Barrera's Bracket: 2021
Photo Cred: USA Today
One thing I love about the bracket is how frustrating It can be to fill It out. First, it's tough looking at games differently than from a Gambling perspective. I might lean toward Grand Canyon keeping It close to Iowa, but I’m certainly not picking against the Hawkeyes. Imagine that type of discussion in my head for every pick! Regardless, there is nothing better to me than a finished bracket, so here are my choices and thoughts! You will also see my completed bracket at the bottom of this piece.
Gonzaga. It’s really not even a question to me that the Zags will take care of whoever they face in their region. They are elite. Some teams may keep it close, but I think they handle their business.
I have both the Gauchos and Ohio advancing to the second round. In my opinion, I believe Creighton and UVA have weaknesses that these lower-seeded offenses will exploit. I then have UCSB beating Ohio. I know Chalk usually wins a bracket, but this year just feels different. Don’t be surprised to see madness like never before. One more thing on the Gauchos. They are a talented team with a handful of down transfers, including their star player McLaughlin. Specifically, a few members of their squad are from Oregon, Depaul, and Oregon State. UCSB certainly has a skilled roster.
USC is a weird upset choice for me. Evan Mobley is an NBA talent, and they are a big team that can be tough for anyone to game plan against. Even though I like Drake, I don’t think they have seen the skill level of the Trojans yet. Next, USC is facing a possibly short handed Kansas team. Although I do believe they fall to Iowa and Garza, don’t be surprised if USC can pull off a run with their favorable matchups.
ATS Choice - Grand Canyon
They are 5-0 ATS as underdogs, and 75% overall. They also beat a solid Nevada team, only lost by 1 vs Arizona State, and kept It to 10 with Colorado. I grabbed them at +14.5. Iowa’s defense has been better of late, but I still don’t trust It to keep the Lopes away by more than 14.
This one is wide open in my opinion. LSU can run anyone out of the gym, FSU and Texas are big and athletic, Bama has looked dominant at times this year, and UConn is led by Bouknight and a strong supporting cast. Speaking of, RJ Cole is out of concussion protocol, which only boosts UConns already talented squad. Michigan isn’t making It out of this region in my opinion. Livers being out hurts their chances, and they have looked mortal of late. Don’t be surprised if LSU gives them fits. I’m picking UConn here. I love what RJ Cole and Bouknight can do, and I’m anxious to see if they shine in the spotlight. With all of that said, you can make a case for any one of the top teams to make a run.
I think this first round is pretty Chalk. I’ve mentioned LSU possibly taking down Michigan in the second round, but the only upset I see happening is Maryland. Yes, UConn is great in my opinion, but the Terrapins have been very competitive vs tougher opponents. If Bouknight goes down, or if the Huskies just have a bad day, I would not be surprised if Maryland got the upset. That said, my bracket is praying this doesn’t happen!
BYU is a tricky 6 seed no ones really talking about. Not only do they shoot 37.8% behind the arc, but they move the ball well. They’re also a well coached squad that gave Gonzaga a run for its money in the WCC Conference Final. Do I think BYU wins the region? No, but I can see them making the Sweet 16. Never know when a team will get hot! Hopefully for my bracket's sake, they cool off against Texas.
ATS Choice - UConn
This is a Husky filled discussion here. UConn is great ATS, covering 76.2% of all games. St. Bonaventure and Abilene Christian are also very good ATS, but I don’t see them either A) Winning or B) Keeping It close to LSU and Texas. I’ll have to roll with a team that has won me money throughout the season. UConn is the play for me here, and the team I trust the most. I would take them at -3, and I did take them on a First Half spread of -1.5
As much as basketball is a team sport, there are some players who are clearly game changers. Cade Cunningham fits that narrative, and I believe Oklahoma State advances out of this extremely difficult region. Their road to the Final Four is tough, but they have proven to be resilient this year. First, they will have to go through a confident Liberty squad that will be hard to shake. They also have Illinois, Loyola-Chicago, and. Tennessee on their side of the region, as well as a feisty Beaver squad. If they’re able to make It through that gauntlet, then I suspect they will be facing a Houston team that has shown signs of brilliance. This is time for Cade to show why he’s arguably the number 1 pick in the draft, and for players like Likekele to support Cunningham on the biggest stage. The Big12 prepared the Cowboys for this moment, and I think they reach the Final Four.
Many people are beginning to throw love toward Liberty, rightfully so too. They’re a feisty team that will keep It close to OK State. That’s not my upset though, as I am looking at a 2nd round upset of Loyola Chicago over Illinois. The Ramblers are a well coached, defensive juggernaut. Krutwig is also great offensively down low and can pass the ball well. He vs Kofi Cockburn will be a great matchup, and seeing how LUC tries to stop Ayo will be fun to watch. Both teams are entering the tournament playing well, but my gut is telling me that the Ramblers are for real. This is honestly more a feeling than anything, so let's see if Sister Jean's prayers are answered.
Dark Horse- West Virginia
Earlier in the year this was one of my choices for a Final Four contender. The Mountaineers have some great shooters on this team, and Culver down low can cause problems. Huggins has done a nice job with adjusting after Oscar Twishbe transferred to Kentucky, and WVU has had some gutsy performances. One in particular was the 19 point comeback at Oklahoma State. Their recent losses have given me some concern, especially when they fell to OK State (who was without Cade). I really like this team, and would love to see them make a run. Just don’t know if they can put It all together.
ATS Choice - Oregon State
This matchup is tough for me, but end of the day I’m siding with Tennessee to advance. That said, the Beavers shocked the Pac12 with their run to the conference title, and they are a team that feeds off the underdog status. ATS, they are 19-9-1, and 13-5 ATS as an underdog (72.2%). The Vols haven’t been an overly dominant squad, so I’m hoping from a gambling point of view that the Beavers cover +8.
Finally, Baylor’s side. I don’t think it’s a question for me here. I have Baylor advancing to the Final Four and winning the Final vs Zags. The Bears were dominant before their Covid shutdown, and even though they still seem to be getting their groove back, this team is too talented. They are elite, and will showcase that in the tournament.
Alright, let’s get this over with. Yes, I too believe Winthrop will beat Villanova. That said, I will one up you here. I think the Eagles take down Purdue also. Purdue will have a strong squad next season, but I just don’t think they’re quite ready right now. Winthrop is a very good team. They have size, shooters, and depth. DJ Burns Jr, the former Tennessee transfer, is a force in the post that will be tough for any team to handle. I have Winthrop losing after that, but it’ll be a fun ride to get there!
One more upset for you. Utah State over Texas Tech. The Mountain West was tough this season, and I think most people agree this is not Chris Beard's most talented Red Raider squad. Additionally, Tech will be facing Neemias Queta, who has been an absolute force in the paint for Utah State. I can certainly see Texas Tech advancing, but I just don't know if they can stop Queta.
Dark Horse - Arkansas
Not enough people are talking about the offensive minded Razorbacks. This team had a strong run in the SEC, and took down Missouri twice, Florida, Bama, and LSU. I’m not sold on OSU completely, as they struggled prior to the Big Ten tournament. If the Razorbacks offense is clicking, look out for this team to make a deep run. I have them knocking off the Buckeyes in the Sweet Sixteen.
ATS Choice - Winthrop
I’m looking for the best bang for your buck, so I have to go with Eagles over Nova. I caught them at +6.5 and +220 on the Moneyline. I believe they win, so It would be foolish of me not to take both the spread and line.
My last teams standing are Baylor, Gonzaga, UConn, and Oklahoma State. All four teams have elite talent, specifically at the guard positions. They also have talented contributors on the roster that make them tough for any style an opponent throws at them. I still believe the Big12 is the toughest conference, and the Bears are ready for their title run.
End of the day, spread betting and choosing a winner are two different things. It makes filling a bracket out trickier, but I certainly love every moment. That said. this is a time of the year where I want to see upsets, even at the detriment of my bracket. Now, let’s all enjoy this tournament and good luck!
My Bracket Below: