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Every 2021 Tournament Team and What You Need to Know About Them (Thru 3/9)

March Madness arrives!

NCAA Basketball-WCC Tournament-BYU vs Gonzaga Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Getting ready to fill out your bracket but don’t know anything about Winthrop, Belmont, UConn, San Diego State, or others? Look no further than this article, where I’ll give you a one or two sentence summary of every team that punches their ticket or looks like they’ll be in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

We’ll go conference by conference as they wrap up their tourneys, starting with Saturday’s Ohio Valley championship. This update adds seven more conferences from the Monday and Tuesday championships.

1. Ohio Valley:

Morehead State

The Eagles, fresh off defeating the mighty Belmont Bruins to win the Ohio Valley and a ticket to the NCAA tournament, are 23-7 and projected to be either a 14 or 15 seed. They’ve been clicking, winning 19 of their past 20, but haven’t really beaten any good teams. They can get an upset if their 2 or 3 seed opponent is shaky (like injured Villanova or inconsistent Texas), but they probably won’t be strong enough to beat anyone else.

Likely Outlook: Probably first round loss

2. Big South:

Winthrop

Winthrop romped through their schedule, going 23-1 with the only loss being a two-point defeat against UNC Asheville, and are projected to be a 13 seed. They can beat some 3 or 4 seeds, but not all of them. They can probably beat teams like Villanova, Texas, Houston, or Purdue, but beware taking them over Arkansas, Kansas, or Florida State.

Likely Outlook: A trendy first round upset pick

3. Atlantic Sun:

Liberty

The Flames are flying high, humming through the Atlantic Sun and looking like a team that can do some damage in the NCAAs. They’ve won 12 in a row, are 23-5, and look like a 13 seed. I think you have to treat Liberty like Winthrop, except better. They’ve won in the NCAAs before and there are very few 3 or 4 seeds that can stomp them. My call? Take them over a shaky team, but take them over the red-hot Razorbacks or always reliable Jayhawks and Seminoles.

Likely Outlook: Watch out. This team’s got a first round win coming to them.

4. Missouri Valley:

Loyola Chicago

Loyola Chicago on the other hand is on fire, looking even better than the Final Four team from a few years ago. The 24-4 Ramblers are projected to be either an 11 or 12 seed. Also, whether you care about KenPom rankings or not, you’ve got to be shocked that an 11 seed is ranked NINTH there with the number one defense efficiency in the country. That’s not a nerd stat; that’s a gigantic neon sign that says, “This team is GOOD”. So, how far do you take them? Well, you have to take them in the first round, unless they play Virginia or Texas Tech. Then you have to use caution. But Loyola over Florida, Clemson, Missouri?!?!? Sign me up! As for the second round, keep in mind that they’ll probably play a 3 or 4 seed, so watch out for musclemen like Arkansas and Kansas. But maybe they can beat them too! This team is going to the Sweet 16, and it’ll probably take a 1 or 2 seed to keep them out of returning to the Final Four.

Likely Outlook: It’ll be hard to keep this team from the second weekend. They’re that good.

Drake (bubble)

Drake’s on the bubble, but I think they have done enough to squeak in the field so we’ll write an entry for them and see what happens. If Drake gets in, they’re almost certainly going to the First Four. They’re 25-4, but after starting 19-0 went 6-4 down the stretch and suffered injuries to their best players. That’s not good momentum to bring into the First Four, and with opponents like Boise State, Utah State, VCU, Xavier, and Saint Louis likely to face them, the Bulldogs are not to be trusted.

Likely Outlook: If they get in, pick them at your own risk. Not all 11 seeds are created equal.

Loyola Chicago on the other hand is on fire, looking even better than the Final Four team from a few years ago. The 24-4 Ramblers are projected to be either an 11 or 12 seed. Also, whether you care about KenPom rankings or not, you’ve got to be shocked that an 11 seed is ranked NINTH there with the number one defense efficiency in the country. That’s not a nerd stat; that’s a gigantic neon sign that says, “This team is GOOD”. So, how far do you take them? Well, you have to take them in the first round, unless they play Virginia or Texas Tech. Then you have to use caution. But Loyola over Florida, Clemson, Missouri?!?!? Sign me up! As for the second round, keep in mind that they’ll probably play a 3 or 4 seed, so watch out for musclemen like Arkansas and Kansas. But maybe they can beat them too! This team is going to the Sweet 16, and it’ll probably take a 1 or 2 seed to keep them out of returning to the Final Four.

Likely Outlook: It’ll be hard to keep this team from the second weekend. They’re that good.

5. SoCon:

UNC Greensboro

The 21-8 Spartans are back in the NCAAs for the first time since 2018, when they lost by four in the first round to 4 seed Gonzaga. They’ve never won a game in the tournament before and are projected to be a 13 seed this time around. They haven’t really beaten any great teams, and don’t have as much momentum as you’d like to see, struggling in the SoCon quarterfinals against The Citadel. They might be able to pull an upset, but the 4 seeds are stiff competition. My advice? If you want to pick a 13 seed upset, see if Liberty or Winthrop’s matchups fit the bill.

Likely Outlook: Probably first round loss. Liberty and Winthrop are better.

6. Sun Belt:

Appalachian State

The Mountaineers are dancin’ for the first time since 2000! It’ll probably be short-lived, as they are a projected 15 seed and will likely get pummeled by Iowa or West Virginia. Still, what a Sun Belt tournament performance, coming out of the first round to win four straight games, with two in overtime, to punch a ticket!

Likely Outlook: First round loss

7. Colonial:

Drexel

The good news? The 12-7 Drexel Dragons are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996! The bad news? They’re a projected 15 seed and are a week away from a blasting by Iowa or Ohio State or Alabama. Not enough firepower or defense to pull off a miracle, though they’ve been waiting a long time for this moment and will want it to last as long as possible. Congratulations, Dragons! But I’m not picking you in my bracket.

Likely Outlook: First round loss

8. NEC:

Mount Saint Mary’s

The 12-10 Mount is back in the NCAAs, with their last appearance being a 2017 First Four 16-seed win over New Orleans. They were the 4-seed in their conference tournament, so they made an impressive run to get there. If your pool picks the First Four games, you will be interested to know that they will likely end up there so keep this factoid in mind: pretty much all their games are low scoring because of their slooooow tempo (356/357 teams).

Likely Outlook: They’ll win a First Four game against the SWAC or MEAC, but no one else.

9. Horizon:

Cleveland State

I’ve wanted the Vikings to get in for a while and I’m glad they finally are for the first time since 2009. They won a doozy of a game in the quarterfinals (108-104 3OT!) against Purdue Fort Wayne, and have played pretty good basketball as of late to finish with a 19-7 record. They’ll probably be a 15 seed, and if you’re dying to pick a 15 then the Vikings (or Morehead) might be your best option, but they face long odds. Swing big with caution, but it’s March Madness so who knows? But I don’t advise betting against this year’s 2 seeds.

Likely Outlook: Probably first round loss

10. Summit:

Oral Roberts

16-10 Oral Roberts is in the tournament for the first time since 2007-08 after a wild win over North Dakota State to win the Summit League. Like Mount St. Mary’s, they might end up in the First Four, so if you’re interested in their performance there, I think they can beat might among the best 16 seeds there. Bottom line: if they’ve got the offense to beat South Dakota State and North Dakota State, then they can win a First Four game.

Likely Outlook: First Four win if sent there, and then first round loss.

11. West Coast:

Gonzaga

The last undefeated. Number one all year. Beat Iowa. Beat Illinois. Beat West Virginia. The Zags are the best of the best, the elitest of the elite, and, as Skipper the penguin would say, “the cream of the corn on a platinum cob!” They’re the first team to enter the NCAA tourney undefeated since 2015 Kentucky, and we know how awesome that team was. These 26-0 Zags got the guns to go all the way. They can beat anyone, and can win six games to bring home the school’s first national championship. Anybody can lose to anybody in March, but no one is more likely to win the tournament than Gonzaga. Maybe Baylor or Illinois or Alabama snags them, but this team is a machine like we haven’t seen in a while. Pick Gonzaga and don’t look back.

Likely Outlook: Champions, or at least Final Four.

BYU

The Cougars almost got the trophy win over numero uno last night, but couldn’t keep the hot shooting up for a 2nd half of ball. They are 20-6 and a projected 8 or 9 seed. Now those matchups are hard to predict, let me tell you, but let’s look at it this way: the Cougars are good enough for sure to win an 8-9 1st Round game, but some opponents might be stoppers. Beware Michigan State, for instance, but Wichita State might be ripe for the picking. Can they go further and knock off a 1? Perhaps—they almost beat Gonzaga last night. I’m not seeing it, though. They haven’t been to the Sweet 16 in over a decade and aren’t trustworthy enough to back against the likes of Illinois and Baylor. Throw caution to the wind if you want, because hey! they almost beat Gonzaga, but in the NCAA Tournament ‘almost’ is not enough.

Likely Outlook: Second round

That’s all for now! I’ll update this again as conferences finish on Saturday and Sunday or as safe at-larges get knocked out of their quarterfinal or semifinal games.

Go ‘Cats tomorrow!