There will be 353 college basketball programs that start the 2020-21 season with aspirations of winning a national championship. They will have had a little extra time to prepare with the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In reality, 353 is really more like 100, which is really more like 25 that have a realistic chance of winning next year’s March Madness. Much of a program’s chances of winning have to do with the conference from which they hail.

Currently, Gonzaga and Baylor are +800 favorites to win it all in 2021 followed by Villanova and Virginia at +900. Are we in for another blueblood program win or is there a surprise looming?


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North Carolina (+2500) has the most national championships of any ACC school with six. Head coach Roy Williams will rebuild this year and may have his best recruiting class in years.

Duke (5), Louisville (3), and N.C. State (2) are the only other ACC programs to have won multiple titles.

Duke, which is given +1400 odds to win March Madness in 2021, will get transfer Patrick Tape, a 6-10 power forward from Columbia who averaged 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. Louisville is a solid longshot at +3000, but will benefit from a pair of graduate transfers - 6-1 point guard Carlik Jones who was the Big South Player of the Year and 6-4 guard Charles Minlend who averaged 14.4 points a game last year.

Nine ACC teams have never won a national championship.

The Big 12

Kansas is the only team to win a national title from the Big 12 since the conference was formed in 1994. The Jayhawks were favored to win in 2020 before the coronavirus led to the tourney’s cancellation. Kansas is again among the favorites in 2021 at +1100.

The only other Big 12 team to ever win a tournament title was Oklahoma State, which has won two but they were back in 1945 and 1946. Only TCU has never been to a Final Four.

Big East

Villanova, Georgetown, and Marquette are the only Big East teams to win a national title. The Wildcats have three, two of which have come in the past four years (2016, 2018). Butler, St. John’s, and Seton Hall have each made it to a title game.

Only Creighton and Xavier have never reached the Final Four. That could change in 2021 as Bluejays head coach Greg McDermott returns a wealth of talent. Creighton is given the same odds (+1100) as Kansas to win the tournament in 2021.

Big Ten

Indiana has five national championships but none since 1987. Michigan State is the only other multiple title winner. Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin have all won titles but no Big Ten team has won since the Terrapins in 2002.

Nebraska has never even won an NCAA tournament game (0-7). The highest-rated Big Ten team coming into the new season is Iowa (+1000). The Hawkeyes return Big Ten Player of the Year Luke Garza who averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.


Long ago, UCLA was the dominant basketball program in the country. The Bruins own a record 11 national championships.

The last Pac-12 team to win a title was in 1997 when Arizona won its only national championship. The conference hasn’t had a team make the Final Four since 2006.


The SEC is home to Kentucky which is second to UCLA in championships with eight. The Wildcats haven’t won one since 2012 though. Only two other teams - Florida and Arkansas - have won NCAA titles.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari returns a solid nucleus of talent and will add another blue-chip recruiting class. The Wildcats are among the favorites at +1200 to win March Madness in 2021.

The only other SEC team really given a shot to win it all next season is Florida, which won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. The Gators are given +2000 odds in 2021.


It’s hard to think of Gonzaga as a mid-major anymore, but as mentioned, the Bulldogs are one of the favorites to win it all in 2021. The only other mid-major in the mix is San Diego State (+1600) which has been tearing up the Mountain West Conference the past several years.

Bottom Line

As bettors consider the NCAAB futures market, it helps to understand that no mid-major has won a national title since Texas Western (now UTEP) in 1966. Minus Virginia in 2019, the previous 14 March Madness winners have been repeat champions.

Of the last 11 national champions, ten have hailed from either the ACC or the Big East. The only other champion was Kentucky’s title in 2012.

While upsets are great in the early rounds of March Madness, betting on a national champion comes down to favorites. The favorites tend to come from certain conferences, which is why Villanova and Virginia at +900 are the best bets with Duke at +1400 a potential value wager.

About the Author

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.

His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.

When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.

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