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The opening of this year’s NCAA Tournament promised a fresh start for men’s college basketball.
The opportunity to rise from the pandemic and offer fans a chance to witness the games again is a good start for the season. However, as games progress and teams move from court to court, several teams are slowly backing out as the shadow of Covid-19 still lures. Despite this, experts have carefully chosen the top 4 teams that fans and basketball fanatics should watch out for.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are currently the number one seed with 11 straight-round wins from the start of the season. As the team proved themselves to be undefeated, this placed them up as the top pick for both fans and experts and is expected to win this season’s tournament.
Bettors are also choosing the Zags for their bets as the team’s championship predictability is cemented with the combination of the team’s roster and votes.
Earlier this year, Corey Kispert of the Zags, won this year’s West Coast Conference Player of the Year. Not only that but Gonzaga also won four out of five individual awards from the conference. Mark Few, the Zags’ long-time coach, also won the Conference Coach of the Year.
Another team member, Jalen Suggs, won the West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year and the West Coaster Conference Tournament MVP. And lastly, Andrew Nembhard won the West Coast Sixth Man of the Year.
The team’s current credentials already proved to be helpful in their predictability to win this year, and we can only hope for the same with other teams.
The Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines garnered a position this season as one of the top 4 teams to win. As the team’s prediction to land in the top seed, Michigan’s proved themselves to be worth noting in the tournament.
Despite this, they prove to be unpredictable when it comes to their ranking streak, with losing and gaining the second and third spots. This does not erase the fact that they sure are a notable team.
The team’s roster also proves unbeatable with the inclusion of star-studded members. Freshman Hunter Dickinson aided the Wolverine’s rise to the top this season. Another team member who is a notable addition to the roster is Mike Smith, who trained with Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat.
Also gracing this team with his talent is Juwan Howard, a former Michigan Wolverine, as head coach.
But we cannot erase the fact that one of their team members, Isaiah Livers, recently suffered an injury and contributed to the loss of Michigan’s postseason. Still, we can be just as hopeful that they can pick themselves up before the end of the tournament.
The Baylor Bears
The Baylor Bears proved everyone wrong by their actions this season. Having to place themselves among the top 4 is enough to garner this team’s predictable outcome for the championship. Earlier in the season, Baylor and Michigan went in a battle for second place, but this fight both led the teams in the top 4 for the season. The team also won their first regular season, breaking a drought of 71 years since their last.
Baylor came from a long way of games to secure their current rank. They are also a crowd favorite, gaining at least 40% votes for the final games despite their hiatus from the games due to Covid-19 issues; this didn’t remove the bears as a pick for experts.
Let’s not forget Baylor’s roster, with Jared Butler picking up the lead in assists and steals. Davion Mitchell, who is currently The Big 12 player of the year, leads the highest score in shoots. With this deadly combination, the Bears will be quite a fight to Wolverines and the Zags.
The Illinois Fighting Illini
The Illini were not expected to reach the top seeds, but here they are. They are joining alongside Gonzaga, Michigan, and Baylor. This is the first time they reached the top since 2005 — a straightforward late bloomed Cinderella story in the making. Star player, Ayo Dosunmu, leads the Illinois roster as the shining hope for Illinois with his offense, enough for the team to garner popularity among games. Kofi Cockburn also brings the bacon for Illinois with his near-perfect dunks that Illinois hasn’t seen in 70 years. I guess it’s what you get for being 7ft tall.
We might have these teams in mind for the win, but we never really know who the winner will be like in any other basketball game. Yes, Gonzaga is on the top right now, but we know what happened with them before in 2017. Michigan’s and Baylor’s fans are also rooting for the top prize, and who knows, a Cinderella win, a comeback, is what might happen this season. For now, we can only read the updates and hope for the best for each team.