We are all left with a feeling of discontent after not being able to crown an NCAA men’s basketball champion in 2020. But, to help ease the pain a little, let’s take a look at who are the favorites to cut down the nets in 2021.
While it is a little early, we will make some assumptions on who is coming back, though, with the transfer portal full of guys that could be great pieces on a national title contender, it is still very up in the air.
No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga is pretty much on this list every year, and 2021 will be no different. The biggest question will be if Filip Petrusev returns or goes to the NBA.
If he returns, this team will be the clear favorite to win it all. Corey Kispert will definitely be back, and he was second on the team in scoring to Petrusev. This will be the top 1-2 combo in the nation if Petrusev comes back, which seems likely. The Bulldogs are listed at +900 on most sites.
No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats
While the Wildcats will probably lose three players to the NBA Draft, this team will be loaded again. Immanuel Quickley, the team’s leading scorer, is expected to return, while Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, and Nick Richards are expected to enter the NBA Draft.
We don’t see any of the three being top 10 picks, and at least one might surprise and come back. If they do return, they will be joined by one of John Calipari’s greatest recruiting classes, which is saying something.
BJ Boston, Terrence Clarke, and Devin Askew are all 5-star guards, and Isaiah Jackson, Lance Ware, and Cam’Ron Fletcher will all be contributors up front. The Wildcats are listed at +1000.
No. 3 Creighton Bluejays
This Creighton offense was a joy to watch in 2020, and pretty much everyone is coming back next year. Ty-Shon Alexander, Marcus Zegarowski, Christian Bishop and Denzel Mahoney are all returning and will give opposing coaches nightmares.
If the Bluejays can get a big man in the transfer portal, this team should be a heavy favorite to win the Big East.
No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks
People get tired of seeing Kentucky and Kansas on these lists every year, but the reality is, they never lack talent. Yes, this team loses Udoka Azubuike, but if Devin Dotson comes back, this team would probably go up to No. 2 on this list.
They return Marcus Garett and Ochai Agbaji, and when you add in five-star recruit Bryce Thompson, this is one of the best backcourts in the nation even without Dotson.
No. 5 Baylor Bears
The Bears overperformed in 2020. The truth is, this team is in better shape entering 2021 than they were last year. Scott Drew can coach, and this team returns everyone except Freddie Gillespie and Devonte Bandoo.
If they can grab a Gillespie-type player in the transfer portal, it should be a great battle between Baylor and Kansas for the Big 12 title.
If you are looking for some teams with a bigger return on investment, there are a few good options. Illinois could be a force if Ayo Dosonmu returns. The combo of Dosonmu and Kofi Cockburn could see the Illini (75/1) make a deep tournament run.
Northern Iowa might be this year’s San Diego State or Dayton. They return AJ Green, the best guard you’ve never heard of, and Austin Phyfe. This duo will be juniors and will have the Panthers (100/1) back in contention for a tournament berth next year.