The 2021 NCAA Tournament field is set. Teams are seeded, matchups are decided and the selection committee's job is done. All that's left now is to play the games (and download your printable bracket)!
There was little drama that came from Selection Sunday on the whole, particularly at the top. As expected, Gonzaga (26-0) -- just the 20th team in NCAA history to enter the tournament with an undefeated record -- earned the field's top overall seed in the West Region. The Zags are joined on the No. 1 line by Baylor (South), Illinois (Midwest) and Michigan (East).
The top No. 2 seed in the field is SEC regular-season and postseason champion Alabama, which enters the East on the opposite end of the bracket as Michigan. Ohio State, Iowa and Houston were also named No. 2 seeds in the South, West and Midwest, respectively. The real kicker here: Iowa draws the same region as No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga. The two teams faced off in December, and the Hawkeyes played them close. A rematch could be on deck if the bracket goes chalk.
Remember how I said there was little drama? That statement does not apply to the bubble. Michigan State, UCLA, Wichita State and Drake were the last four teams in this year's field. So the committee did us all a favor by setting up an all-time First Four slate that features Michigan State vs. UCLA and Wichita State vs. Drake for rights to play in the first round. Those games will be contested on Thursday.
As for the first four out of the field -- the teams named as replacements -- they are as follows: Louisville, Colorado State, Saint Louis and Ole Miss. Those teams will be on standby. In the event a team in the 68-team field must withdraw for COVID-19 issues between now and Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, Louisville would get first dibs to slot in their spot followed by Colorado State if a second team must dip, and so on.
The field is set! Create a bracket pool to compete against friends or play solo for your chance to win a brand new Nissan Rogue and a college basketball dream trip. Get in the action today!
Here are a few takeaways from the NCAA Tournament bracket reveal on Sunday.
1. The Midwest Region is a monster
Illinois locked up the Big Ten Tournament championship on Sunday and cast aside any doubts about its viability as a No. 1 seed. But the committee did not go easy on the Illini. This region features No. 2 seed Houston, a tough draw in itself, but also West Virginia as a No. 3 seed and Oklahoma State as a No. 4 seed. The Mountaineers were a projected 4-seed by Palm while the Pokes were a projected 2-seed, with the second-most wins against Quadrant 1 teams in all of college hoops. There will undoubtedly be carnage that emerges from this bracket. I see you lurking there as a 5 seed, Tennessee.
2. Gonzaga's path will be no cake walk, but manageable
Is Gonzaga's path to a Final Four easy? The answer, of course, is no. Winning four consecutive games in the NCAA Tournament, regardless of draw, is not easy. But I gotta say -- the draw is good. The Bulldogs were rewarded with one of the most favorable regions. Not only do they get the same bracket as a No. 2 seed Iowa team it has already beaten, but they also get No. 4 seed Virginia (dealing with COVID issues), No. 8 seed Oklahoma (losers of five of last six) and No. 3 seed Kansas (dealing with COVID issues) all in the same pod. Smart money is on the Zags cruising through this pod.
3. Maybe we'll get Baylor-Gonzaga after all
This was likely never in doubt -- the committee was always going to put Baylor and Gonzaga on opposite sides of the bracket -- but it is now official. With Gonzaga getting the No. 1 seed in the West and Baylor drawing the No. 1 in the South, it means these two teams might finally meet with the highest possible stakes. They were scheduled to play earlier this season, but that game was called off less than two hours before tip. If they wind up facing one another, it'd pit the clear-cut top two teams in the sport all season against one another for the national championship. How's that sound?