Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) walls off the court following their NCAA college basketball game against BYU Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
- No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed Gonzaga is a heavy favorite to win the West Regional
- Covid-19 issues cloud the futures of No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Virginia
- Check out the odds, analysis, and betting predictions, below
Gonzaga (26-0) is the No. 1-overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and the No. 1 seed West Region. Oddsmakers believe no one else is close. The Bulldogs are +200 to win the tournament at FanDuel and -250 to advance to the Final Four out of the West Region. No other team in the tournament is shorter than +600 to win the title and no other team in the West is shorter than +350 to win the regino.
The Bulldogs are the No. 1 seed in the West for the third time in four seasons, and they likely would have been No. 1 in 2020 had Covid-19 issues not forced the cancellation of the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs were 31-2 a year ago and won the West Coast Conference Tournament.
2021 NCAA West Regional Odds
|UC Barbara Gauchos||+5000|
|Grand Canyon Antelopes||+8000|
|Eastern Washington Eagles||+8000|
|Texas Southern Tigers||+8000|
|Norfolk State Spartans||+8000|
|Appalachian State Mountaineers||+8000|
Odds from FanDuel on March 14.
Gonzaga survived a scare in the WCC tournament finals, although that would not have impacted its seeding. The Bulldogs overcame a 12-point deficit to beat BYU 88-78 in the title game, outscoring the Cougars 47-25 in the second half.
Gonzaga has won 30 straight games over two seasons, since falling at BYU 91-78 on Feb. 22, 2020.
Zags Look to Buck Trend
Gonzaga is the first team since Kentucky in 2015 and 16th overall to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated. It has not gone well for the 0-loss teams recently.
Since Indiana topped Michigan in the 1976 title game, none of previous four unbeatens — 1979 Indiana State (29-0),1991 UNLV (30-0), 2014 Wichita State (34-0) and 2015 Kentucky (34-0) — managed to stay that way. Indiana State was the only one of that quartet to get as far as the finals, losing to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans.
Since 1995, Duke (2001) and Kentucky (2012) are the only teams that entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and won it.
Gonzaga’s 2017 team, its best since the current edition, lost to North Carolina in the 2017 NCAA finals. Both were No. 1 seeds.
Consider the Field Warned
The Zags have already beaten West 2-3-4 seeds Iowa, Kansas, and Virginia during an aggressive non-conference scheduled that also included a date with Baylor that was canceled for Covid-19 reasons.
Drew Timme had 25 points, Jalen Suggs had 24, and Corey Kispert had 23 in a 102-90 victory over then-No. 6 Kansas in the season-opening Fort Myers Tip-Off on Nov. 26. Gonzaga beat then-No. 3 Iowa 99-88 on Dec. 19, when Suggs scored 27 to offset Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza’s 30.
Kispert had 32 points and nine three-pointers in a 98-75 victory over Virginia on Dec. 26.
The Bulldogs, who lead NCAA Division in scoring (92.1 points a game) and field-goal percentage (55.1), shot 64.5% against Kansas, 51.4% against Iowa and 60.3% against Virginia while out-rebounding all three.
Printable 2021 March Madness Bracket – Make Your Picks for the NCAA Tournament
Can Kansas, Virginia Stay Well?
Both Kansas and Virginia withdrew from their conference tournaments after one game because of positive Covid-19 tests, in part because they wanted to ensure their availability for the NCAA Tournament.
The Jayhawks beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday without big man and Big 12 Most Improved Player David McCormack (13.4 points per game), then withdrew Friday morning because another player tested positive.
Virginia, which won the 2019 NCAA Tournament, left the ACC Tournament after a quarterfinal victory over Syracuse when a player tested positive.
The NCAA’s Covid-19 tournament rules stipulate that everyone in the team’s travel party must test negative seven days in a row before being allowed to participate, and contact tracing can lead to quarantines and ineligibility.
Where’s the Value?
It is a fool’s errand to go against Gonzaga, but upsets/injuries/flukes do happen.
As good as Garza is, the Hawkeyes are 1-4 against the best teams on their schedule. They rely on execution and are not particularly athletic, although forward Joe Wieskamp is a nice complementary piece.
No. 5-6-7 seeds Oregon, USC, and Creighton underwhelmed in their conference tournaments, although Oregon has a history of postseason success.
If McCormack returns, a healthy Kansas may be the best long-shot option in this field. After falling out of the AP Top 25 at mid-season, the Jayhawks have won eight of their last nine and are 7-1-1 ATS. They beat Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech in that run, losing only to Texas in overtime. Bill Self’s teams compete, and he has been here before.
The Pick: Kansas (+750)
Jack has covered college and professional sports for various Arizona media outlets and has written for the AP, USA Today and Baseball America, among others. He staffed the 2015-17 World Series and has staffed four Super Bowls.