While the 2021 edition of March Madness has certainly been dominated by upsets, with plenty of double digit seeds advancing deep in the tournament, it’s still been mostly good to top seeds. The number one overall seed, Gonzaga, covered the spread yesterday in their win over Creighton and they’re favored -9 over USC tomorrow.
That makes them the heaviest favorite of the elite eight round, but Michigan aren’t far behind, as they’re -7.5 against UCLA on Tuesday. So for the two big Pac-12 schools in Los Angeles, it’s going to be a big challenge, against a #1 seed.
Baylor are substantially favored over Arkansas as well, so we might just end up with three of the #1 seeds advancing to the Final Four. Illinois, who crashed out on the first weekend, in extremely disappointing and embarrassing fashion, are the only #1 seed who couldn’t get it together enough to reach this round.
While we had chaos throughout much of March madness, we could really have so-called “chalk” in the end. Gonzaga are playing for truly rarified air, an undefeated season. Michigan have the added motivation of bringing the Big Ten’s two decades plus national title drought to an end.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few described the experience of being a marked team, and a top target from the opposition, all season long “Look, at this point, guys, they’ve shown their competitive spirit,” Few said after a blowout win over Creighton.
“Literally everybody’s been after us since July 1, right?
“Getting everybody’s best shot. So they’re used to that. They always show, and they’re always going to give great effort. And they’re always going to figure out, eventually, find what’s the best way for us to attack on offense, what’s the best way for us to get it done on defense?”
Few then expressed his belief that he’ll be up every night, worrying about how to scout the opposition the rest of the way.
“It’s been an absolute joy to coach, but, yeah, there will be no more good nights of sleep here in the bubble from here on out,” the Zags head man added.
As for Michigan, their head coach is an alum who is synonymous with being a part of the Fab 5, the game changing group of freshmen from the early ’90s, who accomplished things that frosh simply weren’t supposed to do at the time.
Now he leads a group that has a good mix of youth and experience.
“We have Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner, who are very young, and those two guys are starting lineup. It’s been great to coach all the guys, whether it’s upperclassmen or underclassmen,” said Howard.
“Our two younger guys have a high IQ, and it’s been beautiful just to learn from them just as much as our seniors. But we’re grinding, man, and we’re doing it collectively. It’s beautiful just to see the development that’s happening before our eyes.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.Follow paulmbanks