After not having the NCAA Tournament last year due to COVID, everyone is excited for March Madness this year. We are set to have a full 68-team field after fears of the field being narrowed due to the virus, and that is the best sign yet that things are returning to normal. It’s been the most tumultuous regular season in the history of the sport due to the wave of postponements and cancellations, but we have seen some teams emerge as strong contenders to win it all.
Mark Few and Gonzaga might finally win their first national championship this year. The Bulldogs have to be considered the top team to beat heading into the NCAA Tournament. They went undefeated in the regular season and are a perfect 26-0 entering March Madness after winning the West Coast Conference Tournament over BYU. They knocked off Iowa, Kansas, West Virginia, and Virginia during the regular season, and they defeated St. Mary’s and BYU three times in WCC play.
Gonzaga has four of the best players in the country in forwards Corey Kispert and Drew Timme and guards Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi. All four starters are extremely efficient shooters, averaging at least 11 PPG while making at least 50 percent of their baskets. That has the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy, and they are making a dizzying 63.9 percent of their two-pointers.
A regular season game between Baylor and Gonzaga had to be called off due to COVID, depriving us of what would have been the best game of the year and a potential national championship preview.
Baylor has been the second-best team in the country all year. The Bears only loss came against Kansas in Lawrence, and they are 21-1 entering the Big 12 Tournament. They are the best three-point shooting team in the country (42.9 percent), and these guards do a great job applying pressure and forcing turnovers. Baylor ranks third nationally in turnover percentage and steal percentage as Jared Butler might be the best two-way player in college basketball. Butler is averaging 17.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, and 2.1 SPG while making 49.3 percent of his field goals and 44.4 percent of his treys.
The Juwan Howard experiment is paying off immensely for Michigan. There were plenty of naysayers when the Wolverines announced that one of the former members of the Fab Five would be coaching the team, but they are in contention for a No. 1 seed entering the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan ranks sixth in offensive efficiency and fifth in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy. The Wolverines have been the top team in the toughest conference in the country, but they did end the regular season with losses in two of their last three games.
Hunter Dickinson is one of the top big men in the country with 14.3 PPG and 7.7 RPG. He is making 59.6 percent of his field goals, and he is a defensive presence in the paint too.
Florida State Seminoles
Leonard Hamilton has slowly turned Florida State into a perpetual contender in the ACC. The Seminoles used to be known as a football school, but Hamilton has outperformed his colleagues on the gridiron over the last five years. FSU had perhaps its best team yet under his watch last season, and this team is once again elite in 2020-21.
In the past, FSU was known for its defensive intensity. These Seminoles are known for the ingenuity on offense. They rank 10th in offensive efficiency, and they are the 13th best three-point shooting team in the nation. The interior defense is great with FSU ranking among the national leaders in two-point field goal percentage and blocks, so this team could be primed to make a real run.