College basketball’s best postseason tournament is back. The 2021 NCAA Tournament has started and already given fans everything they could ask for and then some. Top teams have already tumbled out of the bracket as upsets and Cinderellas emerge. And that was just in the first round.

Everyone’s bracket seems to have already busted thanks to some upsets nobody saw coming — looking at you Oral Roberts and North Texas. But as we move forward in tournament play, there’s still picks and predictions to be made, even if your printable bracket is already covered in red ink.

With so much on tap, fans are looking for every edge they can find in making their picks for bracket pools and on individual games. Lucky for them, CBS Sports has some of the best experts in the sport that have been following these teams closely all season long. Our team has taken that expertise and put it on the line with their own bracket picks for fans to use and consider when making their own predictions.

March Madness is here and you can also find the bracket in just about every way possible on your device of choice, which can help you prep for all our Bracket Games as well. Expanded coverage continues all week on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports HQ, our free 24/7 news streaming service that is watchable on any streaming device. 

Gary Parrish, College basketball insider

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Predicted champion: Gonzaga

I’ve had Gonzaga ranked No. 1 in my CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 literally every day since last March, just days after the 2020 NCAA Tournament was abruptly canceled because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. At different times during this season, readers insisted I should switch Baylor to No. 1 or Michigan to No. 1. But I never wavered. 

And there’s absolutely no reason for me to move off of the Zags now. They’re No. 1 in offensive efficiency, No. 10 in defensive efficiency, and No. 4 in tempo. So they’re great on both ends — and they play really, really fast. That’s tough for opponents to deal with. They also have two future NBA Draft lottery picks in Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert. That’s also tough for opponents to deal with. So the bottom line is simple: the Zags are legit and a worthy favorite to win this event. They will be the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976.

Matt Norlander, Senior college basketball writer

Predicted champion: Illinois

I’m feeling the pressure here. I was the only expert in 2019 at CBSSports.com to pick Virginia to win it all. Repeating that kind of soothsaying power, it’s a lot of pressure on a guy. So here’s my thing: this bracket is probably going to offer up some wild upsets in the first three rounds. This is a unique NCAA Tournament, held in one location, still happening amid a pandemic. But I’m going with three No. 1 seeds and one No. 3 because I’ve maintained for two-plus months now that the teams projected on the No. 1 line feel a cut above the rest. I can’t and won’t bring myself to pick all four No. 1 seeds, so I’m taking the one non-No. 1 seed (Texas) that has as much talent as any other 1. 

And in the title game, I’m going with the two best teams in the sport heading into the Big Dance. Gonzaga has the best offense. Illinois is the best combination of offensive acumen and defensive fortitude. Stars galore, with bigs, wings and guards that could make for an epic title game. Asking Gonzaga to win six more games and make history is asking a lot. I’d love to see it. First since ’76. But I am taking Illinois, which has been the best team in college basketball the past three weeks. In doing so, the program makes up for losing in 2005 to UNC – and captures its first national title in school history. Ayo Dosunmu and his masked mojo becomes an all-time legend when he wins Final Four MOP. 

Jerry Palm, Bracketology expert

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Predicted champion: Gonzaga

It’s finally Gonzaga’s time. Mark Few has the best team he’s had in Spokane and they are primed for a run to the title. A final with the Illini would be a blast to watch with all the talent on the floor. And there is a football flavor to these picks. Alabama and Ohio State are also in the Final Four, just like pretty much every year in football.

Kyle Boone, College basketball writer

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Predicted champion: Gonzaga

What’s not to like about these Gonzaga Bulldogs? Two lottery pick talents in Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs. A hyper-efficient bucket in Drew Timme. Balance, and great depth, at every position. They have it all. They led the country this season in scoring margin and are just the 20th team to enter the NCAA Tournament with an unblemished record. I think they’ve got the goods to keep this thing rolling all the way to the finish without a tally in the loss column. It’s a bit chalky, sure, but this is the best team in the game. 

As for a sleeper? How about Arkansas in the Final Four. It opened the season 13-5 overall and in the middle of the pack in the SEC. It then went on to win nine-straight, finishing second in the SEC and earning a No. 3 seed. So unquestionably this team has the goods. I’ve long been a proponent of what this team is capable of, so this is me putting my money where my mouth is. It won’t be easy — this is the same region with No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 2 Ohio State — but between Moses Moody, J.D. Notae and Justin Smith this team has so much talent and length to accomplish what it hasn’t since 1995: Make a Final Four. Woo Pig, baby.

David Cobb, College basketball writer

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Predicted champion: Alabama

The Crimson Tide put to rest the notion that they are ill-suited for a single-elimination tournament by capturing the SEC Tournament crown while shooting just 29.7% from 3-point range in their last two games of the event. So what happens if Alabama starts shooting better than 35% from beyond the arc? It could happen, and if it does, this squad’s unique offensive style could carry it to history. As for Rutgers making the Elite Eight? The Scarlet Knights were robbed of an appearance last season because of the pandemic but have finally made it back to the Big Dance for the first time since 1991. With a favorable draw that features an opening game against a Clemson squad that looked bad in the ACC Tournament, the Scarlet Knights will have a great chance to make some noise. After navigating the Big Ten gauntlet, facing a gritty Houston team in the second round won’t intimidate this squad.

Chip Patterson, College basketball writer  

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Predicted champion: Alabama

The Crimson Tide play at a relentless pace, shoot a ton of threes and defend at an elite level. In an NCAA Tournament that may be mentally exhausting at times because of the strict protocol and bubble-ish existence in Indiana, the last opponent you want to face is Alabama. The Tide want to run, get up in your face on defense and can change the fortunes of a game in three minutes or less if they get hot from 3-point range or force a couple quick turnovers. It’s a blue-collar team that welcomes the grind, and that mentality will pay off during the ups and downs of an unprecedented NCAA Tournament.

Dennis Dodd, Senior writer

Predicted champion: Gonzaga

Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things. The only team that can beat Gonzaga is … Gonzaga. They’ve got everything — backcourt, experience, coaching. And 26-0 isn’t bad either. It looks like the Zags won’t face much push back until the West Regional final against Iowa. Luka Garza will have to be accounted for as well as the pesky Joe Weiskamp. But who am I to pick against the overwhelming favorite? Gonzaga to win it all. Isaiah Livers‘ injury makes Michigan early upset meat in a loaded East bracket. That means if I was taking one team to get Gonzaga I’d take three-seed Texas in an upset out of the East Regional; in one national semifinal. The Horns are on a Cinderella high after winning the Big 12 Tournament. This is the team Shaka Smart has been trying to build for six years.

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Tim Doyle, CBS Sports HQ analyst

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Predicted champion: Iowa

The best state in the United States, Iowa, will be home to this years National Champion! Why is it the best state? Because they care about two things: sports and beer (two things I love too). The Hawkeyes boast the National Player of the Year in Luka Garza and they will be “thrilled” to get out of the gauntlet that is the Big Ten Conference. They have experienced guards, can shoot the three and their defense has clearly improved. They will obviously see Gonzaga in the Elite Eight to go to the Final Four. I guarantee whatever venue they play at will be “packed” with Iowa fans and that spread will between 3-4 points favoring the Zags. Gonzaga won the previous meeting of these two teams 99-88 in December. I’ll take my chances in that game and win that game, the rest is smooth sailing! Go Hawkeyes! 

Get every pick, every play, every upset and fill out your bracket with our help! Visit SportsLine now to see which teams will make and break your bracket and who will cut down the nets, all from the model that nailed 15 of the 26 double-digit upsets the last four tournaments!

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