There is no doubt that basketball remains one of the single most watched sports stateside, while it’s also becoming increasingly popular in nations and regions across the globe.
While it is the NBA that commands the most support and attention in the US, however, America’s college teams are also about to claim their share of the national spotlight. This is thanks to the NCAA Men’s Division Tournament (or ‘March Madness’), which kicked off this weekend and features the country’s best college teams.
You can go to OnlineBookies.info to view the latest odds, while we have outlined the five top teams to watch as this years’ tournament unfolds.
What is March Madness?
Before we list our top five teams coming into ‘March Madness’, it’s important to touch on the country and its history.
Founded in 1939, the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball event is a single-elimination tournament that comprises 68 teams, each of whom competes in seven different rounds for the national championship.
The penultimate round is known as the ‘Final Four,’ when (you’ve guessed it) the final four do battle for the ultimate prize.
UCLA remains the most decorated team in the competition’s history, having claimed 11 titles since the inception of the tournament 81 years ago.
While Virginia entered the weekend as the defending champions (having won their first title last year), they have already been mercilessly dumped out of the tournament by Ohio. So, which of the remaining sides are now competing for the ultimate prize?
Our Picks for the Best Teams as March Madness Gets Underway
Without further ado, it is time to list our selection of the five teams to watch in the 2021 iteration of the tournament. These include:
Alabama has already made waves this weekend, having thumped Maryland earlier this week to set-up a Sunday ‘Sweet-16’ clash with the historically dominant UCLA.
The Crimson Tide (24-6) also entered the running in great form, having narrowly missed out on being the number one seed before the initial draw.
Certainly, the team was in exceptional form through February and early March, winning six matches in a row and nine of its last 10 en route to an SEC Championship.
The Houston ‘Cougars’ are also in action this weekend, as they’ll do battle with Syracuse for a place in the ‘Elite 8’.
Interestingly, Houston (24-3) was arguably the form team entering March Madness, having won seven in a row and nine of their previous 10 encounters prior to the start of the tournament.
As a result, they recently landed the coveted American Athletic Conference Tournament, with this success built on a solid defense that has limited opponents to just 57.9 points-per-game.
However, the offence is also potent, so they will be a match for anyone should they reach the final four.
Loyola Chicago kicked off the ‘Sweet-16’ segment of the tournament against Oregon State on Saturday, having already seen off the in-form Georgia Tech during the first round.
Incredibly, the Ramblers (24-4) were recently considered the second-best side in the Missouri Valley behind bubble team Drake, but they have since embarked on a stunning run that has seen them win 17 of their last 18 outings in 2021.
This included a comprehensive 27-point victory over Drake on February 13th, while they also defeated their rivals to win the MVC Tourney final.
Like Houston, their game is built on a solid defense, but the side’s attacking players will have to come to the fore if they are to claim the ultimate prize.
Some commentators ranked Baylor as the best team before the tournament, which is quite something given its chequered recent history.
In fact, their recent journey has seen them veer from tragedy and disgrace to the national championship. However, it is interesting to note that they have not played basketball since coming back from a three-week Covid disruption in February.
While they are not in great form, however, they have been ruthless in the opening rounds, while the quality of their offensive shooters is enough to trouble any of the sides on this list.
However, a recent lack of competitive action could ultimately hold them back, while a fundamental weakness in defensive rebounding may cost them further as they progress through the tournament.
Michigan will play Florida State this coming weekend, as they look to secure their own place in the Elite 8.
Another solid and defensively robust side, Michigan is a relatively understated team and one that boasts a talented line-up including players such as Hunter Dickinson, Mike Smith, and the versatile forward Franz Wenger.
The Wolverines entered the tournament under a cloud following the injury to Isaiah Livers, with the 6’ 7” forward Michigan’s second-highest scorer.
A reliable rebounder, his return to fitness could be key to Michigan’s prospects, particularly if they progress beyond the second round.