Yes, it’s still early in the 2021 March Madness race. We are still trying to figure out the impact of the coronavirus on college football. It’s still possible the virus impacts college basketball next season.
Hopefully, the season goes off as planned. Without a champion crowned for March Madness 2020, Virginia is still the defending champion and the Cavaliers are among the favorites (+900) to win it all.
At this stage in the race, Gonzaga and Baylor are the early favorites at +800 to win their first NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But, there are a handful of teams on the rise giving bettors plenty of options in the futures market.
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The Badgers were ranked as low as No. 15 in preseason polls, but are nearing the top-5. Head coach Greg Gard has done an outstanding job at Wisconsin since taking over for legendary coach Bo Ryan.
Gard has taken the Badgers to two Sweet Sixteens and Wisconsin was the Big Ten conference champion last year.
The Badgers went 8-0 in the final month of the season and ranked No. 3 in adjusted efficiency. Their starting five might be the best-shooting starters in the country. They shot 41 percent from 3-point range in those final eight games.
They aren’t flashy. Nate Reuvers, a 6-11 forward, is the leading returning scorer at 13.1 points per game. Micah Potter (6-10) is the only other returning player that averaged in double figures.
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In 2019, head coach Rick Barnes took the Volunteers to the Sweet Sixteen.
In 2020-21, he will have four returning starters and adds two five-star recruits to the lineup.
He also adds two graduate transfers – E.J. Anosike, who averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds at Sacred Heart and Victor Bailey Jr., an extremely athletic 6-4 guard who shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range for Oregon.
The Razorbacks have not made it past the NCAA tournament’s second round since Nolan Richardson’s 1995-96 team made the Sweet Sixteen a year after winning the national championship.
Head coach Eric Musselman stepped in last year and promptly went 20-12 in the coronavirus-shortened season. Musselman will take advantage of a number of transfers and that experience should pay off just like it did when Musselman was at Nevada.
Justin Smith (10.4 ppg) transferred from Indiana and will join Jalen Tate (13.9 ppg at Northern Kentucky), Vance Jackson (11.1 ppg at New Mexico), and Connor Vanover (7.5 ppg at California). Isaiah Joe is Arkansas’s leading returning scorer. The 6-5 sophomore averaged 16.9 points a game last year.
Musselman loves his teams to run and shoot 3s, and this team will be able to do just that. The Razorbacks will also be able to go nine or ten deep in their player rotation if needed. It makes Arkansas an interesting longshot wager.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.