Way-Too-Early Final Four Predictions for 2020-21 Men's CBB Season
Though the opening months of the 2020-21 men's college basketball season may be rough, the chance to make the Final Four and win a national championship will be an ever-present motivation.
Since the campaign is officially underway, let's predict which programs will be on that final stage.
First, some ground rules. This is strictly for two things: fun and accountability. We could all use a little extra happiness in our lives right now, and predicting the results of a future tournament fits the billing. Plus, it's good for a sportsball writer to have a reference that can be trashed, praised or a little of both at season's end.
Be sure to add your predictions in the comments.
Final Four: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Fifth-year coach Chris Beard has crafted a strong defensive identity in Lubbock. In the last three seasons, the Red Raiders have ranked fourth, first and ninth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
While experience and familiarity are valuable in March, Texas Tech can lean heavily on its system for success.
Good thing, too, because this roster is loaded with transfers.
Mac McClung averaged 15.7 points at Georgetown last season, while Jamarius Burton notched 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game for Wichita State. Marcus Santos-Silva produced 11.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during the last two years at VCU, and Joel Ntambwe averaged 11.8 points for UNLV two years ago.
The aesthetics may not be wonderful in November and December as the newcomers find their place next to Kyler Edwards, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Kevin McCullar. However, the collective talent is built to thrive in Beard's defense-driven system.
Final Four: Villanova Wildcats
If you like three-point shooting, Villanova is your team. The key in 2020-21 is improving that efficiency without Saddiq Bey, a first-round NBA draft pick who knocked down 45.1 percent from deep.
Collin Gillespie returns as the offense's facilitator after averaging 15.1 points with a 35.7 three-point clip and 4.5 assists. Justin Moore buried 39.6 percent from outside, and Cole Swider improved from 28.3 percent as a freshman to 35.2 last year.
Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels will bolster the perimeter, bringing a 36.0 percent clip from his previous stop.
Along with Gillespie and Moore, starters Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels are back. They're highly effective inside the arc, so any improvement on the perimeter would be a bonus.
Brandon Slater and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree will headline the bench unit, and former top recruit Bryan Antoine will bolster the rotation when healthy.
Villanova has the potential to be streaky, but the overall depth should carry the Wildcats.
National Runner-Up: Baylor Bears
Have fun trying to score against this backcourt!
Mark Vital is a two-time All-Big 12 defender, and Davion Mitchell earned that recognition last season. MaCio Teague is known for his offense but is a quality complement on defense, and leading scorer Jared Butler tallied 1.6 steals per game too.
One letdown is the departure of Tristan Clark, a shot-blocking force who struggled to recover from a knee injury and medically retired. While his absence leaves a considerable void, optimism is high for UNLV transfer Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
Defense will be the Bears' strength, yet Butler is one of the most effective playmakers in the nation. He averaged 16.0 points and 3.1 assists last year, hitting 38.1 percent from three-point range.
The reserve unit has a couple of long-range weapons too. Matthew Mayer buried 37.8 percent last season, and Presbyterian transfer Adam Flagler connected on 38.6 percent two years ago.
Frontcourt depth is a reasonable concern, but Baylor's balance in the backcourt can carry the team.
National Champion: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Despite losing Filip Petrusev and three more double-digit scorers, Gonzaga enters the season with a ridiculous roster.
Corey Kispert averaged 13.9 points last season and started alongside Joel Ayayi, who provided 10.6 points and 3.2 assists per game. Drew Timme averaged 9.8 points off the bench with terrific efficiency, converting 61.8 percent of his shots.
They're the foundation of a lineup that added several immediate-impact contributors. Those are Florida transfer Andrew Nembhard, 5-star Jalen Suggs—the highest-rated recruit in program history—and Southern Illinois transfer Aaron Cook.
Nembhard and Cook both averaged 10-plus points at their previous schools. Suggs will probably join the starting lineup with Anton Watson, a top reserve for the Zags in 2019-20.
The Zags should, as usual, breeze through the West Coast Conference before holding a top seed in March Madness.