The race to March Madness is in full swing. With not much time until a bracket is revealed, teams are scrambling to ensure they are included in the field on Selection Sunday. Tracking bubble teams can be fun, but there is always a sense that there are only a few teams that truly have what it takes to cut the nets down by the first Monday in April. The odds to win March Madness reflect this when looking at who has that realistic dream.
2021-22 March Madness Title Contenders
8. Duke Blue Devils
This list wouldn’t be complete without Duke appearing. Say what you will about the status of the ACC this season, Duke has been as consistent as it gets in a league of inconsistency. The bottom line is that Mike Krzyzewski was always going to have his team in the conversation during his last year before retiring from the sport. Freshmen Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels have given Wendell Moore the support needed to be a dangerous trio. Duke’s defense is what usually gets the job done, biding time for the Blue Devils to get the looks they want on offense.
7. Baylor Bears
The defending champions cannot be counted out when ranking March Madness title contenders. It hasn’t been as easy for the Bears this season, but nothing comes easy when you play in the best conference in the country. The injury bug has not been kind to Scott Drew and company this season, but when Baylor is firing on all cylinders they can suffocate you in every facet of the game. The Bears are one of the best offensive rebounding teams out there, wearing opponents down before going on scoring bursts that can ice games away.
6. Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue has been a surprise, if just a small one, in the Big Ten this season. While all eyes were not on Matt Painter’s men at the beginning of the season, they certainly are now. Jaden Ivey alone can carry Purdue, but when you have a duo inside that consists of Trevion Williams and Zach Edey as well, the Boilermakers can be tough to stop on offense. This is especially true if they are hitting their three-pointers because then opponents have to figure out how to defend the arc and the paint at the same time. Good luck knocking Purdue out of the field in that case.
5. Kentucky Wildcats
John Calipari has taken slack over the years for his use of the one-and-done system in building teams at Kentucky. However, his use of the transfer portal has paid dividends this season. Oscar Tshiebwe is a legitimate candidate for National Player of the Year, averaging double-doubles nightly. His ability to crash the glass is unmatched across the nation. Throw in sharpshooter Kellan Grady with heralded freshman TyTy Washington, and Calipari has a team that can be taken seriously in March Madness for the first time in a few years.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
After an early exit in March last season, Kansas is looking more like the team they are expected to be on the national stage each season. It all starts with Ochai Agbaji and his 20 points per game average. He is the tip of an offense that can run teams out of the building quickly when it catches fire early. The Jayhawks benefit from a veteran-laden lineup that has been through the rugged Big 12 and March Madness process a few times. There is not much the players on this team haven’t seen, and that will benefit them on their quest to bring another title to Lawrence.
3. Auburn Tigers
Auburn is back in a big way this season after serving a self-imposed postseason ban in 2020-21. The Tigers lifeblood is Jabari Smith, a future lottery pick in the NBA who can do just about anything on a basketball court. However, he has a great supporting cast with the likes of Wendell Green, K.D. Johnson, and Walker Kessler, making Auburn one of the deepest teams in the country. The Tigers are not far removed from the program’s first Final Four back in 2019, but they have bigger dreams than that heading into March Madness.
2. Arizona Wildcats
Excitement in Tucson for a men’s basketball team has not been this high since the Lute Olsen days, and rightfully so. In year one of the Tommy Lloyd era, he already has a team that is dreaming of cutting down the nets. The breakout of Bennedict Mathurin this season has been a revelation, but he is just one of many international stars making waves for the Wildcats this season. Arizona shares the ball better than any other team in the country. When they start picking opponents apart with their passing, the score can get lopsided in a hurry.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Perhaps there will be less pressure on Gonzaga this season with the Bulldogs entering March Madness with losses already. Of course, there is always pressure on a program that has come so close to winning a title in the past five years. Once again, the formula is there to bring the trophy home for the first time with Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren holding things down. Add in reliable guard play from Andrew Nembhard and you get a team that will be tough to overcome. Gonzaga is the team to beat heading into the greatest tournament in all of sports.