March Madness 2021: Complete Odds and Final Four Picks for NCAA Tournament

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2021

March Madness 2021: Complete Odds and Final Four Picks for NCAA Tournament

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    All of the fanfare and tradition around March Madness is fun but, ultimately, the tournament's chief purpose is to whittle the field of 68 down to the Final Four and crown a champion. 

    The 2020-21 season has forged many contenders with impressive resumes. Gonzaga is undefeated. The Big Ten has four top seeds in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State. Then there's Baylor who made it through the season with just two losses in a competitive Big 12 conference. 

    The opening days of the tournament are among the most fun in all of sports. The upsets that will occur in the first two rounds and buzzer-beaters will dominate headlines as fans either watch their brackets collapses or shoot to the top of their pools. 

    But winning the office pool will ultimately come down to getting the Final Four correct. In nearly every scoring format the reward for getting those points far outweighs getting every single 12 over 5 upset in the first round correct. 

    As we descend into the madness, here's a look at the teams with the best odds to hear One Shining Moment followed by a Final Four pick for each region. 

Championship Odds

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press
    • Gonzaga +205
    • Baylor +500
    • Illinois +700
    • Michigan +800
    • Iowa +1700
    • Alabama +2000
    • Houston +2000
    • Ohio State +2000
    • Oklahoma State +2700
    • Texas +3300

    Complete odds list can be found at DraftKings Sportsbook.

West: Gonzaga

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Sometimes the chalkiest pick is the best pick. 

    The Bulldogs are the favorite to win the whole thing for good reason. They have looked like the best team in the country throughout the season and even though they've played a questionable WCC schedule, they also hold wins over Kansas, Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia. 

    Add in two wins over BYU and they've done more than enough to prove there won't be an issue in terms of stepping up to better competition. 

    They have the most talented trio in the country with complementary roles in Corey Kispert, Drew Timme and Jalen Suggs. They're flanked by an experienced group, making them nearly upset-proof. 

    Iowa brings a lot of firepower to the tourney but their defense could be an Achilles heel. They're 50th in defensive efficiency, per

    Virginia's slow pace could be enough to pull the upset against the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16 but they don't have nearly the offensive output needed to hang. Same story with Kansas, they are 59th in offensive efficiency. 

    Gonzaga has the track record and road to safely make it to the Final Four. 

East: Alabama

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The East is a little more open with Isaiah Livers' injury for Michigan. The Wolverines are the top seed and would have been the easiest pick to win the region if it weren't for his injury. 

    Michigan is still a dangerous team with NBA talent and a balanced roster. But even for the best teams advancing to the Final Four requires you to be at the top of your game and their potential is hampered by his foot injury.

    The rest of the contenders have flaws beyond injury issues. Alabama is great defensively but can stall out in the half-court at times. They have the second-best defense according go to KenPom's metrics but the offense is reason for concern. 

    Texas is coming off a Big 12 tournament win.  But they've run hot and cold all season. A 3-6 stretch in January and February makes them a little untrustworthy. 

    If you're looking at bracket-busters who could really destroy brackets, the 8-9 matchup between LSU and St. Bonaventure is the one to watch. St. Bonaventure is KenPom's 25th-ranked team while LSU just gave Alabama fits in the SEC Championship Game. Either could give Michigan problems in the round of 32. 

    Ultimately, Alabama stands out as the most trustworthy of the bunch. Led by a trio of seniors in John Petty Jr., Herbert Jones and Jordan Bruner, the Tide have a deep, talented squad that could make good on their No. 2 seeding. 

South: Ohio State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The South is another region where the top seed has been compromised by circumstances outside of their control. The Baylor Bears had the best regular-season outside of Gonzaga but it was marred by a three-week break forced by the coronavirus. 

    Since then, the previously unbeaten team has taken two losses. The most concerning was its loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 semifinal. The Bears were up two with just three minutes left to play and ended up losing by nine. 

    They won't have a ton of time to get things sorted out in the tournament, either. An intriguing matchup between either North Carolina or Wisconsin awaits them in the second round. The Badgers could be especially tricky. They have a senior-laden lineup and are 10th in overall KenPom efficiency. 

    If there's a region that could completely fall apart it's this one. Villanova is coming in wounded against Winthrop in the first round. Purdue is a shaky four seed. They are turnover-prone and not spectacular when it comes to shooting the ball (33.5 percent three-point shooting). 

    Arkansas is intriguing but they could be on upset alert facing a great three-point shooting team in Colgate in the first round. But they do have a star in Moses Moody supported by a veteran group in upperclassmen JD Note, Justin Smith and Jalen Tate. 

    Ohio State has a good draw to make a run. They're an elite offensive team who might not even have to play the biggest threats in the bracket. If Colgate upsets Arkansas and Wisconsin upsets Baylor, the Buckeyes could wind up making a run without seeing any of the top seeds. 

    The Buckeyes are a decent three-point shooting team who gets to the line more than anyone in the region other than Texas Tech. The defense isn't always great but their offensive firepower should cover for that on their way to the Final Four. 

Midwest: Illinois

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Big Ten was the toughest conference in all of college basketball this season. It only makes sense the winner of the conference tournament would be a strong contender to make the Final Four. 

    The Illini boast the dynamic duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Dosunmu's return to the lineup from a facial iinjury puts them at full strength and firing on all cylinders going into the postseason. 

    Illinois is deadly on both sides of the court. According to KenPom they are one of only three teams that are top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (joined by Gonzaga and Michigan). 

    They're 18th in effective field goal percentage and 20th in free-throw rate meaning they should be a little more durable when it comes to avoiding offensive droughts that can sink a tournament run. 

    Houston could pose a threat but they don't have the shooting you'd like to see from a Final Four pick. That's usually a way you could describe West Virginia but this year, the defense isn't scary enough to make their so-so offense an imposing threat. 

    The biggest threat to Illinois at this point might be Oklahoma State. The Pokes have Cade Cunningham to lean on and upset Baylor in the Big 12 tournament. But their penchant for letting bad teams hang around (they lost to TCU twice) could come back to bite them. 

    Illinois is the clear pick in this region as the most complete team who is playing really well right now.