Here’s a look at the East Region of the NCAA Tournament as March Madness 2021 gets set to tip off Thursday:
1. Michigan (20-4)
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Juwan Howard (2nd season)
Post-ing up: Of the four No. 1 seeds, Michigan is clearly the most vulnerable. It enters the tournament with three losses in its last five games, and may not have star forward Isaiah Livers due to a foot injury. Howard’s team just isn’t the same without the multi-talented 6-foot-7 Livers.
16. Mount St. Mary’s (12-10)
Coach: Dan Engelstad (3rd season)
Post-ing up: He’s tiny in stature, but 5-foot-8 guard Damian Chong Qui plays big, leading Mount St. Mary’s in scoring (15.1) and assists (5.5), and also grabs 4.2 rebounds per game. The Baltimore native came up huge in the NEC title game upset of Bryant, notching 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and even a block.
16. Texas Southern (16-8)
Coach: Johnny Jones (3rd season)
Post-ing up: Jones has now taken three teams to the tournament, after leading LSU and North Texas there as well. He couldn’t have gotten there without Oklahoma State and Miami (Ohio) transfer Michael Weathers, a physical senior guard who leads the Tigers in scoring, assists and steals.
8. LSU (18-9)
Coach: Will Wade (4th season)
Post-ing up: A key win last weekend at Missouri pushed LSU to an 11-6 finish in the SEC and their second invitation to the Dance since Wade’s arrival from VCU. Freshman guard Cameron Thomas finished fourth in the country in scoring at more than 23 points per game, helping also land the Tigers in the top-10 nationally with nearly 83 ppg.
9. St. Bonaventure (16-4)
Conference: Atlantic 10
Coach: Mark Schmidt (14th season)
Post-ing up: Noted sportswriting alums Mike Vaccaro of The Post and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN are understandably stoked over the Bonnies’ first outright A-10 regular-season title in school history and third NCAA bid in the last 21 years. Schmidt’s squad allowed the sixth-fewest points in the nation this season.
5. Colorado (22-8)
Coach: Tad Boyle (11th season)
Post-ing up: Underrated nationally, senior point guard McKinley Wright IV could be a breakout star in this tournament, a dynamite 6-foot lead guard who cut down on his turnovers this year while improving on his playmaking abilities. He was instrumental in Colorado’s first trip to the tournament in five years.
12. Georgetown (13-12)
Conference: Big East
Coach: Patrick Ewing (4th season)
Post-ing up: The Hoyas were picked to finish last in the Big East. They had a 3-8 record at one point. They weren’t even supposed to sniff the dance. And, yet, here they are, back in the tournament for the first time in six years after a stunning four days in New York City, one victory more impressive than the next.
4. Florida State (16-6)
Coach: Leonard Hamilton (19th year)
Post-ing up: The Seminoles couldn’t seal their first ACC Tournament crown since 2012, but Hamilton’s teams had won at least one game in three straight dances ahead of last year’s shutdown. Freshman 6-foot-9 forward Scottie Barnes is a projected high lottery pick.
13. UNC Greensboro (21-8)
Coach: Wes Miller (10th season)
Post-ing up: Isaiah Miller is the kind of player who makes this tournament fun. He’s a senior who has improved each year and has developed into a difference-maker who can pull off a major upset. Miller, averaging 19.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists, dominated Mercer in the Southern Tournament title game, notching 25 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
6. BYU (20-6)
Coach: Mark Pope (2nd season)
Post-ing up: Unbeaten Gonzaga won by 10 or fewer points only twice all season, to West Virginia in December and to the Cougars in the WCC title game, which was tied with four minutes remaining. Senior point guard Alex Barcello leads BYU in points, assists and steals, while shooting 48.6 percent from 3-point range.
11. UCLA (17-9)
Coach: Mick Cronin (2nd season)
Post-ing up: UCLA is back in the tournament in Cronin’s second season. That’s important. Just don’t expect them to be dancing for more than one song. The Bruins hobbled in, losing four straight games, though each defeat was by single digits. They own just one victory, at home over Colorado, over a tournament team.
11. Michigan State (15-12)
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Tom Izzo (26th season)
Post-ing up: January, February, Izzo, April. What, you thought March wasn’t going to include the legendary coach? A disappointment most of the season, Michigan State pulled off late wins over Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State, punching its 22nd straight ticket to the dance.
3. Texas (19-7)
Conference: Big 12
Coach: Shaka Smart (6th season)
Post-ing up: Smart is still looking for his first NCAA tourney victory in his third appearance with the Longhorns, after all of his success at VCU, including a Final Four run in 2011. Bigs Kai Jones and Greg Brown are projected first-round picks, but junior guards Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey handle much of the scoring load.
14. Abilene Christian (23-4)
Coach: Joe Golding (10th season)
Post-ing up: The Wildcats didn’t just sneak into the tournament. They cruised, blasting Lamar and Nicholls by a combined 56 points in their two Southland Conference Tournament games. Eight of Abilene Christian’s last nine victories have come by double figures. It has gotten hot at the right time.
7. Connecticut (15-7)
Conference: Big East
Coach: Dan Hurley (3rd season)
Post-ing up: The Huskies are starting to resemble a Final Four sleeper. They have one of the premier guards in the country in James Bouknight, a quality second scoring option in R.J. Cole, as well as the depth up front and in the backcourt needed this time of year. They seemingly get better every game.
10. Maryland (16-13)
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Mark Turgeon (10th season)
Post-ing up: Eric Ayala has gone from a role player to leading man, improving across the board as a playmaker, defender and go-to guy. If not for the 6-foot-5 wing’s sterling performance in the Big Ten Tournament opener — 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists in a win over Michigan State — the Terrapins might have had to sweat out Selection Sunday.
2. Alabama (24-6)
Coach: Nate Oats (2nd season)
Post-ing up: Oats is taking the Crimson Tide to the tournament for the first time; it’s only Alabama’s third NCAA bid since 2006. He previously coached Buffalo to first-round wins over Arizona in 2018 and Arizona State the following year. Villanova transfer and Hudson Catholic H.S. product Jahvon Quinerly provides bench scoring behind sophomore star Jaden Shackelford.
15. Iona (12-5)
Coach: Rick Pitino (1st season)
Post-ing up: This story wouldn’t even fly in Hollywood. Controversial Hall of Fame coach returns to college basketball during a pandemic. His team’s regular season is ruined by COVID-19. Then, after yet another pause, it wins its conference tournament, notching four victories in five days as the No. 9 seed. Just not realistic.