March Madness 2021: Best matchups to watch in the Second Round

Tyler Byrum
·5 min read
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Best matchups to watch in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Not everyone has a quad box or is a master at flipping channels. So, the only option for some is to pick an NCAA Tournament matchup and stick with it. 

Well, if your favorite team is out of the Big Dance, there are some mighty fine matchups in the Second Round.

There's elite offense vs. elite defense. There's tournament favorite vs. mid-major darling. And there are also several Elite Eight or Final Four contenders with tough matchups in just their second game of March Madness. 

A strong contingent of upsets set the table nicely for the Second Round. Which lovable small programs will continue their run and become a Cinderella? Sunday's and Monday's games will determine the field for the remainder of the tournament. 

Winners of these contests will advance to the Sweet Sixteen and the second weekend of March Madness.

No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 8 Loyola-Chicago (Midwest)

Time: Sunday, 12:10 p.m. ET


Now it's time to see how good the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers are and how the committee actually hurt the Illini by forcing this matchup upon them in just the Second Round. 

It's just unfair for Illinois to play a team of this caliber so early. No. 1 seed should get a pass to the Sweet 16. Instead, the Ramblers are a top-10 team in the NET, top-10 in KenPom and are just three years removed from making the Final Four. Posting the third-best defense in the country according to KenPom, it's just not an enviable position for this No. 1 seed. 

By no means does this suggest that Illinois should lose (they are the better team), but it will not be easy. Anything short of their A-game and Loyola-Chicago is good enough to take advantage. Give the Ramblers a small lead and their defense could shut down even one of the top teams in the sport. 

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (South)

Time: Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET


Baylor and Gonzaga have been the favorites all season long. Those No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the sport have varied throughout the season. At one point, Wisconsin was considered to be either the third or fourth-best teams. 

All of a sudden, the wheels came apart for the Badgers. Losing six of their last eight -- with their lone wins coming over Penn State and Northwestern in that stretch -- plummeted their season and they fell to the dreaded 8/9 game in the tournament. 

But beating North Carolina was Wisconsin's best win since January over Maryland. And it was rather convincing over a tricky opponent. There are three legitimate stars on the Badgers roster in D'Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison and Micah Potter. Is there any chance this team is calling back to their early season success? It could spell trouble for the Bears. 

No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech (South)

Time: Sunday, 6:10 p.m. ET


It took a while for both Texas Tech and Arkansas to find their groove in each team's respective matchup. Each game ended in a solid victory setting up a crucial SEC-Big 12 clash. 

What makes this battle so interesting is the clash of tempos. Both defenses rank near the top of their sport. Their offenses are polar opposites. 

The Razorbacks look to push and score every possession. Defense leads to offense and their offense leads to offense. The Red Raiders aren't afraid to slow it down (similarly to Virginia from three seasons ago) and ride through their defense to carry them. 

No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 6 USC (West)

Time: Monday, Time TBA (afternoon)


Had it not been for a huge second half from David McCormack after being out for weeks due to COVID-19 protocols, Kansas would not be in this contest. They're going to need him again to deliver if they're going to want to slow down the Trojans. 

Evan Mobley has USC in a prime position for an upset and are a popular pick to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Mobley has been able to alter games on both sides of the court and is a sure-fire top-three pick in next season's NBA Draft. 

There are a ton of talented basketball stars in this contest, this one could shape up to be the best matchup of the round. 

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 10 Maryland (East)

Time: Monday, Time TBA (early evening)


A high-powered offense against a stifling defense meet in the Second Round. Alabama boasts one of the best offenses in the country. Down the stretch they've been nearly unstoppable in the latter half of the season.

But the team that the Crimson Tide are facing already stopped a pretty strong offensive team. The Terrapins made the Connecticut Huskies, and James Bouknight in particular, look silly during stretches of that contest. Maryland has length across all positions and is best-suited to be able to defend a team with guards stationed around the arc. 

It actually has a sneaky upset pick written all over it if -- and it's a big if -- the Terps can match the firepower enough.

No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 13 Ohio (West)

Time: Monday, Time TBA (evening)


Creighton barely got past the No. 12 seed UC Santa Barbara, so No. 13 Ohio should have a great shot to be the double digit seed that makes the Sweet Sixteen. 

The Bluejays did not look like a fifth-seeded team when playing the Gauchos in the First Round. There were several offensive lulls and inconsistencies that had the result in jeopardy. Had it not been for some clutch buckets by Marcus Zegarowski, they may not be here. 

With one of the better offenses in the country and a phenomenal inside-outside punch of Jason Preston and Ben Vander Plas, Ohio is back in the Second Round. Already knocking off Virginia, the Bobcats are facing another team that has been on its heels of late.