2020-21 College Basketball Favorites

Virginia Cavaliers celebrating their 2019 March Madness Championship


Virginia Cavaliers celebrating their 2019 March Madness Championship

Nick McDonald, Staff Writer

With the college basketball season only a few weeks away, it’s time to start looking at who could win it all come March Madness. In no order, these are 10 teams that I think all have a great shot at being the National Champions of March.

Gonzaga – Gonzaga always has an easy path to March Madness, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it because they most definitely do. Gonzaga did lose key players in Filip Petrusev and Killian Tillie, but they should be fine without them and did a great job in bringing in 5-star freshman PG Jalen Suggs, and 4-star freshmen SG Dominick Harris and SF Julian Strawther. They also brought in grad transfer PG Aaron Cook who should make a large impact and return big contributors in SG Joel Ajayi and SF Corey Kispert. With a good mix of veteran experience and young versatility, the Zags should be looking to make a deep run in March Madness.

Illinois – The Fighting Illini have two of the top players in college this year with SG Ayo Dosunmu and C Kofi Cockburn, who could both be potential Naismith Award winners. They are coming off a great season last year going 21-10 and are bringing in much more than they lost; Alan Griffin transferred, but they have a solid recruiting class with 4-stars SG Adam Miller and PG Andre Curbelo, and two 3-stars. This team does have some spacing concerns with not much shooting, but the Illini will rely on Dosunmu and Cockburn to have big seasons and contributions from the incoming freshman will make this team a real contender.

Baylor – Last year, Baylor was bound to be a #1 seed in March Madness, and they should be in a great position to replicate that. They are losing a big part of their team in dominant big man Freddie Gillespie, but I think they should be able to find their way without him. They are returning the rest of their starting 5 with Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Mark Vital, and Butler is a preseason contender for the Naismith Award. They are bringing in talented 4-star freshman in C Dain Dainja and PG LJ Cryer as well as defensive menace grad transfer Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Elite head coach Scott Drew has more than enough talent and is poised to make a big push for a National Championship.

Villanova – The Wildcats are many people’s favorite to win it all in March and for good reason. Besides a big loss in leading scorer Saddiq Bey, who they are going to miss, they have the same team from last year. Senior Collin Gillespie and Sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will be leading this team and are coming off amazing seasons last year. G Caleb Daniels 17ppg grad transfer from Tulane should make an immediate big impact for this team whether it be off the bench or starting as well as Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels will be key contributors. Villanova is always a contender and nothing will be new this year.

Kansas – Head Coach Bill Self should be ready to lead another very talented group to contend for a championship. Losses of Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike will definitely hurt Kansas, but G Marcus Garret, SF Ochai Agbaji, and big 5-star G Bryce Thompson should do just fine leading this team. There is a lot of experience on this team with 4 of the projected 5 starters being upperclassmen. JUCO transfer Tyon Grant-Foster should give some much needed offensive firepower for this team. Agbaji will also need to be a surefire scorer for this team. The Jayhawks will be right back where they were last year, contending in March.

Kentucky – Not a huge favorite as of now, but I think the potential is more than there for Kentucky to make a push. Yes, they lost almost their whole roster last year as 8 players left for the draft or transferred, but they are bringing in the #1 recruiting class headlined by, 5-stars SG BJ Boston and SG Terrence Clarke as well as 4 4-stars. Former 5-star Keion Brooks will have to step up big time and transfers C Oliver Sarr and G Davion Mintz will provide some much-needed experience. John Calipari is obviously an elite coach and if the freshmen can step up to the occasion, this team will be scary. They will have no problem making the tournament, but once they get there, their huge lack of experience could hurt them big time.

Virginia – As technical reigning national champions, Virginia should be looking to keep their crown. They lost big man Mamadi Diakite, but Senior Jay Huff and huge transfer from Marquette in Sam Hauser should fill in nicely; Hauser is one of the best transfers from this year’s transfer portal; he is an offensive beast and should give the Cavaliers the much-needed scoring that they need. With a solid recruiting class with 4-stars SF Jabri Abdur-Rahim and PG Reece Beekman who should both make a nice impact, and returning PG Kihei Clark, this team does not have the talent they did on their 2019 championship team, but can still contend.

Duke – Duke has been a contender for many years and will continue to be a contender for many more, so there is no reason they should not be here. They lost three big contributors in the draft in Vernon Carey, Tre Jones, and Cassius Stanley, but their returning depth and outstanding recruiting class should replace them quite easily. They are bringing in FOUR 5-star players, SF Jalen Johnson, PG Jeremy Roach, SG DJ Steward, and C Mark Williams along with two 4-stars. Returning freshman Wendell Moore and Mathew Hurt should both look to make big leaps from where they were last year. Highly talented transfer Patrick Tape from Columbia will always make an immediate impact. With all the talent and excitement, Coach K will be leading another team to big dreams in March.

Tennessee – After a rough 2020 season resulting from losses to the draft and injuries, the Volunteers will be looking to have a big bounce-back season and have more than enough to do just that. A recruiting class with 5-stars SG Jaden Springer, SG Keon Johnson, and 4-star PF Corey Walker will give them good depth and some excitement for the fans. Losing two important guards in Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden will hurt, but the incoming freshman and Sophomore Santiago Vescovi will help. They will have a very strong veteran frontcourt with Yves Pons and John Fulkerson and transfers Victor Bailey and EJ Anosike will make the team that much better. With the elite talent and depth that this team has, don’t be surprised if we see the Vols as a #1 seed in March.

Iowa – As a Naismith finalist in 2020 and now the favorite to win the award in 2021, Luka Garza and the very talented supporting cast will be fighting to be a-top the competitive Big Ten. Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, and Jordan Bohanon will be right next to Garza leading the Hawkeyes. Although they have no 5 or 4-stars in their recruiting class, the five 3-stars they are bringing in will provide some good depth. Wieskamp and Fredrick can both be lights out shooters and will allow Garza to be at peace without worry of many double teams. Where this team lacks quite a bit is defensively, but with the potential to be the best offensive in college, I wouldn’t worry too much. If the Hawkeyes live up to the hype, look out for them.

There are many teams that aren’t on this list that could very easily be and there is no clear-cut favorite to win it all this year, but I expect it to be a very fun and competitive season to watch and am excited to see which team will be last standing in March.