Early Betting Odds and Top Contenders for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2021
The NBA Draft 2020 is now over and the best young players will join the strongest basketball league in the world. The next generation will take their place in college basketball and we get to watch them for at least a year before they move on to the big boys.
The NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball starts on November 25 and the main goal of each team will be to qualify for March Madness. The leading betting sites have released their early odds for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2021 and it’s time to analyze them.
Here’s what the odds look like just prior to the new season starting.
As you can see, there are no clear favorites and that’s normal at this stage. There are plenty of strong teams and many new players will enter college basketball. On top of that, a lot will change from now until March.
And yet, we know enough for most teams to make some assumptions on what to expect from them. Let me share my analysis of the top contenders.
Villanova Wildcats – the Usual Suspects
I don’t think anyone is surprised to see Villanova as the main favorite of the betting sites. The Wildcats won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments twice in the past four editions and they have kept most of the core from last season.
The only notable miss will be Saddiq Bey who joined the Brooklyn Nets, but I’m sure that the Villanova head coach Jay Wright will find a way to replace him.
The Wildcats will welcome Bryan Antoine back after he was redshirted because of an injury last year and this is one of the teams that always attracts top talent, so watch out for Villanova once again.
Kentucky – the Other Wildcats That Deserve Attention
Some people might be surprised by the fact that a team that just lost three players who will join the NBA is ranked that high. Kentucky should be significantly weaker next season after Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, and Nick Richards were drafted to the NBA.
Dreams realized ?— SportsDayHS (@SportsDayHS) November 19, 2020
South Garland's Tyrese Maxey (@TyreseMaxey) has been selected by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2020 #NBADraft
✍️: @CallieCaplan #PhilaUnite pic.twitter.com/nGnSrEgJ4u
The thing is, the Wildcats have attracted two freshmen that are already projected to be in the 2021 lottery. Terrence Clarke and BJ Boston are two of the top prospects that will join college basketball this season. And with a coach like John Calipari, Kentucky should be up there with the best.
Illinois – the Illini Are Ready to Fight
One of the teams that lost no players in the NBA 2020 Draft is Illinois. The Fighting Illini will have all of their athletes from last season, and that makes them one of the contenders for a top spot in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2021.
The return of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn for another year is a huge boost to the college’s chances. The team has plenty of depth and leadership, with no obvious weaknesses on display.
Illinois managed to add some fresh faces too. Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo are both top 50 recruits, so the Fighting Illini looks like one of the country’s strongest teams at this point.
Gonzaga – Old Guns and Young Studs to Lead the Bulldogs
Not many people expected a 31-2 record from Gonzaga last season, but the Bulldogs looked excellent. They have plenty of experienced players on their rosters and have recruited well before starting the new season.
Head coach Mark Few has all the ingredients for a strong run in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Many specialists have ranked the Bulldogs first in their power rankings and for a good reason.
If I have to select my personal favorite at this very point, it would be Gonzaga.
Iowa Hawkeyes – One More Year of Luka Garza
The ambitions of Iowa for the upcoming season heavily depended on Luka Garza’s decision whether to join the NBA Draft 2020 or not. Last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year will stay with the Hawkeyes after all, and that’s enough of a reason to put them on the list of likely winners.
The team is full of veterans with plenty of experience, but also acquired five promising freshmen for 2021. Most of them look athletic and strong on defense, so I expect a lot of physicality from Iowa.
This is a college that could put anyone under pressure right now and that will be invaluable in March.
Baylor Bears – One of the Strongest Backcourts in the Country
Another college that will benefit from all key players returning from last season is Baylor. The Bears have an excellent backcourt that is the backbone of this team.
Their guards can control the tempo and keep the ball moving well, so Baylor’s offense has immense potential. Head coach Scott Drew certainly has the credentials to help his players reach their ceiling. I expect big things from the Bears in the 2020-21 season.
To be fair, I believe their chances are not as big as the teams I already highlighted, but I might be wrong.
Duke Blue Devils – Coach K and Some of the Best Recruits AGAIN
Another team that is traditionally strong is Duke. I won’t bother explaining who the head coach Mike Krzyzewski is and I know most of you have heard a thing or two about the guy.
He’s one of the best in the history of college basketball and the Blue Devils have one of the top recruitment programs out there. They have again attracted top talent to replace the three players going to the NBA and I have no doubt that they will develop them properly.
Backing Duke would be a gamble because the team will have to build chemistry from scratch, but with Coach K at the helm and so much talent at his disposal, I wouldn’t bet against the Blue Devils.
The Rest of the Bunch
I’ve shared my analysis of the top candidates for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament 2021 based on the latest odds, but there are plenty of teams that could steal the show in the spring. Colleges like Michigan State, Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas, Tennessee, and several others certainly have the potential to beat the opposition.
I would advise you to watch out for them during the college basketball season and see how they all develop in the build-up to March Madness.
More College Basketball Odds
The odds for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Division 1 winner in 2021 are not the only ones available for college basket. The latest betting options can be found at any of our recommended sportsbooks.
We have also been publishing a ton of related content on our college basketball blog. This includes previews of all the big conferences and other useful posts that can help you get an idea of what to expect next season.