Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert reacts to hitting a basket against Norfolk State during the first half of a men’s college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
- Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert has emerged as the favorite to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player at +450
- Kispert’s teammate Drew Timme has the second-shortest odds at +500, while Baylor’s Jared Butler (+600) and a third Zag — Jalen Suggs (+800) — are also in the mix
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this prop
Naismith and Wooden Award favorite Luka Garza of Iowa, along with fellow first-team All-Americans Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State and Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois, have all been eliminated from the 2021 NCAA Tournament. That leaves remaining first-teamers — Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert and Baylor’s Jared Butler — as the top-two betting favorites to capture March Madness’ Most Outstanding Player award.
The last time a player earned the honor while playing for a team that didn’t win the title was Hakeem (then known as Akeem) Olajuwon for the 1984 Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Courgars — who lost to Georgetown in the national championship game. Prior to that, it’s happened ten other times between 1939-1966.
So, it’s highly likely a player on the team that cuts down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium April 5 will win the award. According to the NCAA Tournament championship odds, Gonzaga is the team that will do that. But is there anyone else who could beat out Kispert, Timme or Suggs? Let’s handicap the 2021 MOP race.
2021 March Madness Most Outstanding Player Odds
|Player||Odds to Wn 2021 MOP|
|Corey Kispert (Gonzaga)||+450|
|Jared Butler (Baylor)||+500|
|Drew Timme (Gonzaga)||+600|
|Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga)||+800|
|Cameron Krutwig (Loyola Chicago)||+900|
|MaCio Teague (Baylor)||+1300|
|Davion Mitchell (Baylor)||+1500|
|Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga)||+2000|
|Hunter Dickinson (Michigan)||+2000|
|Quentin Grimes (Houston)||+2000|
|Herbert Jones (Alabama)||+2000|
|Franz Wagner (Michigan)||+2500|
|Evan Mobley (USC)||+3000|
|Jahvon Quinerly (Alabama)||+3000|
|Jaden Shackelford (Alabama)||+3000|
|Mike Smith (Michigan)||+3000|
|Moses Moody (Arkansas)||+4000|
|Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova)||+4000|
|Chris Duarte (Oregon)||+5000|
|Buddy Boeheim (Syracuse)||+8000|
|Eli Brooks (Michigan)||+8000|
|Justin Moore (Villanova)||+8000|
Odds as of March 23 at DraftKings.
If you think this is Gonzaga’s tournament to lose — and there’s a strong case to be made for that school of thought — it narrows the MOP betting pool down dramatically.
The Bulldogs have beaten every opponent they’ve faced except for one by double-digits this season, the lone exception coming in an 87-82 win over West Virginia on Dec. 2. Now at 28-0 and just four wins away from the program’s first title, the Zags would be the first No. 1-overall seed to win the NCAA Tournament since the 2007 Florida Gators.
Corey “Can’t-Miss” Kispert hits another one for @ZagMBB 🙌@corey_kispert has 3️⃣ 3s on the day
(via @marchmadness) pic.twitter.com/oXQAPWU2fO
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 22, 2021
Let’s start with Kispert, as DraftKings does. The senior forward from the Seattle area leads the team in scoring with 19.2 points per game, He scored 23 points in a 98-55 first round blowout over Norfolk State and 16 in the Bulldogs’ 87-71 Round of 32 victory over Oklahoma. But, at +450, is Kispert the best value with other talented Zag options?
Like Kispert, Drew Timme has only scored in single-digits once this season. But the 6-foot-10 sophomore from the Dallas area is having a slightly better Big Dance than his WCC Player of the Year teammate so far.
Drew Timme has passed Luka Garza for KenPom Player of the Year. pic.twitter.com/SWkRJCbhAs
— Steven Karr (@SKarrG0) March 23, 2021
Timme scored a career-high 30 points and matched his career best of 13 rebounds Monday to help the Zags advance to the program’s 10th-straight Sweet 16. That’s coming off a 10-point, six-rebound and five-assist outing against Norfolk State. But at +500, Timme’s value still isn’t that great.
That’s why I’m focusing on Suggs and Ayayi in this spot. If you look at the history of the MOP, for every Anthony Davis and Kemba Walker, there’s a Tyus Jones and Donte DiVincenzo.
When Jones helped Duke capture the 2015 title, he was the Blue Devils’ fourth-leading scorer (behind Jahlil Okafor, Quinn Cook, and Justise Winslow). DiVincenzo held a similar status for the 2018 Wildcats finishing as Villanova’s third-leading scorer (behind Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges).
The crazy thing about this Gonzaga men’s team is there’s going to be a different player of the game every round. Kispert in the 64. Timme in the 32. Suggs or Ayayi in the Sweet 16??
— Sports Sica (@Sports_Sica) March 22, 2021
With attractive +800 and +2000 odds, respectively, Suggs and Ayayi are better plays here. As uber-talented players on a deep team, all they have to do is have a big game at the right time.
Like the Gonzaga quartet, the Baylor trio would be the logical play. But, again, I’m looking for value here. That’s why Dickinson (+2000) and Moody (+4000) are intriguing plays.
Michigan may have been considered the weakest of the No. 1 seeds entering the tourney. But all the Wolverines have in their way to the Final Four are an inconsistent Florida State team (that lost three of five down the stretch entering the Dance), No. 11 seed UCLA (who had to play a First Four game), and No. 2 Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are formidable — but beatable. Plus, there’s a history of freshman big men (see AD in 2012 and Pervis Ellison in 1986) winning the MOP.
Meanwhile, Moody’s Razorbacks have a similar path to a potential title game appearance. Knock off No. 15 Oral Roberts, upset Baylor, then beat any team that emerges from a wild Midwest in the National Semifinal — and, all of a sudden, the 6-foot-6 freshman guard that leads the team in scoring is in the title game.
When it’s said and done, Gonzaga feels like a team of destiny. That makes a player like Suggs — taking all factors into account — the best bet to win the 2021 MOP.
The pick: Jalen Suggs (+800)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.