March Madness 2021 has been ... well, just that.
From navigating COVID-19 protocols to more than a few busted brackets to plenty of expected blowouts, it has all come down to this weekend. The NCAA men's basketball tournament field has been cut from 68 to four.
Will we see the widely anticipated Gonzaga vs. Baylor championship matchup? Can UCLA continue their momentum to lead the revival of the Pac-12, or will an upset-riddled tournament come to an expected conclusion with the Houston Cougars winning the school’s first championship in men’s basketball after three straight chances to win the Final Four in the 1980s?
Here is all you need to know about the men’s 2021 Final Four weekend:
What teams are playing in the 2021 Final Four?
No. 1 Baylor Bears (26-2) vs. No. 2 Houston Cougars (28-3)
No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-0) vs. No. 11 UCLA Bruins (22-9)
Kicking off the tournament conclusion is a Battle for Texas between Baylor and Houston. The Lone Star State has two teams playing for the title for the first time in Final Four history -- meaning there’s at least a chance a team from Texas could bring home the state’s first championship since Texas Western won in 1966.
Gonzaga heads into the national semifinals undefeated and armed with an NCAA record of 27 consecutive double-digit wins this season. The Bulldogs are the biggest Final Four favorite in tournament history.
Facing Gonzaga will be UCLA -- a No. 11 seed that virtually no one saw coming. The must-watch matchup pits a program with the most men's titles (the UCLA’s 11) against a team seeking a perfect season (which hasn’t happened since the Indiana Hoosiers and Bob Knight did it in 1976).
Who has the best chance to win the 2021 men’s basketball tournament?
Odds provided by our partner PointsBet:
Mark Few and the Bulldogs’ quest for perfection continues in Indianapolis this weekend. After dismantling Creighton in the Sweet 16, Gonzaga stayed hungry against the No. 6-seeded USC Trojans on Tuesday night. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s top overall seed looked the part in March -- beating opponents in the West Region by an average of 24 points on the way to a Final Four bid. They remain the favorite to win March Madness heading into Saturday night thanks to the dynamic trio of Drew Timme, Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs.
The Bears are set to make their first Final Four appearance since 1950. After they put up a 26-2 season, it’s certainly no surprise that coach Scott Drew’s No. 1-seeded team has made it this far. They’ve handled their competition in the tournament with ease, most recently with a victory over Arkansas on their path to the championship game. Baylor will lean on leading scorer Jared Butler (16.5 PPG) and a nation-high 3-point shooting field goal percentage (41.1%) when they take on Houston in the Battle for Texas.
Kelvin Sampson’s successful run in Indianapolis has been one of the NCAA tournament’s better storylines this year. Since taking over Houston in April 2014, Sampson has turned around the program leading the Cougars to a school-record 33 wins in 2019 as well as two consecutive Sweet 16 berths -- a revival that culminated with a victory over the Oregon State Beavers in the Midwest Regional final this year. Although Sampson’s return to the Final Four has been anything but easy, Houston has a chance to make program history with a team led by play-making guard Quentin Grimes and versatile swingman DeJon Jarreau.
Mick Cronin had his fair share of doubters when he arrived in Westwood in April 2019. Fast forward two years, Cronin’s Bruins are this year’s Cinderella -- eclipsing all expectations and conquering the East Region while making a little March Madness history. UCLA is only the second team to go from the First Four to the Final Four. Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams were the only other team to achieve such a feat back in 2011.
What is the Final Four schedule?
The first national semifinal between Houston and Baylor is set to tip off at 5:14 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 3.
The second national semifinal between UCLA and Gonzaga is set to tip off at 8:34 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 3.
When is the national championship game?
The men’s NCAA national championship game is set to tip off at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, April 5. It will conclude the 2021 men’s national basketball tournament.
Where will the Final Four be held?
All three Final Four games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Future Final Four sites include New Orleans (2022), Houston (2023) and Phoenix (2024).
How can I watch the Final Four?
All three Final Four games will be aired on CBS.
Who are the top NBA draft prospects in the Final Four?
Jared Butler, Baylor: Butler is one of two Wooden Award finalists still playing for this year’s national championship (the other being Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert). After opting out of last year's draft and returning to Baylor for his junior season, Butler is averaging 16.5 points and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 46.7% from the field. The Bears’ go-to scorer is a likely first-round draft pick in this year’s NBA draft.
Quentin Grimes, Houston: After withdrawing from the 2019 NBA Draft and transferring from Kansas to Houston, Grimes has been a comeback story in the making. The Jerry West Award finalist is averaging a team-high 17.9 points per game while shooting 40.7% from deep this season for the Cougars. As Houston pushes for that elusive NCAA men’s basketball championship, Grimes will only continue to prove what he can do at the NBA level.
Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga: Mark Few’s team has three of the nation’s 10 best players, but it’s Suggs who, after a dazzling freshman year at Gonzaga, is expected to be one of the first five players selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-4 guard has averaged 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 30.5 minutes per game during the championship tournament. If he can help the undefeated Bulldogs win a title, could Suggs be elevated to No. 1 overall consideration?
Corey Kispert, Gonzaga: Kispert is one of five finalists for the 2021 John R. Wooden Award. The 6-foot-7 forward boasts a 45.3% shooting percentage from deep this season with Gonzaga. As the Bulldogs push for their first championship, expect to continue seeing Kispert show off all he can do at the next level.
Johnny Juzang, UCLA: After transferring from Kentucky, Juzang has averaged 15.5 points per game and a 90.2% free throw percentage -- both team-highs -- at UCLA this season. Just last game, the 6-foot-6 guard dropped 28 points against No. 1-seeded Michigan to lead his team to the Final Four. There’s no doubt that even more eyes will be on the tournament’s star as underdog UCLA continues its push for a title.
Kelley Ekert contributed to this story.