Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Predicting winners for all 2021 conference tournaments

Ohio State (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Ohio State (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images) /
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NCAA Basketball Arkel Lamar UMBC Retrievers (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
NCAA Basketball Arkel Lamar UMBC Retrievers (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /


Champion: Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles were my preseason pick to win the league regular-season and tournament and earn a top 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. That all looks likely to happen as Florida State is quickly separating itself from the pack and have one of the most explosive rosters in the country. 6’9” freshman point guard Scottie Barnes is a difference-maker and he takes his Seminoles to a different level. Florida State has a fantastic senior class led by guard MJ Walker and his 48% shooting from deep.

The Seminoles a deep, they play tremendous defense and they are one of the best shooting teams at 40% from deep. All of these numbers lead to a team that has a potent offense and can blow a game wide open quickly. Their experience is a key reason why they find themselves the winner of the league to earn the ACC auto bid.

Sleeper: Pittsburgh Panthers

Let’s just take a minute to evaluate the Panthers before the criticism of the sleeper pick starts. It is year three of the Jeff Capel tenure in Pittsburgh and it is going very well. The Panthers currently sit at 9-7 and while they currently sit in 10th place in the league if you were to take a poll of the coaches none of them are going to want to play the Panthers in the conference tournament. The Panthers have one of if not the best players in the ACC in big man Justin Champagnie. I have written about Champagnie before and he is currently my pick to win the ACC Player of the Year.

Pittsburgh also has a ton of experience in the ACC with guard Ithiel Horton and grad transfer Nike Sibande. Those three players make up a good core of talent and experience. Unlike past years these Panthers have depth in which they can give their starters a breather and keep a game close.

One name to watch out for who is primed for a breakout in this tournament is point guard Femi Odukale. Odukale is a talented kid who recently entered the starting lineup and he will give teams fits with his extended minutes.  The Panthers are confident and can absolutely make a run in this tournament.

America East

Champion: UMBC Retrievers

Does everyone remember what happened the last time UMBC made the NCAA tournament right?  Very few of those players on the roster but the team is still well-coached and has been the best team in the America East all season. The Retrievers have the shortest player in the country in point guard Darnell Rogers. He may only be 5’2” but he is deadly from deep and has figured out how to use his lack of size to his advantage and is a good scorer.

Brandon Horvath and RJ Eytle-Rock lead the team in scoring and just about every offensive category. UMBC is good on the defensive end and likes to muck the game up. They average just under 70 points per game on offense, but they will likely have the title game in their home gym which is going to help tremendously. The winner of this conference is likely headed for a 16 seed.

Sleeper: UMass Lowell River Hawks

The River Hawks have never had a winning record in their brief time in Division 1.  This year’s team may not have a winning record either, but it is by far the most competitive team that head coach Pat Duquette has had since UMass Lowell has been in Division 1. They are the ultimate sleeper because they have the best player in the league. Obadiah Noel is the type of player who can carry the River Hawks to multiple victories in the league tournament and get his team to the finals.

Head Coach Duquette has finally put some solid pieces around his star that the defense has to remain honest. Lowell is going to have an uphill climb but when you an individual with the talent that Noel has anything can happen if he gets going.