Here is your updated bracket heading into the second round:
#1 Baylor vs. #9 Wisconsin
Sunday, March 21st 1:40 PM CT, CBS
1 seed Baylor (23-2) advanced fairly easily over their 16 seed opponent Hartford in the first round. The Bears looked sluggish for the first 10 minutes or so, but took control after that. Many 1 vs 16 seed matchups follow that pattern, so I wouldn’t read too much into the early poor performance. 9 seed Wisconsin (18-12) decimated North Carolina to make it to this game, winning by 23 points. The key differences between Baylor and North Carolina are that Baylor typically plays very strong defense and can attack a team in a variety of ways offensively. North Carolina could do neither of those things. Baylor is favored by 6 points here. They need a much better game from Mark Vital today. If they advance here, I think Baylor keeps getting stronger each weekend they stay alive with more and more time to get back to midseason form. I like Baylor in a close one.
#3 West Virginia vs. #11 Syracuse
Sunday, March 21st 4:15 PM CT, CBS
3 seed West Virginia (19-9) was tested a bit by Morehead State before pulling away to advance to the second round. They face 11 seed Syracuse (17-9) who shot the lights out from 3 to defeat San Diego State. Buddy Boeheim scored 30 points in that win. While that’s impressive, he typically averages closer to 17 points a game. That’s still good, but Bob Huggins coached teams have typically prided themselves on strong defense. So I expect Buddy to fall closer to his season average if not lower. If that’s the case, West Virginia has a strong enough offense paired with its defense to get this game done. West Virginia is favored by 3.5 points.
75-67 West Virginia
#6 Texas Tech vs. #3 Arkansas
Sunday, March 21st 5:10 PM CT, TNT
6 seed Texas Tech (18-10) got a gritty win against Utah State to make it to this game. 3 seed Arkansas (23-6) was severely tested by Colgate before ultimately pulling away. This is an important game for Baylor fans to watch. Assuming the Bears advance, Arkansas is the highest seed remaining in Baylor’s quad besides Baylor. If Tech could pull an upset here, Baylor is looking at an incredibly favorable path out of their region and into the Final Four. And I think the upset here is likely. In fact, the Red Raiders are favored by 2 points in this game. Tech advances by just under double digits.
73-64 Texas Tech
#4 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Oregon State
Sunday, March 21st 8:40 PM CT, TBS
A battle between OSUs that didn’t lose their first round games! 4 seed Oklahoma State (21-8) certainly got tested by Liberty in their first game, but ultimately distanced themselves for a 9 point victory. They now battle 12 seed Oregon State (18-12) who is on an absolute late-season tear. They only made the tournament because they won the Pac-12 Tournament and advanced to the second round by easily beating 5 seed Tennessee. I believe Oklahoma State has the better talent here, but Oregon State has an almost overwhelming amount of momentum. Still, this tournament has seemed to prove that the Big 12 (besides Texas) was as strong as we thought it was, so I like Oklahoma State to win. Oregon State probably covers the 6 points spread, though.
72-68 Oklahoma State
#8 Oklahoma vs. #1 Gonzaga
Monday, March 22nd 1:40 PM CT, CBS
So in the first draft of my bracket, I had 8 seed Oklahoma (16-10) upsetting 1 seed Gonzaga (27-0) in this game. Gonzaga has an impressive undefeated record, but has been pressed by far inferior competition one too many times for me to think they’ll make it all the way to the championship. The reason I decided to cut this upset from my bracket is because I believed OU would lose to Missouri after news broke that the Sooners’ second leading scorer, De’Vion Harmon, was out for the first weekend of the tournament with COVID. However, the Sooners impressed me and everyone else and got by Missouri. So the question then becomes: do they have enough in them to take down the #1 overall seed? Probably not. Gonzaga annihilated Norfolk State, winning by 43 points. Take that with a grain of salt, but the Bulldogs look to be in peak tournament form. Oklahoma might be tired after such a hard fought victory over Missouri. I do think this game will be closer than the 14.5 point spread, though.
#3 Kansas vs. #6 USC
Monday, March 22nd 8:40 PM CT, CBS
3 seed Kansas (21-8) survived an upset bid from Eastern Washington, who tested the Jayhawks late into the second half. They now take on 6 seed USC (23-7) who defeated Drake to make it to this game. Kansas looked a bit rusty having not played since COVID interrupted their Big 12 Conference Tournament. As Baylor fans are keenly aware, COVID rust takes time to remove. It doesn’t seem very likely that Kansas will immediately be back to normal just two days later for this game. However, the Jayhawks do have superior base-level talent and play extremely effective defense most of the time. USC is actually favored by 1.5 points here but I like Kansas to squeeze by into the Sweet Sixteen, especially if bigman David McCormack plays like he did in the second half of the Jayhawks’ first round game.