Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Because the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing in the United States anytime soon, the NCAA announced recently that the entire 2021 NCAA Tournament will be held in one location – from the First Four through the Final Four. That site is expected to be the greater Indianapolis area as that city was set to host the Final Four in early April as it was, and it’s a very centralized location in the country.
A final decision should be made fairly soon and means that 13 sites across the country will no longer host a preliminary round of the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA has to ensure the 2021 Big Dance goes off because the organization (and schools) lost hundreds of millions of dollars last year when it was canceled. The NCAA makes most of its money off the Big Dance as it has no part of the College Football Playoff.
So which team will be cutting down the nets on the night of Monday, April 5 (again, assuming the date and location stay the same)? Oddsmakers favor Gonzaga (+650), which is the top-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25. This could easily be the best team Coach Mark Few has had in Spokane and he landed the school’s highest-ever ranked recruit in freshman Jalen Suggs.
Gonzaga, which had impressive wins in Florida last week against No. 6 Kansas and Auburn, has been one of the most successful programs in the country over the past two decades but has yet to win it all. The 2016-17 team was the only team in school history to reach the national championship game, losing 71-65 to North Carolina.
Villanova is a +1000 second-favorite to win its fourth national title overall and third in the past six seasons (although only the past five NCAA Tournaments since there wasn’t one in 2020). Coach Jay Wright again turned down NBA overtures this offseason and brought back four of five starters from the 2019-20 team. The Wildcats already have had some coronavirus-related scheduling issues but did handle No. 18 Arizona State last week. They also were upset by Virginia Tech.
Baylor is +1200 to win it all for the first time and the Bears have also had some scheduling issues. Coach Scott Drew tested positive for COVID-19. We should find out this week, hopefully, how good the Bears are as they will face No. 5 Illinois on Wednesday and Gonzaga on Saturday, both in Indianapolis.
Illinois (+1400) and Kentucky (+1800) round out the title favorites.