Baylor, currently ranked #2 in the AP Top 25 Poll, comes into March Madness as the favorite at +250 odds to win the 2021 college basketball championship. Gonzaga, currently ranked #1 in the nation, is the second-favorite on the March Madness futures board at +275 odds.

March Madness odds college basketball championship 2021 Baylor Gozaga Michigan
Baylor Bears senior guard MaCio Teague points to a teammate who dished him an assist. (Image: Raymond Carlin III/USA Today Sports)

Both teams, Baylor (17-0) and Gonzaga (22-0), remain undefeated heading into the last week of February. Gonzaga was the top-ranked team in the preseason. The Zags remained in the #1 spot in the AP Top 25 Poll this entire season.

2021 March Madness Odds
  • Baylor +250
  • Gonzaga +275
  • Michigan +450
  • Ohio State +1100
  • Villanova +1100
  • Houston +1400
  • Illinois +1500
  • Texas +1700
  • Alabama +1800
  • Florida State +2000
  • Iowa +2000
  • Oklahoma +2000
  • Texas Tech +2000
  • USC +2000
  • Creighton +2500
  • Virginia +2500
  • UConn +3000
  • Virginia Tech +3000
  • West Virginia +3000
  • Wisconsin +3000
  • Kansas +3500
  • Loyola Chicago +4000
  • UCLA +4000
  • Tennessee +4500

Last season, the top-ranked team changed hands like a hot potato, and five different teams held the #1 spot before Gonzaga snagged it in mid-January, only to give it up to Baylor the next week. Baylor suffered a couple of late-season losses in 2020 and Gonzaga regained the #1 spot heading into 2020 March Madness before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Value Picks: Ohio State and Illinois

The Big Ten reestablished themselves as one of the premier basketball conferences. Although they weren’t competing for the top overall spot, two Big Ten teams were early revealed as #1 seeds with #3 Michigan (16-1) and #4 Ohio State (18-5) getting recognition from the selection committee. Don’t sleep on Illinois (16-5) either, who are currently ranked #5 in the latest poll.

Michigan is coached by Juwan Howard, a member of the infamous Fab Five from back in the 1990s. The Wolverines are currently the third-highest team on the futures board at +450 odds. Ohio State is fourth on the board, but there’s a huge drop-off in odds with the Buckeyes at +1100. Meanwhile, you can back Illinois at +1500, which is probably the best value pick on the board.

Mid-Majors: Houston and Loyola Chicago

#12 Houston has put together a heck of a run over the past few seasons. They were 27-8 in 2018, 33-4 in 2019, and 23-8 last season. Kelvin Sampson’s high-flying Cougars are 18-3 this season and in the discussion as the mid-major team most likely to win the championship if they can run good in the tournament.

Houston recently tumbled out of the top 10 when they lost to Wichita State. Keep an eye on junior guard Quentin Grimes. He’s a former starter at Kansas who transferred to Houston last season. Grimes leads Houston in scoring with 16.9 ppg.

Loyola Chicago made a run a few years ago thanks to their biggest fan, a nun named Sister Jean. She acted as the team chaplain and worked into her 90s. At 101-years young, Sister Jean continues to be Loyola’s good luck charm. The Ramblers (19-4) are closing in on 20 wins and finally rank in the top 25. If you’re a good Catholic, you can back Loyola Chicago at +4000 odds, so long as you remember to tithe 10% back to the church!

West Coast Bias

There’s a legit West Coast bias in March Madness. Teams from the West Coast — or located in the Pacific time zone — aren’t usually the champion. Gone are the days when John Wooden and UCLA were perennial championship contenders. Since 1975, only two Pac-12 teams won a championship, with UCLA winning in 1995 and Arizona winning March Madness in 1997.

That West Coast hex in March Madness doesn’t bode well for Gonzaga. They’re trying to become the first team from the modern West Coast Conference to win the NCAA championship. Back in 1955 and 1956, the San Francisco Dons won back-to-back college basketball championships thanks to Bill Russell and KC Jones.

#19 USC (18-4) might have one of the best freshmen in the country with Evan Mobley, but the 7-foot-1 teenager has no idea that he’s trying to fade history. USC hasn’t appeared in the Final Four since the creation of the modern 64-plus team bracket. The Trojans appeared in two Final Fours in 1940 and 1954, back when 16 teams were invited to the tournament. In the modern era, USC’s deepest run happened in 2001 when they went to the Elite Eight. USC is mid-shot on the board at +2000. The Trojans are also one of the favorites to win the Pac-12.

UCLA (16-5) won only one title since John Wooden retired. Mick Cronin’s squad recently fell out of the AP Top 25. UCLA is one of the long shots on the board at +4000 odds to win 2021 March Madness.

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