Which Coach Will Win His First March Madness in 2021?
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
We will never know which team would have won the 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kansas was the favorite, but teams like Gonzaga and Baylor were almost assured No. 1 seeds and would have been fierce contenders.
It would have been nice to see a team like Gonzaga or Baylor win it all to give their respective head coaches their first national championship. In 21 seasons with the Bulldogs, Mark Few has taken Gonzaga to brink but has never won a national title.
Scott Drew’s history is much of the same. The Bears program is a perennial March Madness qualifier now. Drew has taken Baylor to three Sweet Sixteens and even an Elite Eight, but no title.
Not surprisingly, Few and Drew are the NCAAB best bets to win their first national championship in 2021.
Both Gonzaga and Baylor are given +800 odds to win next year’s NCAA tournament.
Few loses West Coast Conference Player of the Year Filip Petrusev, junior forward Corey Kispert, and sophomore guard Joel Ajayi.
Top Seeds = Top Recruiters
It won’t matter. Few has turned Gonzaga into a national power and, as a result, will bring in his first 5-star recruit next season – Jalen Suggs. The Minnesota player of the year, Suggs is a 6-5 do-it-all guard who will step right in and run Few’s offense.
Jalen Suggs, No. 6 recruit in 2020, commits to Gonzaga, shines for Minnehaha | Prep Highlights
Drew is in a similar position. He will likely lose his top two scorers – Jared Butler (16.0 ppg) and MaCio Teague (13.9 ppg) – to the NBA. Drew returns a ton of talent including one of the best defensive guards in the nation in Mark Vital (6.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
The Baylor coach also brings in a Top-25 recruiting class.
If there is a first-time March Madness winner in 2021, it is likely to be either Few or Drew.
Greg McDermott has been a Division I head coach since 2000. The last ten years have been at Creighton where McDermott has routinely produced 20-win seasons. What he doesn’t have is a national championship.
It’s hard to win titles at schools like Creighton, but McDermott’s Bluejays are tough to beat.
Creighton won its first conference title, albeit a co-championship with Villanova and Seton Hall. The Bluejays finished the regular season ranked No. 7 in the nation, tops of all Big East teams.
Like Few and Drew, McDermott loses two stars – Ty-Shon Alexander and Damien Jefferson – to the NBA and Denzel Mahoney (12.0 ppg) transferred to Kentucky.
Still, Creighton returns guard Marcus Zegarowski who averaged 16.1 points and 5.0 assists per game. McDermott will bring in one of the top international recruits in 6-5 guard Rati Andronikashvili. It’s enough to give the Bluejays +1100 odds to win it all in 2021.
One for Huggins?
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins is fifth among active coaches with 879 wins.
His Mountaineer teams are always tough. Huggins will return a large part of his roster in 2021, including his leading scorer 6-9 Oscar Tshiebwe, who will be just a sophomore.
Huggins has been to multiple Final Fours but has never won it all.
At age 66, Huggins doesn’t have many years left. West Virginia is a stretch at +1900 to win the national title, but never count a Huggins’ team out of anything.
There are several veteran coaches that have never won an NCAA championship.
Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, Oregon’s Dana Altman, and Auburn’s Bruce Pearl are just a few. None of those three programs are among the favorites to win next year’s NCAA tourney.
Chris Mack’s Louisville Cardinals are not a favorite either. In fact, Louisville is a +3000 longshot, but Mack is just the kind of coach that could deliver his first-ever national title. He took Xavier to the NCAA tournament in all but one of his nine seasons. Mack took the Cardinals to the Big Dance last year, his first in Louisville.
Mack will lose the best player in the ACC in Jordan Nwora (18.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg), but brings in a strong recruiting class as well as two transfers that will play a big role in trying to give Mack his first March Madness championship.
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.