You won’t find a more respected or trusted college basketball analyst than ESPN’s Jay Bilas. And that’s why Rutgers fans should pay close attention to Bilas’ bracket projections for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Rutgers, the No. 10 seed in the Midwest, faces No. 7 Clemson on Friday. Bilas’ pick? Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights are better than their record. The Big Ten has beaten up a lot of teams, but Rutgers is bruised and better for it. Ron Harper Jr. is a go-to scorer who has length and body balance and can make NBA jumpers. With guards Geo Baker and Jacob Young, Rutgers has scorers alongside Harper who can attack off the dribble and pitch it back in transition, which is great action to watch for. Montez Mathis provides versatility on both ends. He runs the floor, defends and pursues the ball. Myles Johnson is one of the best interior defenders in the country, blocking shots and getting steals and deflections in the post. Johnson has come a long way, literally and figuratively, being from California and developing into such a good player. He can be a difference maker.

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That would have Rutgers moving on to face Houston in the round of 32. Bilas projects the Cougars, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, will beat No. 15 Cleveland State in the first round.

And that’s as far as Rutgers makes it in Bilas’ bracket. He projects Houston to beat the Scarlet Knights in the second round.

This is a really intriguing game, but the offensive rebounding and defense of Houston will send the Cougars on to the next round — barely.

For what it’s worth, Bilas has Houston losing to No. 3 West Virginia in the Sweet 16. Bilas then has the Mountaineers losing to No. 1 Illinois in the Elite Eight.

Bilas predicts Illinois will beat Baylor in the Final Four but lose to Gonzaga in the title game.

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