The Pac-12 Conference is leading the way in the 2021 NCAA men's tournament, marching into the second weekend with nearly an unblemished record.
Let's get this out of the way up front: my bracket is busted.
Oh, sure, there are three no. 1 seeds left in the tourney – condolences to the Illinois Fighting Illini – to help keep part of the bracket intact. And I did indeed have the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Baylor Bears, and Michigan Wolverines making it to where we currently stand with the Sweet 16.
Turns out, a reliance on the supposed strength of the Big 10 did me in. Illinois reaching the Final? Nope. The Ohio State Buckeyes reaching the Final Four? A slowly delivered ha, ha.
These losses likely contributed to many a bracket being busted worldwide. That, and a large contingency of the remaining 13 teams filling out the Sweet 16, outside those three no. 1's, are ranked as a fifth-seed or lower in their respective region.
If you're scoring at home, here's how that looks:
- 1 seed: 3 teams
- 2 seed: 2 teams
- 3 seed: 1 team
- 4 seed: 1 team
- 5 seed: 2 teams
- 6 seed: 1 team
- 7seed: 1 team
- 8 seed: 1 team
- 11 seed: 2 team
- 12 seed: 1 team
- 15 seed: 1 team
Games in the East region ended up pretty much chalk, with three of the top four seeds advancing, and will be played Sunday March 28 and Tuesday March 30.
(4) Florida State vs (1) Michigan
Florida State (18-6) has seemingly threatened to make a run to the title game for years now. Virginia finally had their moment in the sun in 2019 so Florida State is hoping their time is now.
A rotation that goes ten-deep powers Florida State. Like Creighton, they were playing .500 ball in six games prior to the start of tournament play. They've again found consistency, scoring 67.5 points per game while holding opponents to 53.5.
Florida State is not a big fan of the three-pointer. In two games, they've only shot 23, making six. They run a much more patient offense, though they committed 15 turnovers in each of their first two games.
Anthony Polite has scored 34 points, dropping 22 on 8-12 shooting against Colorado. Polite also had 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in that game. Raiquan Gray is another player to keep an eye on. Gray has 26 points and 13 rebounds in the tournament.
Michigan likes to get out and run a little bit more than Florida State does, as well as shoot more threes (19-51). The three-point percentage is a little on the low side, but Michigan is shooting just over 50 percent from the floor the last two games.
The Wolverines (22-4) also put a lot of pride in their defense, though they are allowing 72 points per game in the tourney.
Eli Brooks has totaled 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in two games. Chaundee Brown scored 21 points off the bench in the victory over LSU, but did not score in the Michigan's opening game against Texas Southern.
(11) UCLA vs (2) Alabama
Rounding out the Pac-12 representation, the UCLA Bruins (20-9) will be playing their fourth game of the tournament.
The Bruins have won all three of their games by double digits, thanks in large part to the play of Johnny Juzang. Part of a four-guard starting lineup, Juzang is averaging just over 22 ppg. Jaime Jacquez Jr. is also going to work for UCLA, averaging nearly 17 points per contest.
UCLA has been impressive at limiting turnovers, committing only 20 through three tournament games.
Alabama (26-6) enters this game coming off a red-hot victory over Maryland. The Crimson Tide scored 96 points and drained 16 three-pointers (this, after a game in which they were 5-16 from deep).
Rebounding is also not a problem for Alabama, who held a plus 16 advantage over Iona and followed that up with a plus 23 advantage over Maryland. Five players for the Crimson Tide had five rebounds or more in that game.
Guards Jaden Shackelford and James Petty Jr. have combined for 61 points in the tournament. They went 2-10 from three-point range against Iona but bounced back with a combined 9-17 performance against Maryland.
photo credit: Flickr