Ben Fadden’s 2020-2021 NCAA Final Four Forecastby Ben Fadden November 25, 2020 1 comment
The NCAA College Basketball season gets underway on Wednesday. Who is best positioned to make a run during the 2021 tournament in Indianapolis?
This is going to be a college basketball season like none other, and it gets underway the day before Thanksgiving. Games have already been postponed (including Duke’s season opener), so expect for that to continue as COVID-19 seems to be getting worse as we head into the winter season.
It is not clear if the NCAA will make it a regular 64-team tournament (68 including the play-in games) or decrease the number of teams significantly since the tournament will be held in only one city (Indianapolis).
Making predictions is harder than ever as we go into an unpredictable season that may or may not end with a national champion, but only time will tell.
My Final Four Predictions (in alphabetical order)
Gonzaga enters the season as the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25, and deservedly so. Mark Few is leading a group of hungry players led by Drew Timme and Anton Watson. Those two will look to replace Killian Tillie (who graduated) and Filip Petrusev (who went to play overseas), which is certainly a difficult task.
One thing that favors Gonzaga is that they play in the West Coast Conference, which is not very competitive outside of perhaps BYU and Saint Mary’s in a good year. Gonzaga will win their conference with ease and get some time to prepare for the tournament. Their season gets off to a tough start though with a top-10 matchup on Thanksgiving against sixth-ranked Kansas. The Jayhawks are also itching to get back on the court after the cancellation of the 2020 tournament.
John Calipari can never be counted out when it comes to making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Immanuel Quickly and Tyrese Maxey are going to be missed on the floor but two talented freshmen are coming in to replace them. BJ Boston and Terrence Clark are going to be scoring options on the wings for Coach Calipari, one should not anticipate Kentucky struggling much once the team gets some games under their feet.
Jay Wright last won the tournament in 2018, but could very well end up with another when it is all said and done this season. Four of his five starters are returning, led by forwards Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels. The two combined for more than 21 points and 15 rebounds per game last year.
Cole Swider is projected to slide into the permanent starting spot after making more than a handful of starts last season. The 21-year-old forward is 6-foot-9 and has the ability to make up for some of the production that will be lost without the presence of Saddiq Bey.
Virginia enters the season as the No. 4-ranked team in the nation. They are technically the reigning national champions after cutting down the nets in 2019 and the absence of a tournament in 2020. Third-year guard Kihei Clark figures to be the leader of the Cavaliers this season after starting all 30 games last year for Tony Bennett. Clark is coming back for his junior season after averaging 10.8 points in his sophomore year while leading the team in assists per game (5.9).
Sam Hauser is the other Virginia starter to watch, as he is entering his redshirt senior season after transferring from another basketball powerhouse in Marquette. During the 2018-2019 season at Jimmy Butler‘s alma mater, Hauser averaged nearly 15 points a game with 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in more than 32 minutes on the floor.
Virginia looks like they will be battle-tested going into the tournament and therefore may have an advantage over the rest of the field as they have a challenging non-conference schedule, including matchups third-ranked Villanova, No. 13 Michigan State, and Florida.
My four teams eliminated in the elite eight: Baylor, Duke, Iowa, Kansas
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