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March Madness 2021: Which teams are national title favorites?

Gonzaga looks like it has what it takes to bring home the school’s first-ever national title this season. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness is by definition, a crazy time.

It’s about upsets, buzzer-beaters, Cinderella runs and the unthinkable happening. Add in a global pandemic, and there’s little doubt that this will be one of the most insane tournaments ever.

But don’t worry, bracket-makers! We’ve got your back. Through all of the madness, we’re confident that these four teams will rise above the fray, and make a real run at the national title.

If you don’t pick one of these teams to win it all, you’ll regret it.

So let’s settle in, and take a look at this year’s national championship favorites:

Gonzaga.

It feels like we’re saying this every year at this point, but this is probably the most talented team Mark Few has ever had in Spokane.

Gonzaga is still unbeaten at 22-0, and appears poised to become the first team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since Kentucky in 2015.

This squad is big, versatile and filled with talent– led by 6-4 freshman Jalen Suggs, who’s currently projected as the No. 2 overall pick in next year’s draft by NBADraft.net.

Suggs makes his impact felt everywhere on the floor, and his stats back that up (14.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.3 apg). He’s super-athletic, a great shot-maker, has an uncanny ability to get to the basket and needs to be accounted for anywhere he is on the floor. There’s no question he can be the best player on a national championship team.

The Zags also boast a pair of talented bigs in Drew Timme and Corey Kispert, each of whom average 19 points per game. This is a terrific shooting team, and in Mark Few style, it really knows how to share the basketball.

There’s no doubt this could be the year that the Zags’ incredible 20-season, video game Dynasty Mode-type run ends in a national championship.

Baylor.

Like Gonzaga, Baylor may also have a chance to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated. The Bears (18-0) went on a 21-day hiatus after most of their February games were postponed due to positive COVID tests. But they picked things up where they left off, shaking off a rusty start and climbing out of a 15-point hole to knock off lowly Iowa State in their first game back on Tuesday.

Baylor has a daunting schedule down the stretch (they play No. 10 West Virginia twice in addition to No. 17 Kansas and No. 18 Texas Tech), but this team is talented enough to run the table and make the COVID NCAA Tournament one of the most interesting ever.

Much like the Zags, the Bears are big, tough and have a number of different weapons who can beat you. Guards Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell can all fill it up, and they’ve got size and toughness inside with guys like Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Scott Drew has done a remarkable job building this program to this point, and he’s got this group on the verge of doing something special.

Michigan.

A lot of eyebrows were raised when Michigan hired Juwan Howard, a first-time head coach, to replace the legendary John Beilein, but Howard has done a better job than anyone could have imagined right off the bat. He’s got the Wolverines to 16-1, No. 3 in the nation, and with national title odds saying they can take down the two undefeateds.

Howard’s recruiting prowess has been truly impressive, and this team is led by 7-1 freshman center Hunter Dickinson, who’s averaging 15 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 63% from the floor.

But he’s also shown an ability to help develop players, like 6-7 senior Isiah Livers (14.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg), who has grown into a versatile, dynamic scorer and team leader.

Michigan is battle-tested, having just knocked off No. 4 Ohio State, and heads into March looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the country.

Illinois.

Feels like 1989 again right? Michigan and Illinois both have a chance to win it all for the first time since that season, when Kendall Gill, Stephen Bardo and the Flying Illini fell to Glen Rice’s Wolverines in the national semifinals.

This year’s Illinois squad is similarly dependent on two major stars, though maybe more so than any other team in the country. Point guard Ayo Dosumnu is diesel (6-5, 200 lbs)– he’s an athletic freak, and he does it all for this group, averaging 21 points per game. He’s NBA-ready, and should be a lottery pick come summer.

Center Kofi Cockburn is one of the best bigs in the country, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game and providing next-level toughness underneath. He doesn’t miss many days in the weight room either (7-0, 285 lbs). Head coach Brad Underwood is one of the more underrated bench bosses in the country, and he may finally have his chance to earn some national recognition with this squad, which we think will end up (still playing) in Indianapolis in April.

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