Final Four Predictions 2021: Picks, Odds and Analysis on Locks for SemifinalsMarch 17, 2021
Final Four Predictions 2021: Picks, Odds and Analysis on Locks for Semifinals
The 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament gets underway Thursday with the First Four matchups. By the first weekend of April, the 68-team field will be down to the Final Four.
March Madness is almost here, and after last year's NCAA tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, college hoops fans are preparing for the most exciting time of the season. Things will look a bit different this March, as the entire tournament is taking place in the Indianapolis area, but there's sure to be plenty of action over the next few weeks.
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Here's a look at the team with the best odds to reach the Final Four in this year's tournament, followed by predictions for the four teams that will make it there.
Top Odds to Reach Final Four
Gonzaga: -230 (bet $230 to win $100)
Illinois: +150 (bet $100 to win $150)
Ohio State: +400
Oklahoma State: +600
Texas Tech: +600
West Virginia: +700
Florida State: +900
San Diego State: +1000
Complete list of odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Illinois Can Ride Momentum to Final Four Appearance
Illinois is one of the hottest teams in the country, and it's been on a roll despite having to face some of the toughest competition. The Fighting Illini have won 14 of their past 15 games, beating eight ranked opponents during that stretch. They took down Rutgers, Iowa and Ohio State to win the Big Ten tournament.
That was the first time Illinois had won the conference tourney since 2005, which was also the last time it reached the Final Four. The Fighting Illini reached the national championship game that year, but they fell to North Carolina in the final game of the season.
As the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region this year, Illinois could be poised to get back to the Final Four. It could have to face No. 4-seeded Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16 and either No. 2-seeded Houston or No. 3-seeded West Virginia in the Elite Eight. But after facing so much tough Big Ten competition over the past month, such as Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa, the Fighting Illini should be up for the challenge.
The duo of junior guard Ayo Dosunmu (20.7 points per game) and sophomore center Kofi Cockburn (17.6) will power Illinois past the rest of the competition in the Midwest Region, and the Fighting Illini will ride their recent momentum to a berth in the Final Four.
Garza Capable of Powering Iowa to Final Four
Not only is Iowa a No. 2 seed in this year's tournament, but it has one of the best players in the country in senior center Luka Garza. And there have been many instances in March Madness over the years of big-time players taking over games and willing their team to deep tournament runs.
Garza has only gotten to play in two NCAA tourney games over his four seasons with the Hawkeyes, both coming when he was a sophomore in 2019. He didn't get a chance to try to lead them on a deeper run last year because of March Madness getting canceled. What better way for the unanimous first-team All-American to end his college career than powering Iowa to the Final Four this year?
Iowa ended the regular season with seven wins in eight games, then opened the Big Ten tournament with a quarterfinal win over Wisconsin. However, the Hawkeyes then lost to Illinois in the semifinals. Garza continued to play well during that stretch, as the 6'11" center is averaging 23.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games, while shooting 54.7 percent from the field.
Of course, if Iowa is going to reach the Final Four, there's a strong chance it will have to get past undefeated Gonzaga, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, in the Elite Eight. But the Hawkeyes have been tested with tough competition in Big Ten play, and they'll rely on Garza to get past the Bulldogs.
Pair of Big 12 Teams Could Join Pair of Big Ten Teams in Final Four
The Big Ten may not be the only conference capable of getting two teams to the Final Four this year. It's also possible they could be joined there by a pair of teams from the Big 12.
Baylor and Texas have each proved capable of success throughout the season. The Bears won the Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time in program history, while the Longhorns won the conference tournament for the first time in its history. Now, both look to end Final Four droughts. Texas last made it there in 2003, while Baylor hasn't reached the Final Four since 1950.
For Baylor, it will need to bounce back from its second loss of the season. The Bears were 22-1 heading into the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament before they were upset by Oklahoma State. They're still a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney, though, and they should be capable of taking down some tough teams, such as No. 2-seeded Ohio State, in the South Region.
Texas won six of its final eight regular-season games, then beat both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on its path to the Big Ten tournament title. As the No. 3 seed in the East Region, the Longhorns may have to beat both No. 1-seeded Michigan and No. 2-seeded Alabama to get to the Final Four. But they're a solid team that still may not have peaked yet this season.
The Big 12 and Big Ten each have numerous strong teams, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see both heavily represented in this year's Final Four.
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