Final Four Predictions 2021: Picks, Best Odds to Win National Championship

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 15, 2021

Final Four Predictions 2021: Picks, Best Odds to Win National Championship

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    It should come as no surprise that the Gonzaga Bulldogs are the favorites in every NCAA men's basketball tournament category.

    Mark Few's team has the shortest odds to win the national championship (+205; bet $100 to win $205) and reach the final four (-230), and its path to the national semifinals appears to be fairly easy compared to those of the other No. 1 seeds.

    The three other top seeds could face some difficulty joining Gonzaga in the Final Four since some potentially tricky matchups await the Baylor Bears, Illinois Fighting Illini and Michigan Wolverines.

    Although Illinois will be one of the favorite non-Gonzaga selections to win it all, it faces the most difficult run to the Final Four, with challenging matchups expected to begin in the round of 32.

    While all of the No. 1 seeds could be intriguing Final Four and title picks, other programs must be considered since multiple top seeds landed in the national semifinals in just three of the past 10 years.


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West Region: Gonzaga

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    Let's get the easy and most obvious Final Four pick out of the way first.

    Gonzaga has been the most consistent and dominant team in men's basketball this season, and its draw sets it up for an easy run to the Final Four.

    A handful of programs trending in the wrong direction are littered across the top half of the West region, and Gonzaga owns victories over the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds.

    There could be a team or two out there that discovers a way to contain Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme and Corey Kispert, but that will not happen until the Final Four, if at all.

    The Iowa Hawkeyes have had defensive issues throughout the season, and they conceded 99 points to the Zags on December 19. The Kansas Jayhawks and Virginia Cavaliers may not be at full strength depending on which players are available following positive COVID-19 tests. Even if they are at 100 percent, Gonzaga has a blueprint to beat both programs from nonconference play.

    The Creighton Bluejays, Oklahoma Sooners and Missouri Tigers have all struggled in recent weeks. That is something Gonzaga could take advantage of to run out to early leads and not sweat the final result.

    Although other teams have better prices to win it all, Gonzaga is the safest bet you can make since its value will go down as the field gets smaller.

East Region: Texas

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Michigan could have a hard time navigating the East region without Isaiah Livers on the floor. The team's second-best scorer is out indefinitely with a foot injury, and the Wolverines lost the first game without him in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

    The Wolverines should have enough firepower to get into the Sweet 16, but the three other top seeds in their bracket could make a strong case to advance to the Final Four.

    Shaka Smart's Texas Longhorns (+2000 to win championship, +450 to make Final Four) could be the smartest play in a region that also includes the Florida State Seminoles and Alabama Crimson Tide.

    Texas is one of the most battle-tested teams in the nation, as it went 11-6 in the Big 12 and won its conference tournament over the red-hot Oklahoma State Cowboys. In Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Matt Coleman, the Longhorns have an array of high-scoring guards who can keep up with whomever their opponent is.

    Texas also possesses a commanding big man in Jericho Sims, who has three doubles-doubles in his past four games. Sims is capable of winning a head-to-head showdown with Michigan's Hunter Dickinson, and his rebounding prowess could take away second-shot opportunities for Alabama in a potential Sweet 16 showdown.

    Texas also holds an edge on the bench, as Smart is the only coach of a top-four seed in the East Region to have reached the Final Four. He did so with the Virginia Commonwealth Rams in 2011. Michigan's Juwan Howard played in the Final Four, but he has not been there as a coach yet.

    The combination of red-hot play, a well-rounded roster and Smart's NCAA tournament experience should propel Texas into the Final Four.

South Region: Arkansas

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Baylor has the second-best odds behind Gonzaga to win the title (+500) and reach the Final Four (-134), but it will not get a chance to represent the Big 12 on the sport's biggest stage.

    The Arkansas Razorbacks should be the play out of a South Region that also features the Ohio State Buckeyes and Villanova Wildcats.

    Arkansas is an intriguing pick to make the final four at +800 (and to cut down the nets at +5000) because of its fast-paced style of play.

    Eric Musselman's team scored 75 points or more in seven contests during its recent nine-game winning run, which ended in the SEC tournament semifinals.

    In the past six games, Arkansas has had at least one player reach the 25-point mark on five occasions. If Moses Moody, JD Notae or another scorer gets hot in the next few weeks, the Razorbacks could ride the hot hand to the Final Four.

    Arkansas will be a difficult potential Elite Eight foe for Baylor because of its offensive prowess. It has four players who average more than 10 points per game. The Razorbacks also proved they could grind out wins against top opposition, as they held the Alabama Crimson Tide to 66 points on February 24.

    If Arkansas' guards can match the output of MaCio Teague, Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, it could win the potential regional final and land the SEC a spot in the Final Four.

Midwest Region: Illinois

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The best game of the tournament could be the prospective Sweet 16 showdown between Illinois and Oklahoma State.

    That matchup would pit two of the nation's best scorers against each other in Ayo Dosunmu and Cade Cunningham.

    However, the difference-maker in that game could be Kofi Cockburn, who has the potential to dominate every paint matchup he faces in the NCAA tournament.

    In the Big 12 tournament final, the Cowboys failed to contain Texas' Sims and lost the rebounding battle by nine.

    Cockburn is a wider and more dominant inside threat than Sims, as he averages 17.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. If he controls the interior against Oklahoma State, Illinois could eliminate its top challenger in the Midwest Region and earn a Final Four berth one game later.

    Dosunmu and Cockburn are the headliners of the lineup, but Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller have come on of late to make the Illini a more complete team.

    Since Michigan is dealing with a key injury and Baylor does not have a paint presence as strong as Cockburn, Illinois should present the toughest matchup to Gonzaga.

    The oddsmakers put Illinois at +700 to win the national title and +150 to make the final four. While they are not the best numbers, they still carry value and may end up as the best plays on the March Madness board.


    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from

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