College basketball fans around the globe have been chomping at the bit for the 2021 NCAA Tournament to begin, especially since the global pandemic cancelled last year’s Big Dance. Though a few teams had their share of Covid-19 headaches last week during the conference tournaments, all things seem to be in order for the Big Dance to start on Thursday as scheduled. Who are the favorites to take home this year’s championship? Here is a closer look at each of the #1 seeds that were announced last Sunday night.
#1 Seed in the West Bracket: Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-0)
The Zags made college hoops history by becoming the first team in 45 years to come into the NCAA tournament with a perfect record (espn.com). The last team to accomplish such an astounding feat was the 1975 Indiana Hoosiers, who were led by coach Bob Knight. Can Gonzaga win this year’s title and stay perfect just like that ‘75 Hoosiers team?
Gonzaga led the entire country in scoring with an average of 92.1 points per contest (NCAA.com). What is impressive about the Bulldogs is that they share the basketball really well. In fact, even though Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring, their highest scorer is forward Corey Kispert who only ranks #37 in the country in points per game (19.2).
#1 Seed in the South Bracket: Baylor Bears (22-2)
The Bears made school history by becoming the only Baylor squad to make the Big Dance as a #1 seed. Baylor’s offense was explosive all year long as they averaged 84.4 points per game. Baylor will be a scary team for anyone to play as the Bears only losses were to a red hot Kansas team and a Cade Cunningham led Oklahoma State team. (Side note: Cunningham is likely to be the #1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft)
The Bears are led by junior guard Davion Mitchell who is great at distributing the basketball with 5.4 assists per game. Also, do not forget about the other junior guard, Jared Butler. Butler is 11th in the country in three point percentage making nearly 43% of his shots from long distance!
#1 Seed in the Midwest Bracket: Illinois Fighting Illini (23-6)
Don’t let the Illini’s six losses fool you as Illinois’ schedule was one of the toughest in the country (USA TODAY). Illinois played 19 games against Top 50 teams and posted an impressive 14-5 record. The Illini beat Ohio State in overtime to capture the Big 10 championship.
What makes Illinois so tough? Quite frankly it is the Illni’s ability to shoot the lights out that scares most teams. In fact, Illinois ranks 6th in the country in field goal percentage as they make almost 50% of their shots.
#1 Seed in the East Bracket: Michigan Wolverines (20-4)
Wow, two #1 seeds from the same conference! That shows us how good the Big 10 was this season! Juwan Howard has done a tremendous job of returning Michigan to the upper echelons of college hoops. It is definitely fitting that a former Fab 5 member would lead the Wolverines back to glory.
Like their other Big 10 counterpart Illinois, Michigan can really shoot the rock (48.34% field goal percentage). Senior guard Mike Smith knows how to find the open shooters with his 5.4 assists per game.
Wrapping It Up
So, who has the edge in this year’s NCAA Tournament? All four of these #1 seeds have a decent chance at bringing home the championship hardware! Get those brackets filled out soon hoops fans! We are almost there!