March Madness Bracket Predictions, Winners & Losers

March Madness is back for 2021 - here's what you need to know after the bracket reveal.

It’s time for March Madness, and we’ve got some big news.

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Monkey Knife Fight to bring you the ultimate March Madness bracket.

For the next two weeks, you’ll be able to battle it out with other Hashtag Basketball readers, writers, friends, and family, to see who can pick the best bracket.

It’s free to enter, and prizes include lifetime access to HASHTAG+, access for the rest of the fantasy basketball season, and over $500 worth of credit to use on Monkey Knife Fight.

Follow this link to create your free account and submit your bracket.

Now, on to my predictions, winners, and losers of the bracket.

West

Prediction: Gonzaga

Winners:

  • Gonzaga: Gonzaga continues their search for their first National Championship entering the tournament as the top overall seed and with an undefeated record. This is not only the best Gonzaga team we’ve ever seen, but one of the best college teams we’ve seen in years. Gonzaga has the easiest road to the Final Four out of any of the number one seeds. Their toughest matchup likely won’t come until the Elite Eight and they have legitimate counters for every team in their region. Selecting the top seed often feels boring, but this year it’s also right.
  • USC: A six seed for the Trojans feels a bit harsh, but given their matchups, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see them make a run. I expect them to win whoever comes out of the Wichita State vs. Drake play-in game. Their next game, likely against Kansas, could be much easier than initially thought. Kansas had to pull out of the Big 12 Tournament due to COVID and their center David McCormack was ruled out prior to the Jayhawks even making the trip. Kansas will struggle with USC’s size with McCormack, but if he is still out or not completely healthy, the Trojans could easily shake up their region.

Losers:

  • Jason Preston: Jason Preston has one of the craziest recruiting stories that I’m sure will be mentioned numerous times throughout his game. He has turned into an excellent offensive point guard and just led Ohio to win the MAC Tournament. Unfortunately, he’s going up against one of the best defenses in the country. Virginia will likely be able to slow him down and throw bigger, more versatile defenders at him. It will be a great test of his draft stock to see how he fares against NBA-level prospects and an elite defense. If Preston passes this test like he has every other one he’s faced, his draft stock could skyrocket.
  • Kansas: Kansas is currently battling COVID issues that forced them out of the Big 12 Tournament. Even if they were/are fully healthy, they will have to face a slew of talented big men despite lacking a dominant center themselves. In order to make the Final Four, Kansas will have to beat USC who has excellent size and the second-best draft prospect as their center in Evan Mobley. Next, they will likely have to face the National Player of the Year Luka Garza and the sharpshooting Iowa Hawkeyes. If they find their way through that battle, they will likely meet Gonzaga who has NBA talent littered throughout their roster. It’s never easy, but the Jayhawks have a rough road ahead of them.
  • Nah’Shon Hyland: Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland is one of the most electric scorers in the country. Unfortunately, his first-round matchup against Oregon pins him against an experienced guard in Chris Duarte. Hyland has the offensive chops to carry VCU to a first-round upset. He very easily could go off for 30 points because that is how talented he is. If he does, though, it won’t come easy as the Ducks will have a series of versatile, experienced guard defenders to throw at him.

Top Draft Prospects:

  • Jalen Suggs: Jalen Suggs is essentially a lock to be a top-five pick. He is a freak athlete who is an excellent scorer, playmaker, and defender. He has a toughness and competitive edge that few prospects have. He will be a major reason why Gonzaga continues their winning ways and make a deep run in the tournament.
  • Evan Mobley: Evan Mobley is a skilled big man who moves like a wing. His basketball IQ is through the roof and he constantly makes the right decision. Mobley is also one of the best defensive centers in the country as he can protect the rim and switch on the perimeter. The hype with Mobley is real.

Breakout Candidates:

  • Jason Preston: See above.
  • Nah’Shon Hyland: See above.
  • Chris Duarte: Chris Duarte is an unusual breakout candidate as he is one of the older guards who will be in this draft. Despite that, Duarte is a phenomenal shooter and an excellent defender. Don’t be surprised if Duarte ends up shooting 50% from outside in the tournament and has a series of high-scoring games that end up piquing the interest of some NBA teams who will be drafting at the end of the first round.

South

Prediction: Baylor

Winners:

  • Baylor’s backcourt: Baylor has one of the most athletic, experienced, and talented backcourts in the country and they are going to feast in their region. Hartford should provide no issues for the Bears. Next, neither North Carolina nor Wisconsin pose much of a threat. North Carolina has a very young backcourt who turn the ball over a ton while Wisconsin’s starting lineup is older than that of the Timberwolves, and not in a good way. Either way, the Bear’s backcourt will be able to do whatever they want. In the Sweet Sixteen, assuming top seeds advance, Baylor won’t have to worry about Villanova as Collin Gillespie is injured. If Purdue makes it through, the youth won’t be a match for Baylor.
  • Winthrop: Winthrop is one of the early “favorites” to be a first-round upset. Villanova is very clearly a different team without their senior point guard. While I always caution on betting against Jay Wright, if you’re looking for a first-round upset, this isn’t a bad option.

Losers:

  • Arkansas: Arkansas has been on a roll lately as they won nine of their last ten games. Unfortunately, they drew Colgate who plays at an absurd tempo. While Arkansas should win this game and has more talent, anything can happen in these high-paced tournament games. If Arkansas can survive, they’ll have to (likely) face Texas Tech, Ohio State, and Baylor to reach the Final Four. Arkansas should be thrilled with the season they had but a very possible early out will dampen spirits.

Top Draft Prospects:

  • Tre Mann: Tre Mann is a lottery talent for me and just had a tremendous SEC Tournament. Mann has one of the best step-backs in the country and can get his shot at will. He is a creative passer and a solid defender. While he’s been one of my top prospects for a while, I expect his stock to rise as he gets more eyes on him nationally.
  • Moses Moody: Moses Moody is a versatile wing who is an excellent defender and shooter. Offensively, Moody is at his best as an off-ball shooter who will punish opponents for giving him an inch of space. As the season has progressed, Moody has shown an expanded capability of creating off the dribble. Moody will likely be a top ten pick as teams will covet his two-way versatility.
  • Davion Mitchell: Do you like lights-out shooters? Do you like phenomenal perimeter defenders? Then you’ll love Davion Mitchell. He isn’t as flashy a playmaker as other point guards in this draft, but Mitchell is the best defensive point guard and one of the best shooters in this draft. Whether it’s his perimeter defensive footwork or his lightning-quick first step or his silky-smooth jumper, you’ll find a reason to fall in love with Mitchell’s game.
  • Jared Butler: Jared Butler is experience personified. His only flaw is that he doesn’t have great size. Besides that, Butler plays in control, runs the offense, shoots well, and plays defense. Due to his age and size Butler will likely go in the late first round, but I dare you to not enjoy watching him play.

Breakout Candidates:

  • Terrence Shannon Jr: If Texas Tech makes a run, Terrence Shannon Jr will likely be a significant reason why. Shannon has the athleticism and defense of most rotation wings in the NBA. Those skills alone put him in the conversation as a first-round pick. If his shot is falling, though, expect NBA teams and fans to quickly move him up their board.
  • Jaden Ivey: Jaden Ivey is an electric guard from Purdue. The freshman has had a much more impressive season than most expected and is currently a fringe draft option. He has a versatile offensive game and has shown enough flashes to suggest he’ll be a good defender. If he gets hot, Purdue could easily win a couple games which may cement Ivey as a one-and-done prospect.

East

Prediction: Texas

Winners:

  • LSU: LSU is playing their best basketball of the season and while I kind of like St. Bonaventure, the Tigers should win that game. What makes them a “winner”, though, is that they may be catching Michigan at the right time. Michigan’s most important player, Isaiah Livers has a stress injury in his foot and his timetable for return is not clear. Without Livers, Michigan is still an excellent team, but they are missing a versatile and crucial two-way wing.
  • Texas: Texas has one of the smoother paths to the Elite Eight based on matchups. Texas has a very big, athletic frontcourt combined with an experienced backcourt. In the second round, none of BYU, Michigan State, or UCLA have the combination of size, athleticism, and experience to match this Texas team. Alabama won’t be an easy matchup by any means, but the Longhorns ability to defend could force Alabama into a poor shooting night while also not having the requisite size to match Texas on the boards. The Longhorns also match up well against the top half of their region. Michigan isn’t fully healthy so they might not even make it that far. LSU can score but doesn’t have the size to compete with Texas. Florida State would likely provide the toughest matchup (assuming Michigan isn’t at full strength), but their inconsistent shooting and ball security may rear its ugly head. Don’t be surprised if Texas makes a Final Four run.
  • America: This is an awesome region that has a ton of really fun matchups. As a biased Wolverine fan, I’m dreading the anxiety that each of their games will bring. However, I’m also really excited about watching some powerhouse matchups as plenty of these teams have already won some hardware this season. Michigan won the Big Ten regular-season title, Texas won the Big 12 Tournament, Georgetown won the Big East Tournament, Alabama won the SEC Tournament and regular-season title, St. Bonaventure won the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and Abilene Christian won the Southland Tournament. On top of that, Florida State finished second in the ACC Tournament and regular season, BYU finished second in the WCC Tournament and regular season, and LSU finished second in the ACC Tournament. This region is full of a lot of really good teams who are playing excellent basketball.

Losers:

  • Michigan: Michigan getting their first number one seed since Juwan Howard was playing is awesome. Unfortunately, they have the hardest road to the Final Four and are entering the tournament not at full strength. With Isaiah Livers, this team has an elite offense and defense. While they are still very good without him, the drop-off is meaningful.
  • McKinley Wright: McKinley Wright has been one of the most productive players in PAC 12 history, as I’m sure the announcers will routinely point out. After leading Colorado to their highest seed in school history, he’s been rewarded with an absolutely brutal tournament slate. If they get past Georgetown, who just walked through the Big East Tournament, the Buffalos will have to face Florida State, Michigan or LSU, and then likely either Texas or Alabama. Not much of a reward for the school’s highest tournament ranking.

Top Draft Prospects:

  • Franz Wagner: Franz Wagner is likely a lock as a first-round pick and could easily play himself into a guaranteed lottery pick. Wagner is an excellent team defender who has expanded his offensive game this season. He can create off the bounce, create for teammates, and knock down shots. His length and well-rounded game will make him a quality rotation wing at the worst. With no Isaiah Livers, Wagner will be given a much more significant role. Hopefully, he can step up and take it on.
  • Scottie Barnes: Scottie Barnes is this draft's WTF do I do with him prospect. Barnes has the body of a power forward but plays point guard. He can defend any position on the floor and will gladly do so the full length of the court. His energy and passion are infectious. His passing creativity and vision are shocking for someone his size. He can’t really shoot at all and how he’ll get his offense in the half-court in the NBA still isn’t clear, but this guy has a ton of talent and is a lot of fun.
  • Kai Jones: Kai Jones’ box score will likely leave you underwhelmed, but when you watch him play it’ll be impossible not to see him translating to the NBA. Jones is an excellent defender who is a versatile scorer. He has been crucial to the Longhorns success this season and I expect that to continue with an impressive tournament run.
  • Greg Brown: Similar to Jones, Greg Brown is a freak athlete. Watching him attack the offensive glass or sloppy closeouts is incredibly entertaining. He should eventually be able to be a multi-positional defender, but currently relies too exclusively on his athleticism. If Brown gets hot shooting, NBA teams will easily sell themselves on his athleticism.
  • James Bouknight: James Bouknight may be the best pure scorer in this class. His off-ball movement is unrivaled, and he can put 20-30 points up with ease. Bouknight is likely already a lottery lock, but I expect him to become a household name after the tournament.

Breakout Candidates:

  • Cam Thomas: The tournament almost seems like it was made for Cam Thomas who is one of the most explosive scorers in the country. He is a tough shot maker who should have no trouble scoring in the NBA. Thomas isn’t much of a passer and the defensive end is of little interest to him, but in the tournament, who cares? Thomas leading LSU on a run while scoring 30 points a game is exactly what his skillset was made for.

Midwest

Prediction: West Virginia

Winners:

  • West Virginia: Of West Virginia’s nine losses this season, seven of them were to ranked teams. The two losses to non-ranked teams were to Oklahoma, who would soon be a top-ten team, and Florida. West Virginia has the size, shooting, and defense to make a legitimate run in the tournament. They also have a relatively easy road. After dispatching Morehead State, the Mountaineers shouldn’t have any issues with the winner of the San Diego State vs. Syracuse game. West Virginia also lucked out with the weakest number two seed in the tournament in Houston who I have zero faith in winning anything. An Elite Eight run almost seems too easy for a Mountaineer team who lost six games to ranked teams by five or fewer points.
  • Rutgers: After a hot start to the season, this Rutgers team leveled off. However, they are still really talented and can shoot the ball. By drawing Clemson and (likely) Houston, it isn’t too difficult to imagine the Scarlet Knights winning a few games, especially if Ron Harper Jr gets hot.
  • Draft Twitter: The potential matchup between Cade Cunningham against Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer is NBA Draft Twitter’s fever dream. All three are likely lottery picks. While both Oklahoma State and Tennessee deserved a better draw, be prepared for NBA Draft Twitter to lose their minds during this game.

Losers:

  • Cade Cunningham: Cade Cunningham is and has been the lock for the top pick in the draft for nearly a year now. Nothing he does from now on will change that. However, after leading Oklahoma State to win seven (five against ranked opponents) of their last nine and a second-place finish in the Big 12 Tournament, he deserved a more favorable draw. If the Cowboys want to make a run they’ll have to beat a very good Liberty team, Tennessee, and Illinois just to make the Elite Eight. The best player in the draft deserved better, but who knows, maybe he’ll shock the world and make a run.

Top Draft Prospects:

  • Cade Cunningham: Cunningham is the best prospect in this draft and one of the best in recent years. There isn’t anything on the court he can’t do and he makes everyone around him better. If, for some reason, you haven’t seen him this season, make sure to take some time out of your day to do so.
  • Keon Johnson: Few things are more enjoyable than watching Keon Johnson dunk on dudes. Johnson’s athleticism is freakish and will make him incredibly enticing come draft season. Johnson is an excellent defender but needs to expand his shooting success. I would be surprised if he doesn’t have at least one highlight that makes the end-of-tournament montage.
  • Jaden Springer: Jaden Springer is like a shooting guard from the past. He has a good-looking shot but not the outside consistency we’ve come to expect in the modern game. Instead, Springer has a physical offensive game that allows him to thrive in the mid-range and near the rim. Springer is also an excellent on-ball defender. His performances have been a bit erratic this season, but if he’s in a groove, he can absolutely help lead Tennessee to a series of wins.

Breakout Candidates:

  • Miles McBride: Shooting and defense. That’s what the West Virginia guard does. As one of the best guard defenders in the country, McBride can change a game on that end alone. Combine that with his improved shooting and ability to fill up the scoring column and you get yourself a guard destined for the Elite Eight and a rise in draft stock.
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