March Madness 2021 predictions for every game

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Pete Gillen, who coached Providence to the Elite 8 and took Xavier and Virginia to the NCAA Tournament, is a college basketball analyst on CBS Sports Network. Throughout the tournament, he appears on “NCAA March Madness 360” and “NCAA March Madness Bracket Breakdown.” He gives his predictions for the entire 2021 NCAA Tournament, as told to The Post’s Steve Serby:

Rutgers is going to the Sweet 16.

The Scarlet Knights are playing with house money now that they’ve scratched their 30-year March Madness itch. The pressure was getting into the NCAA Tournament. When you’re playing in a tough league, that helps you.

Steve Pikiell learned a lot from Jim Calhoun. He’s got the whole package — good person, good coach, good values, and kids can trust him.

It’s their time.

With help from my botanist, here’s how we’ll help you win your office pool, looking at some of the 67 games between now and cutting down the nets on April 5:

First round

RUTGERS OVER CLEMSON: The perimeter game of Ron Harper Jr., fearless Geo Baker and Jacob Young overcomes a tough defensive team.

SAN DIEGO STATE over SYRACUSE: The sharpshooting Aztecs will chop up the 2-3 zone like in a porterhouse steak, and they’ll slow Buddy Boeheim down.

RUTGERS over HOUSTON: Both teams get in the mud, get in the glue, get in Bloody Nose Lane. Again, the perimeter guys are the difference.

Second round

WEST VIRGINIA over SAN DIEGO STATE: Big man Derek Culver is a monster and point guard Miles McBride — I coached his dad at Xavier — gives Bob Huggins an inside-outside game.

Regional semifinals

WEST VIRGINIA over RUTGERS: Culver is the best big man on the court and McBride is the best guard. West Virginia’s a better offensive team.

ILLINOIS over TENNESSEE: The inside-outside combination of Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu is too much for the Vols.

Regional final

ILLINOIS over WEST VIRGINIA: Cockburn gets Culver in foul trouble.

March Madness 2021 Illinois Kofi Cockburn
Kofi Cockburn and Illinois will win the Midwest Region.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First round

ALABAMA over IONA: I was an assistant coach with Rick Pitino even before the Russian Revolution. He’s one of the top college coaches ever, but my advice to Rick and his team: Wear helmets. The odds are very, very long. Iona will have to play the perfect game. Shorten the game, get hot from 3-point land, push the break, if you don’t get it, hold the ball til the last seconds of the shot clock, and get Herbert Jones in foul trouble. If I know it, take it to the bank that Rick knows it.

GEORGETOWN over COLORADO: The Hoyas are on a roll, Qudus Wahab is getting better and better, they’re believe in Patrick Ewing and they’re on a mission. Ewing had better tutelage as a player and assistant coach than anybody ever. Ever’s a long time.

UCONN over MARYLAND: Danny Hurley is focused every dribble, he’s very intense, and his players pick up his intensity. James Bouknight takes over the game. He’s a pro.

LSU over ST. BONAVENTURE: Mark Schmidt is one of the biggest sleepers in coaching, but LSU is too big and too athletic, 6-foot-9, 235-pound Trendon Watford is a wrecking machine, Cam Thomas led the SEC in scoring for this offensive juggernaut. The Bonnies are good, but they’re not very deep.

Second round

FLORIDA STATE over GEORGETOWN: Too much athleticism, length and defensive ability for the Hoyas, and Scottie Barnes is a great 6-9 freshman.

ALABAMA over UCONN: Nate Oats really believes in analytics, he was a math teacher for like 15 years up in Michigan. I can’t spell analytics, so he’s a lot more cerebral than I am, but he believes in that — in other words to shoot 3s or layups — and he inherited some good players from Avery Johnson. Herb Jones I think’s one of the top 12-15 players in the country. He’s not a great shooter, but he can play the 1,2,3,4 and 5.

Regional semifinals

ALABAMA over TEXAS: Whatever it takes to win, Herb Jones will do. Alabama really can get to the rim off the dribble. That could cause foul trouble for the Texas inside guys.

LSU over MICHIGAN: Michigan misses Isaiah Livers (foot).

Regional final

ALABAMA over LSU: LSU turns it over too much, a little too careless with the ball at times, and Herb Jones is a more versatile Ed Pinckney.

First round

WINTHROP over VILLANOVA: Villanova’s like a wounded lion in the jungle without Collin Gillespie, and Winthrop can really score.

GEORGIA TECH over LOYOLA CHICAGO: I coached 6-9 big man Cameron Krutwig at Under Armour camp in Charlotte few years ago … I set him back about three years, and after the camp, I was arrested for impersonating a coach. Sorry Sister Jean, but I give the Yellow Jackets’ 6-9 big man Moses Wright the edge. He can score and cause problems.

Second round

ARKANSAS over TEXAS TECH: Too athletic, too quick, too much offense. And Texas Tech struggles to score sometimes.

Regional semifinals

OHIO STATE over ARKANSAS: E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington lead the way, the Buckeyes can score from all five positions, they’re hitting 3s, and they really take care of the ball.

Regional final

OHIO STATE over BAYLOR: Baylor’s streaky from 3, and I don’t think they’ve been the same since their COVID pause. They’re a little erratic.

First round

UC SANTA BARBARA over CREIGHTON: The Gauchos score 76 points a game, I like JaQuori McLaughlin a lot, and Creighton is not completely in sync right now.

VIRGINIA over OHIO: Virginia’s a conundrum — I don’t know what the word means, but I know their fans are very smart, so they’ll figure it out — because of COVID. The Cavaliers haven’t practiced, I don’t know what kind of shape they’re gonna be in. But defense travels even against a team that scores 80.9 points a game. It’s gonna be ugly, and if they lose I will not be shocked.

Second round

USC over KANSAS: Seven-foot freshman Evan Mobley is gonna be one of the top picks in the draft. This is not the typical Kansas team.

Regional semifinals

IOWA over USC: High-powered Iowa shoots 39 percent from 3, and elite big man Matt Garza heads a formidable Big 3.

Regional final

GONZAGA over IOWA: The Zags score 92 a game, and shoot 55 percent from the field, I’ve never seen that before. I don’t know if anybody can guard freshman point guard Jalen Suggs. I think he’ll start to take over more than he has. The Zags catch a break with fewer fans in the stands as they try to achieve the first perfect season since Coach Knight’s 1976 Hoosiers. I think it would have been better for them to lose a game before the tournament. I don’t think they’ve played enough tough games. They weren’t challenged.

March Madness 2021 NCAA bracket prediction Gonzaga Illinois
Jalen Suggs and Gonzaga will fall short of their undefeated dream in March Madness.
Getty Images

Final Four

ILLINOIS over OHIO STATE: Cockburn’s impossible to stop, a killer inside.

GONZAGA over ALABAMA: Suggs will step it up again for this offensive machine.

Championship game

ILLINOIS over GONZAGA: They’re the best team in the best league in the country. Cockburn stays out of trouble and gets Drew Timme in foul trouble. The Zags will feel the pressure. They haven’t been in close games. Illinois has had a million tough games. Illinois 88, Gonzaga 86.

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