Warrior Weekly: March Madness favorites going into the final stretch of the regular season

WSPNs Garrett Spooner breaks down the favorites to win the 2021 NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament.

WSPN’s Garrett Spooner breaks down the favorites to win the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is slated to begin on Thursday, March 18, just over a year from when the sports world, including the 2020 March Madness tournament, was shut down due to COVID-19. This year, the majority of schools have been competing without fans; however, for the most part, the schools have been able to play the majority of their games without interruption. About three weeks removed from the tournament, here are the teams I believe will make a deep run.

1) The Gonzaga Bulldogs

As of Wednesday, Feb. 24, Gonzaga is sitting at a 22-0 record atop of the AP poll. To say they have been dominant would be an understatement. While they compete in a rather weak West Coast Conference, they have a few huge victories over the University of Virginia, Kansas, and Iowa. Gonzaga is led by freshman guard Jalen Suggs, who is averaging 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game. Additionally, sophomore forward Drew Timme has broken out for the bulldogs, averaging 19 points and seven rebounds per game. To put it lightly, Gonzaga is a tough matchup for any team in the NCAA Tournament.

2) The Baylor Bears

Baylor, like Gonzaga, is also undefeated going into the final stretch of the regular season. They hold an impressive 18-0 record and are the clear favorites in the Big 12. Baylor has dominated this regular season; they have wins over AP-ranked teams such as Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. In the AP poll, they rank second. The Bears have a very experienced roster, a key piece to do damage in the tournament. Junior Jared Butler is averaging 17 points per game, along with five assists and three rebounds. Baylor has been shut down two times already due to COVID-19 outbreaks, so they must work to keep their team healthy and eligible going into March.

3) The Michigan Wolverines

Michigan has been one of the most pleasant surprises this year in college basketball. So far, they are 16-1 and sit atop of the Big 10 standings, a very difficult feat. Impressive victories for the Wolverines include beating Wisconsin twice and Ohio State once. Against Ohio State, freshman center Hunter Dickinson was unstoppable. He scored 22 points and had nine rebounds against a loaded Buckeye frontcourt. Led by former player Juwan Howard, Michigan has the leadership to keep winning big games.

4) The Florida State Seminoles

The Atlantic Coast Conference has not impressed much this year; however, Florida State is surely an exception. Aside from a COVID-19 shutdown, the Seminoles have not gone wrong in many places this year. They are currently 13-3, with losses coming against UCF, Clemson, and Georgia Tech. While they have bad losses, they have also won big games. Senior guard M.J. Walker scored 17 points and had six rebounds in a win against the University of Virginia. He, along with star freshman Scottie Barnes, will be crucial in the postseason. A huge test will be on Saturday, Feb. 27, at the University of North Carolina. If they win, expect big things from the Seminoles.