Top 5 National Championship Contenders In Men’s College Basketball

Juwan Howard's Michigan Wolverines team is an early favorite to win an NCAA title. Howard looks to improve on an Elite 8 loss in 2020. (Photo: @umichbball/Twitter)

With the college basketball season on the horizon, it’s always enjoyable to see what teams around the country have in store for their Midnight Madness season kickoff. The event is a high energy celebration of a new season. It initiates the connection between the campus community, players, alumni and tradition. It let’s us know that it’s officially go time.

MM was canceled around the country last season as COVID-19 ravaged sports and disrupted the campus culture that drives athletics. 2021 marks the return of late-night fun around the country. 

Midnight Madness

In Lawrence, Kansas, legendary rap group Run-DMC performed this past Friday at the “Late Night At The Phog” at Allen Fieldhouse on the campus of Kansas University. 

 

Duke will do it up with “Countdown To Craziness” on Oct. 15, while Kentucky will hold its annual “Big Blue Madness” the same day The fan experience, the campus culture, the undeniable swag of college basketball returns. 

Penny Hardaway and his Memphis Tigers will hold what they call “Memphis Madness” on Oct. 13. In addition to the music and fan interaction, Coach Penny will do a bit of recruiting as well. 

Preseason No. 1 Gonzaga will jam all night (Oct. 9) at “Kraziness in the Kennel,” and UNC under new head coach Hubert Davis, will rock the “Dean Dome” in “Late Night with Hubert” on Oct. 15.

It’s the first step on a journey that starts with fireworks in October and ends with madness in March. These teams will be the ones fighting for final glory.  

Men’s Top Title Contenders

Gonzaga

Many believed last year was Gonzaga’s year to take home the title, but an angry group of Bears from Baylor derailed that notion in the title game. Gone are top five picks Jalen Suggs and do-it-all guard Jay Ayayi. But Mark Few’s Gonzaga program remains a force after landing No. 1 overall recruit in Chet Holmgren and forward Drew Timme’s decision to return to the state of Washington.  

 

That high-low game between Chet and Timme is gonna be tough to defend. Mark Few has quality guards and he can flat-out coach, he needs to win the title this year or he may never win one out in Spokane.

Kansas 

Bill Self always has a team capable of making a run, but not since 2017-18 when he had DeVonte Graham, Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk has he had a team that could truly win it all. 

With four of his starting five returning in David McCormack, Jalen Wilson, Ochoa Agbaji and Christian Braun, all that was missing was a lead guard. 

Enter Remy Martin (yup, just like the great-tasting libation) transferring in from Arizona to assume that role. This JayHawks team has more talent and depth than in years past.

UCLA 

UCLA returns the majority of a roster that made a miraculous run to the Final Four last season. UCLA may have been in the title game if not for Jalen Suggs’ halfcourt buzzer-beater. Johnny Juzang became a star during March Madness for Mick Cronin out in Westwood. The addition of freshman Peyton Watson gives Cronin another NBA prospect on this loaded roster.

Texas 

The arrival of former Texas Tech coach Chris Beard makes them contenders. Beard is one of the best motivators, and his hard-nosed approach to defense should bode well for the Longhorns, who return Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey from last season’s Big 12 tourney champions. They dipped heavily into the transfer portal to complete this roster in Austin.

Michigan 

Juwan Howard has assembled some real talent up in Ann Arbor, but the return of big man Hunter Dickinson was the crucial piece Michigan needed back. The Wolverines were a bad shooting half away from the Final Four when they couldn’t hit the side of a barn in an Elite 8 loss to UCLA.

The sting of that loss and a top recruiting class should be enough motivation to get back there. Freshman Caleb Houstan is the knockdown shooter they need to keep the floor spaced. Michigan native Kofi Bufkin is a freshman who will flash his skills this season.

Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina are teams you can never disregard. Penny Hardaway’s Memphis squad will be a force. Don’t sleep on the Purdue Boilermakers led by Trevion Williams and Jaden Ivey.