March Madness

March Madness: Live Coverage of the NCAA Tournament!

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are a clear betting favorite to win the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, as Mark Few’s undefeated group tries to pull off college basketball’s first undefeated season since the  1975-76. The Zags are also expected to own the Tournament Challenge consensus when ESPN’s audience has taken on the exercise to fill out a March Madness bracket — or several brackets. But Gonzaga, which has reached the national championship game only once in its history — and lost — still has its naysayers.

ESPN’s group of men’s college basketball commentators, analysts and writers made their own predictions soon after the bracket was announced on Selection Sunday. Gonzaga was the overwhelming choice, with Baylor and Illinois also receiving strong backing to play their way into the Final Four in April, but ESPN’s bracket selectors also conveyed that strange things can happen in a single-elimination format. A number of unusual — but certainly plausible — choices found their way onto the list. Below we take a look at several trends among the more than three dozen ESPN professionals who made their picks of which teams will reach Lucas Oil Stadium on April 3 — and who will cut down the nets on April 5.

Of the 36 selectors who picked Gonzaga to reach the Final Four, 27 of those have the Zags winning the title. Baylor and Illinois were tied as the second-most popular choice with five selections each, and ESPN analyst Malcolm Huckaby weighed in with the only true out-of-the-box choice: Leonard Hamilton and Florida State holding the trophy aloft at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5. BPI agrees with Gonzaga (23.4%) and Baylor (13.5%) as 1-2 to win the title, but neither the Fighting Illini nor the Seminoles come in at No. 3. It’s Houston — which to reiterate did not elicit a single Final Four pick among our panel — that is BPI’s third-most likely national championship choice at 13.2% (just a fraction behind Baylor). A complete look below at the Final Four and championship picks of all 38 ESPN responders:


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