Villanova Is Team To Beat

Men’s College Basketball Preview: Villanova Is Team To Beat

Written by on November 4, 2020

There was no national champion crowned in the 2019-20 college basketball season because there was no NCAA Tournament – canceled by the coronavirus. The 2020-21 season is scheduled to tip off on November 25, but no one really knows what that may officially like look yet, etc. Some leagues could have conference-only schedules.

Villanova Is Team To Beat | 2020 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

If conferences started playing November 25, and limited their regular seasons to 20 league games, they’d have 13 or 14 weeks to complete their schedules depending on when they start their conference tournaments. All Division I schedules have been reduced from a maximum of 31 games to 27 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, though, here’s a look at three top contenders to cut down the nets early next April (we hope) with odds.

Villanova (+800)

Coach Jay Wright was rumored as a potential candidate for the Philadelphia 76ers’ job but opted to stay where he’s a legend with two national titles in the past few seasons. Wright did lose one of his best players off last year’s team in Saddiq Bey, who will be a 2020 first-round pick in the NBA Draft. He earned the 2019-20 Julius Erving Award as the nation’s top small forward while helping the Wildcats earn a share of the Big East regular season title.

As a sophomore, Bey averaged 16.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game for the Wildcats (24-7 overall, 13-5 Big East) while starting all 31 games. He connected on .451 of his attempts from beyond the 3-point line – which ranked fourth in the nation – and was a unanimous selection to the All-Big East first team.

However, just about everyone else of note is back. Both Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl were named preseason First-Team All-Big East for this year. Gillespie earned All-Big East Second Team honors last season after averaging 15.1 points and ranking fifth in the league in assists with a 4.5 mark.  Gillespie also ranked fourth in assist/turnover ratio with a 2.3 rating.

Robinson-Earl was last season’s Big East Freshman of the Year, averaging 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds.  His rebound mark ranked fourth in the Big East. Robinson-Earl posted nine double-doubles during the season.

Only once in the past seven seasons has Villanova not earned at least a share of the Big East regular-season title, and the Wildcats enter the season as the favorite to keep its successful stretch going.

Baylor (+1200)

This could be the best team ever at Baylor. The Bears lost just one starter from last season — big man Freddie Gillespie — and are hoping Tristan Clark, his likely replacement, can return to his pre-injury form from the 2018-19 season. But the strength of this team will revolve around the perimeter, where Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague all return from a year ago.

Butler is expected to lead the way. The 6-3 guard averaged a team-high 16.0 points, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a sophomore. He’s the main reason Scott Drew’s Bears are the preseason favorite in the Big 12.

Teague has been selected to the preseason watch list for the 2021 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award. In his first season playing for Baylor in 2019-20, Teague earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors and was unanimously named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team.

Teague went through the NBA Draft process during the offseason before electing to return to Baylor for his 2020-21 senior season. As a junior, he averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals in a team-leading 32.6 minutes per game. He led the team with an .848 free throw percentage and ranked second on the squad with 60 made 3-pointers in 28 games played, all starts.

Baylor also gains a pair of experienced transfers who are now eligible after sitting out the 2019-20 season. Adam Flagler led Presbyterian in scoring as a freshman in 2018-19 and is eligible as a sophomore after practicing with the Bears last season. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is in the same position as a now-eligible sophomore. He was at UNLV for his 2018-19 freshman season before transferring to Baylor, where he practiced with the team throughout the 2019-20 season.

Gonzaga (+1000)

Is this the year the Zags win their first national title? Coach Mark Few’s roster took a hit when Filip Petrusev decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility to pursue a pro opportunity overseas. But the Zags are still loaded in the frontcourt and plenty talented enough to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament thanks in part to the return of Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi.

Ayayi, who was named the 2020 West Coast Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player, appeared in all 33 games last season, starting in 23. He averaged 10.6 points, 6.33 rebounds (which was eighth in WCC), 3.21 assists (11th in WCC), and 1.27 steals (10th in WCC) per game.

Few adds arguably the best recruit ever at Gonzaga in Jalen Suggs. He is the second McDonald’s All-American recruit in school history, following Zach Collins, and is also the highest-rated incoming recruit in school history.

Suggs ranked fifth in ESPN’s Top-100 list in the Class of 2020. The West St. Paul, Minn., native, averaged 23.5 points per game during his senior season at Minnehaha Academy. He also averaged 7.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.8 steals per game helping the Redhawks to a 26-3 record and No. 13 national ranking. Suggs also has won three gold medals with Team USA at 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, the 2018 U17 World Cup, and the 2017 Americas U16 Championship.

For the 19th time in the last 20 seasons, the Gonzaga men’s basketball team was selected as favorites in the West Coast Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

Gonzaga is currently scheduled to face Baylor on Dec. 5 at a neutral site in Indianapolis. That could be the regular-season game of the year if it actually happens.


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