March Madness 2021 Odds: Breaking Down Favorites and Best Bets

Who are the favorites to cut down the nets in 2021? We break down the top teams and the longshot plays bettors need to keep an eye on.

While the COVID-19 pandemic stripped sports fans of March Madness this year, the oddsmakers over at William Hill have been busy focusing on the 2020-21 season. Recently, the sportsbook threw up insanely early betting odds on who will cut down the nets in men’s Division I basketball next year.

There are four teams tied atop the betting board: the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Duke Blue Devils, Kentucky Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks, each opening at odds of 10/1. The Jayhawks finished atop the abbreviated version of the final AP poll released last week.

The 2019 National Champion Virginia Cavaliers slide in at odds of 12/1, with the Baylor Bears slotting in just behind at 14/1. Despite the departure of All-American point guard Cassius Winston, the Michigan State Spartans are being offered at odds of 18/1. However, Tom Izzo and the Spartans took a huge hit when star Xavier Tillman (14.2 pts/gm 10.6 rebs) announced Tuesday that he will be “testing the waters and entering his name in the NBA draft process.”

A pair of Big East powerhouses, Creighton and Villanova, each sit at 20/1, while the Pac-12 team with the lowest title odds is Oregon at 25/1.

Further down the board, Iona is being offered at odds 1000/1 after the program hired one of the biggest names in the collegiate coaching ranks in Rick Pitino.

Favorites

Gonzaga Bulldogs (10/1)

The Bulldogs will lose senior Killian Tillie and could lose key contributors Corey Kispert and Filip Petrusev to the NBA. Even with the loss of the team’s top scorers, Gonzaga should own the West Coast Conference as always.

Mark Few landed his highest-rated recruit ever in guard Jalen Suggs, who was recently named 2020 Minnesota Mr. Basketball.

Gonzaga will be among the top teams in the country once again next season.

Kentucky Wildcats (10/1)

Kentucky could lose up to three key players to the NBA this year with guards Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley as well as forward Nick Richards all likely to leave school early. John Calipari is well prepared should he lose those stars, as the Wildcats are loaded again with incoming five-star recruits led by shooting guard B.J. Boston.

Kansas Jayhawks (10/1)

Kansas was among the favorites to win the national championship this year before the coronavirus pandemic broke and the Jayhawls will most likely be losing both star sophomore point guard Devon Dotson as well as dominant senior forward Udoka Azubuike. Dotson was crushed to lose his dream of an NCAA championship when he took to Instagram.

Bill Self will need to plug some big holes and help is on the way with five-star guard Bryce Thompson arriving on campus next season.

Duke Blue Devils (10/1)

Star sophomore point guard Tre Jones, the ACC Player of the Year this past season, recently declared for the NBA draft, which will hurt Duke’s chances immensely next year.

There’s a good chance Vernon Carey Jr., who was named the National Freshman of the Year on Wednesday, will most likely be joining him at the next level. Blue Devil fans don’t have to worry too much, though. As is always the case, Duke has one of the nation’s top recruiting classes for the 2020-21 campaign.

Value Plays

Creighton Bluejays (20/1)

The Bluejays are easily a potential Final Four contender next year. If star guard Ty-Shon Alexander (16.9 pts/gm) forgoes the NBA Draft and returns to school, then Greg McDermott and Creighton will have one of the best backcourts in the country. Creighton is expected to return star point guard Marcus Zegarowski (16.9 pts/gm). Creighton finished the season 24-7, earning a share of its first Big East regular-season title in school history. The Blue Jays offer tremendous value and will be a dangerous team with a wealth of experience next year.

Villanova Wildcats (20/1)

The Wildcats ended the season playing at an elite level, winning seven of its last eight games, earning a share of the Big East regular season crown with Seton Hall and Creighton. It appears, leading scorer Saddiq Bey could be headed to the NBA, which would no doubt hurt Jay Wright’s chances of a third national championship in the past six years. The Wildcats will bring back a loaded roster, even if Bey decides to jump to the NBA, as most expect him to do.

The key could be Bryan Antoine, a former five-star recruit who barely played this season due to a shoulder injury, with Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels adding another weapon to an already outstanding backcourt that consists of Justin Moore and Collin Gillespie. If Bey did decide to return to play another season on the Main Line, Villanova could easily be the team to beat next season.

Deep Sleepers

Iowa Hawkeyes (30/1)

Iowa is expected to return all of its starters from this past year and none will be more important than star big man Luka Garza, who is up for the Naismith Award this year and is the early favorite for next season.

In the ultra competitive Big Ten conference, expect the Hawkeyes to be one of the top teams both in the conference and the nation next season. Any team with a dominant, experienced player like Garza should get all bettors’ attention as a deep sleeper at such attractive odds.

North Carolina Tar Heels (40/1)

Tar Heels fans were probably among the few in the country that were okay with the season being cut short. In a shockingly bad year, Roy Williams and North Carolina went 14-19 last season and did not qualify for any postseason tournaments. However, 2020-21 figures to be much brighter if star guard Cole Anthony returns to Chapel Hill for another season. Anthony took to social media on Tuesday and said:

If Anthony returns, coupled with the arrival of a top-three recruiting class that consists of three five-star prospects, Carolina could get things turned around in a hurry and compete once again with Virginia and Duke for the ACC crown. 

MORE FROM SI:

Jay Wright on COVID-19 and Possibility of NCAA Adding Fifth Year of Eligibility

Jay Wright Discusses COVID-19’s Effect on Recruiting, NBA Draft Prospects and Tokyo Olympics

Jay Wright Discusses Strength of 2020 Team and Which Villanova Squad Was Better: 2016 or 2018

NFL Super Bowl Odds: Biggest Risers From Start of Free Agency

NFL Super Bowl Odds: Biggest Fallers From Start of Free Agency

Source: Sports Illustrated

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