this region because you can make compelling cases for each team. Illinois has two outstanding players in Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, but they could face a tough Round of 32 matchup versus the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.
If they get past the Ramblers, then Illinois could be staring at Tennessee or Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16. Houston could make a deep run but could run into either West Virginia or San Diego State in the Sweet 16. No one’s team path is easy in this region, but I’ll take the favored Fighting Illini making to the Final Four.