There are two dominant questions heading into the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Is this the year Gonzaga finally wins it all?
Or will the Big Ten loosen up and break a 21-year championship drought?
“Man, Gonzaga can score.” That’s the first thing I say every time I see the Bulldogs. Gonzaga leads the nation with 92.1 points per game, and Corey Kispert, Drew Timme and Jalen Suggs are notable offensive players. If Gonzaga finally breaks through, I won’t be surprised.
I think the second question is likely to be answered with a “Yes”.
Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa are Final Four-caliber teams. In fact, the dream of the Big Ten would be to see all those schools run it in Indianapolis for the second time. The Illini won the Big Ten tournament.
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Michigan State is the last Big Ten team to win a national championship. The Spartans broke through in 2000 with Tom Izzo and a spunky performance from SN’s first-team All-American Mateen Cleaves.
Seven Big Ten teams have finished second since then, including Indiana (2000), Illinois (2005), Ohio State (2007), Michigan State (2009), Michigan (2013, 2018) and Wisconsin (2015). Of those seven teams, I always felt that the 2005 Illinois team was the best. Illini fans probably felt the same way about the 1989 team that fell short in the final against Michigan.
That’s how I feel about this year’s team. Of those four Big Ten contenders, Illinois is best suited to win it all. The combination of SN first-team All-American Ayo Dosunumu and center Kofi Cockburn is dominant, and Trent Frazier is the perfect third wheel.
So, I think those questions will collide in the national championship game. Illinois defeats Gonzaga in the national championship game. Should you have confidence in this selection? Well, I chose Virginia to win it all in 2018, and they lost to No. 16 UMBC in the first round. I tried Duke in 2019 and they lost in Elite Eight to Michigan State.
This time I’ll stick with the Big Ten.
March Madness 2021 Support Predictions
Final Four selections
- Florida State
- State of ohio
Gonzaga looks decent, but a showdown with Virginia could test his patience if it comes down to it. Kansas also recalibrates, but it is not enough in the Elite Eight.
Florida State finally makes its way against Michigan in the Sweet 16, and a showdown with Texas in a conference championship weekend runners-up battle follows the path of the Seminoles. Leonard Hamilton finally makes it to the Final Four.
Ohio State and Illinois represent the Big Ten on the other side of the bracket, and the Illini win a fourth thriller between teams in the Final Four.
That puts Gonzaga against Illinois in the final.
National Champion: Illinois
This is the most complete team in the country, and that shines with a career led by those star players. Illinois had teams capable of doing it in 1989 and 2005. This team makes its way into a high-scoring thriller with Gonzaga.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.