Here’s how this year’s Big Dance will play out, according to our computer simulation.

We ran the numbers through The DPI Gradebook’s computer simulator to find out who will win the national championship. Based on 100,000 simulations of each individual game, we produced a DPI Forecast for the score of all 67 games based on possession and scoring data from this season. Using those results, we penned some imaginary recaps, and voila! — we created a snapshot of one way the tournament might go down.

Of course, all of this is just for fun and to get your imagination working. Got an issue with something in here? Well, don’t worry — it’s not real.

Just sit back, have fun, and enjoy the DPI Forecast of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

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First Four

(16) Norfolk State def. (16) Appalachian State 74-68: The MEAC Tournament champions take down the Sun Belt automatic qualifier behind a big game from dynamic scorer Devante Carter.

(16) Texas Southern def. (16) Mount St. Mary’s 68-64: Damian Chong Qui puts up serious numbers for MSMU, but Texas Southern’s experience and strength gives the Tigers the edge.

(11) Drake def. (11) Wichita State 75-70: The Shockers overcame a tumultuous offseason to win the AAC regular season title, but a few big plays down the stretch from Joseph Yesufu seal the deal for the Bulldogs.

(11) UCLA def. (11) Michigan State 75-69: January, February, Izzo, sure. But Tom isn’t making it to April. The Spartans are out of gas after pushing hard down the stretch for a bid, and Mick Cronin’s Bruins unexpectedly bust out of a four-game losing streak.

First Round

(1) Gonzaga def. (16) Norfolk State 87-69: This one is over within the first 10 minutes of the game, but the Zags irk bettors by failing to cover the point spread thanks to Mark Few sending in the second unit straight out of the halftime gate.

(8) Oklahoma def. (9) Missouri 76-73: In one of the most evenly contested matchups of the first round, the Sooners prevail thanks to a late go-ahead putback from Brady Manek and some clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch.

(12) UC Santa Barbara def. (5) Creighton 73-71: Marcus Zegarowski and Co. jump out to an early lead, but Gauchos star JaQuori McLaughlin gets hot and keeps things close. One of the shining moments of the tournament comes when Devearl Ramsey becomes an unlikely hero thanks to a buzzer-beating shot to sink the Bluejays.

(4) Virginia def. (13) Ohio 75-70: Ohio’s Jason Preston reminds the nation once again why he is one of the best overall players in the country, but the Bobcats can’t take down the reigning champions. Sam Hauser has his best game of the tournament, leading the Cavs with a 20-point double-double.

(3) Kansas def. (14) Eastern Washington 73-71: The Jayhawk faithful get a major scare in the first round as they figure out how to play without Jalen Wilson, but Christian Braun nails a few key three-pointers down the stretch to keep the Big Sky champions at bay.

(6) USC def. (11) Drake 71-70: Evan Mobley’s shot isn’t falling like it usually does, but the Trojan big man shows why he took home the Pac-12 defensive player of the year honors, making two key blocks on Drake’s final possession, sealing a close victory for USC.

(10) VCU def. (7) Oregon 72-70: Bones Hyland puts the Rams on his back and carries VCU into the second round, though a Chris Duarte-led comeback from Oregon keeps things interesting until the very end.

(2) Iowa def. (15) Grand Canyon 76-74: The Hawkeyes may have been caught looking ahead to a possible rematch with Gonzaga, and fall into an early hole when Luka Garza gets into early foul trouble. Garza comes out strong in the second half and finishes with 34 points as Iowa narrowly avoids infamy.

(1) Michigan def. (16) Texas Southern 76-70: Without Isaiah Livers, the Wolverines aren’t quite as potent as usual, and a 25-point game from Michael Weathers keeps Texas Southern in it throughout, but this one is never as close as the final score indicates.

(9) St. Bonaventure def. (8) LSU 79-76: In one of the best games of the first round, the A-10 champions are able to keep up with the Tigers’ speed, helping the Bonnies send Cam Thomas and LSU packing.

(5) Colorado def. (12) Georgetown 75-67: Patrick Ewing did great work to get the Hoyas back in the Big Dance, but Colorado’s defense and size in the frontcourt neutralizes Georgetown’s attack.

(4) Florida State def. (13) UNC Greensboro 75-71: Isaiah Miller has a good game despite being hounded by Seminoles freshman Scottie Barnes all day. It keeps the Spartans close, but they are never able to get over the hump against Leonard Hamilton’s team.

(14) Abilene Christian def. (3) Texas 72-67: The rims are much kinder to the Wildcats in this one with Texas going completely cold from beyond the arc. Clay Gayman hits four threes in the first half to set the tone, and Joe Golding’s team pulls off one of the upsets of the tournament.

(6) BYU def. (11) UCLA 78-73: The Cougars don’t have too much trouble with this game, as Alex Barcello ad Caleb Lohner lead the BYU offensive attack.

(7) Connecticut def. (10) Maryland 71-67: James Bouknight gets some much-needed support from Tyrese Martin as the Huskies’ successful first year back in the Big East continues for at least one more game.

(2) Alabama def. (15) Iona 73-70: Rick Pitino almost did it. Twitter was going crazy. Nobody was quite sure if they wanted the upset or not, but it didn’t end up mattering as Jaden Shackelford hits a buzzer-beater to send the Gaels home.

(1) Baylor def. (16) Hartford 78-64: A balanced attack from Baylor’s trio of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and MaCio Teague puts this game away early.

(8) North Carolina def. (9) Wisconsin 71-70: It’s not a very pretty game, but the North Carolina bigs are able to dominate on the boards, and a Day’Ron Sharpe tip-in is the difference.

(12) Winthrop def. (5) Villanova 75-73: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl does everything in his power to try to avoid this upset, but without Collin Gillespie leading the opposing attack, Winthrop makes a lot of people look smart, pulling off the popular 12-5 upset pick.

(13) North Texas def. (4) Purdue 69-65: In the upset that far fewer people saw coming, North Texas guard Javion Hamlet becomes a star, while fans in West Lafayette are left to wonder what might have been.

(11) Utah State def. (6) Texas Tech 68-67: The kings of losing close games, Chris Beard’s squad has trouble neutralizing Neemias Queta inside, and a Mac McClung buzzer-beater rims out.

(14) Colgate def. (3) Arkansas 79-76: The Raiders make the NET look really good by slashing the tires on the Muss Bus and knocking out the Razorbacks early.

(10) Virginia Tech def. (7) Florida 72-71: Keve Aluma makes a number of big plays in the post after Colin Castleton fouls out late in the game, sending the Hokies into the second round.

(2) Ohio State def. (15) Oral Roberts 86-78: The Golden Eagles may have the nation’s leading scorer in Max Abmas, but their porous defense can’t stop the Buckeyes for long.

(1) Illinois def. (16) Drexel 77-70: The Illini go cold for a stretch to let Drexel climb back into this game, but Cam Wynter and the Dragons fall short of making history.

(8) Loyola Chicago def. (9) Georgia Tech 72-64: The last time we saw the Ramblers in the NCAA Tournament, they were making a miraculous Final Four appearance. After leading for the entire game and putting away the ACC Tournament champs, Chicago starts bracing for another run.

(5) Tennessee def. (12) Oregon State 74-64: The Volunteers’ defense stifles an Oregon State offense that wore itself out just getting here and can’t hit its shots with any consistency.

(13) Liberty def. (4) Oklahoma State 74-70: Everyone in America (except for Liberty fans) is disappointed as the most exciting player in the country — OSU’s Cade Cunningham — is sent packing after a first-round upset.

(6) San Diego State def. (11) Syracuse 75-68: Jim Boeheim’s zone defense doesn’t give the Aztecs too much grief, as Jordan Schakel shoots the lights out on the way to a comfortable win.

(3) West Virginia def. (14) Morehead State 74-69: Deuce McBride is on full display as the Mountaineers end the March dream for the Ohio Valley tourney champs.

(7) Clemson def. (10) Rutgers 66-64: The Scarlet Knights are able to reach the tournament for the first time in decades, but their stay is short as Clemson’s defense makes the difference.

(2) Houston def. (15) Cleveland State 81-58: One of the few blowouts of the first round; the Cougars dominate this game on the offensive and defensive ends.

Second Round

(1) Gonzaga def. (8) Oklahoma 86-71: The well-oiled machine that is Gonzaga runs into very little resistance from the Sooners, as Drew Timme makes mincemeat out of Brady Manek in the post.

(12) UC Santa Barbara def. (4) Virginia 68-67: The Cavaliers’ season started with an upset at the hands of a Californian mid-major, so it’s only fitting that it should end the same way.

(6) USC def. (3) Kansas 72-69: After David McCormack gets into foul trouble, Evan Mobley takes over and carries the Trojans into the Sweet Sixteen on his back.

(2) Iowa def. (10) VCU 78-75: It’s another close battle for Fran and the Hawkeyes, but Jordan Bohannon makes all the clutch shots we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him.

(9) St. Bonaventure def. (1) Michigan 71-70: The Wolverines’ worst fears are realized as the Livers injury contributes to an early exit despite Michigan looking like title contenders just weeks ago.

(5) Colorado def. (4) Florida State 74-73: McKinley Wright etches himself even deeper into Colorado lore as he leads the Buffs past Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles.

(14) Abilene Christian def. (6) BYU 72-70: Kolton Kohl and Matt Haarms make for a fun battle of seven-footers, and Joe Golding earns himself a Power 5 job by getting ACU into the Sweet Sixteen.

(2) Alabama def. (7) Connecticut 74-71: The Tide continues to roll with a win over UConn that puts Alabama into the second weekend and leaves them as the best remaining team in the region.

(1) Baylor def. (8) North Carolina 82-70: The Baylor bigs are not intimidated by the Tar Heels’ frontcourt, and their experienced guards easily outplay a young UNC backcourt.

(12) Winthrop def. (13) North Texas 69-67: The Eagles are in the Sweet Sixteen on the back of a Chandler Vaudrin triple-double against fellow double-digit seed North Texas.

(14) Colgate def. (11) Utah State 73-69: The Aggies can’t get their three-pointers to fall, so while Neemias Queta has a huge game, he’s the only one. The Raiders’ hot shooting sends them through.

(2) Ohio State def. (10) Virginia Tech 75-74: The Buckeyes have looked a little shaky of late, but they are able to hit their free throws down the stretch and stave off the Hokie upset.

(8) Loyola Chicago def. (1) Illinois 71-67: The Ramblers’ magic is back! Maybe it’s thanks to Sister Jean being in attendance. It’s hard to say. But the Land of Lincoln belongs to Loyola.

(5) Tennessee def. (13) Liberty 68-67: The Volunteers thought they were lucky to avoid Cade Cunningham, but they get their money’s worth out of Ritchie McKay’s dangerous Flames.

(6) San Diego State def. (3) West Virginia 76-71: Matt Mitchell makes plays on both ends of the court in a comeback win that leaves Bob Huggins grizzlier than ever.

(2) Houston def. (7) Clemson 75-58: The Tigers’ anemic offense can’t get a word in edgewise against Kelvin Samson and the Cougars, as Houston continues to dominate.

Sweet Sixteen

(1) Gonzaga def. (12) UCSB 82-71: After two easy victories in the first and second rounds, the Zags get a little trouble from McLaughlin and the Gauchos, before eventually winning by double-digits like always.

(2) Iowa def. (6) USC 78-77: The Hawkeyes are proving to have fate on their side as they survive yet another one-possession game, setting up a long-awaited rematch with Gonzaga.

(9) St. Bonaventure def. (5) Colorado 69-67: Mark Schmidt has his Bonnies on the doorstep of a Final Four for just the second time in program history thanks to a close win over Colorado.

(2) Alabama def. (14) Abilene Christian 72-71: The Wildcats come tantalizingly close to reaching the Elite Eight in just their second-ever Big Dance, but Nate Oats and Alabama spoil the party.

(1) Baylor def. (12) Winthrop 79-72: The Eagles maintain respectability by keeping it close with Baylor, but Scott Drew’s squad has little trouble dispatching Winthrop and moving on.

(14) Colgate def. (2) Ohio State 82-76: In the shocker of the tournament, the 14th-seeded Raiders are heading to the Elite Eight on the back of hot shooting from sixth man Jack Ferguson.

(8) Loyola Chicago def. (5) Tennessee 66-61: The Volunteers can’t find an answer for Cameron Krutwig on defense, and Tennessee’s somewhat-toothless offense finally catches up with them.

(2) Houston def. (6) San Diego State 74-65: Following massive wins over Cleveland State and Clemson, Houston faces its toughest Big Dance test in SDSU, and passes with flying colors.

Elite Eight

(1) Gonzaga def. (2) Iowa 90-81: Just like when these teams met the first time, the country is treated to an offensive spectacle. But the trio of Kispert, Timme, and Suggs proves too potent for Iowa to handle, and the Zags make it to the Final Four unscathed.

(9) St. Bonaventure def. (2) Alabama 72-70: Our true Cinderella team comes in the form of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, thanks to the herculean efforts of their starters, who play more combined minutes than any other top five in the country.

(1) Baylor def. (14) Colgate 80-77: Colgate comes ever-so-close to making history as the lowest seed to ever make the Final Four, but Jared Butler flips that switch (you know the one) and wills the Bears to victory as he has on multiple occasions.

(2) Houston def. (8) Loyola Chicago 69-63: Sister Jean will not get to cheer on the Ramblers in another Final Four, as the stifling defense of Houston is able to shut down Krutwig, forcing Porter Moser to rely on more unproven assets.

Final Four

(1) Gonzaga def. (9) St. Bonaventure 80-71: The Zags are able to (relatively) cruise into the national championship, and Twitter becomes awash with complaints that Gonzaga made it to the national title game and still didn’t play anybody. Gonzaga fans continue to roll their eyes.

(2) Houston def. (1) Baylor 77-73: The Cougars prevail in this intrastate matchup that pits one of the country’s top offenses against one of the best defenses in America. Fans who were already incredibly disappointed that we didn’t get Gonzaga-Baylor in the regular season are apoplectic.

National Championship

(1) Gonzaga def. (2) Houston 80-78: Despite the chorus of complaints that this is not the title game that college basketball “deserves” — and definitely not the one that CBS wanted — it actually turns out to be one of the most closely contested finals in recent history. In the end, though, all of the hard work that Mark Few and Gonzaga have put in for decades finally pays off with a national title and starring role in the One Shining Moment montage.

Andrew Dieckhoff
Andrew Dieckhoff

Editor/Writer, Heat Check CBB |
Creator, The DPI Gradebook