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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | December 22, 2020

10 college basketball wishes for 2021

College basketball rankings: Kansas, Rutgers make a statement in Power 36

It's the holiday season so March Madness correspondent Andy Katz ranked his top 10 wishes for college basketball in 2021 on the latest March Madness 365 podcast. They range from good health and good scheduling fortune, to a game between the country's No. 1 and No. 2 teams, an exciting National Freshman of the Year race, and more.

You can listen to the full episode here, which also features guests Ken Pomeroy, Kevin Pauga, Joe Lunardi and West Virginia's Miles McBride.

Here are Katz's wishes for 2021.

10. 'Buzzer beaters, buzzer beaters and more buzzer beaters'

"That's what I want in 2021," Katz said.

You know, maybe something like this.

Or this...

Or maybe even this shot:

9. Saint Louis and Richmond competing for top-four seeds in the NCAA tournament


"The two best teams in the A-10," Katz said.

Both teams are 6-1 through Dec. 21 (although, Davidson and UMass both have an early 1-0 advantage in conference play, while 10 teams in the A-10 haven't played a conference game yet), making them arguably the two strongest March Madness contenders in the conference.

Saint Louis' offense ranks No. 22 nationally in adjusted efficiency, per kenpom.com, while Richmond ranks No. 34. The Billikens have strong balance, with the country's No. 36 defense, while the Spiders' D checks in at No. 65.

Richmond's best NCAA tournament seed came in 2010, when the Spiders earned a No. 7 seed. Saint Louis has earned a top-four seed once before, back in 2013, when it was a No. 4 seed under Jim Crews.

The two A-10 squads are currently scheduled to meet on Jan. 29 at Richmond, then on Feb. 26 in St. Louis.

8. Duke-North Carolina

"I still would love to see intense, rivalry games along Tobacco Road between Duke and Carolina at least twice," Katz said.

In the latest AP Top 25 poll, North Carolina is No. 17, ahead of Duke at No. 20. The Blue Devils are ranked No. 16 nationally in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, while North Carolina ranks No. 35 and No. 18, respectively.

The two rivals are currently scheduled to meet the first time on Saturday, Feb. 6, in Durham, then a month later in Chapel Hill.

7. Kentucky to get into the NCAA tournament mix

"Despite their troubles, it's good for the game if Kentucky makes a late surge after they started 1-5," Katz said.

The Wildcats are off to their worst start since the 1926-27 season, but they're still ranked No. 50 on kenpom.com through Dec. 21, with the nation's No. 22 defensive efficiency. John Calipari's teams often improve as the season progresses — remember the 2013-14 team that went 24-10 and then played for the national championship? — but this season's team will really need to improve its ball-handling (23.7 percent turnover rate) and 3-point shooting (24.3 percent).

Next up is a road game against rival Louisville on Saturday, Dec. 26.

6. A Big Ten regular-season title race between at least five teams

"Boy, the Big Ten is loaded," Katz said. "I could see as many as 10 or 11 teams, like last year, competing for NCAA tournament berths but I think the Big Ten race could come down to the final day or two."

The Big Ten currently rates as the strongest conference in the country, per kenpom.com, just ahead of the Big 12.

Katz thinks there could be at least five teams in the mix for the Big Ten regular-season title.

"Could be six [teams]," Katz said. "Could be seven!"

In the latest AP poll, seven Big Ten teams were ranked: No. 4 Iowa, No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 11 Rutgers, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 18 Illinois, No. 19 Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State. Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern and Minnesota all received votes, too. Similarly, through Dec. 21, seven of the top 20 teams on kenpom.com are from the Big Ten, as are nine of the top 30 and 11 of the top 50.

5. Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham vs. Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs for National Freshman of the Year

"I'd love to see a 1-2 race for National Freshman of the Year," Katz said, comparing it to the race for National Player of the Year between Gonzaga's Adam Morrison and Duke's J.J. Redick. "We could have Suggs versus Cunningham, the tale of the tape, throughout the course of 2021, heading into the NCAA tournament."

Cunningham averages 19.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1 steal and 1 block per game, while shooting 36.7 percent from three, through eight games. Suggs averages 15.8 points, 6.0 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game through five contests.

Freshman Jalen Suggs breaks down No. 1 Gonzaga's win over No. 3 Iowa

4. Iowa's Luka Garza to average 30 points per game

"He could average 30," Katz said. "I wouldn't be shocked if that happens."

Garza is averaging a career-best 29.3 points per game through Iowa's first seven games —  a notable improvement over his 23.9 points per game last season. He has already scored 41, 35, 34 and 30 points in a game this season.

3. No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 Baylor to reschedule their postponed game

"They may not be able to reschedule it, but at some point, even if it's in the Final Four, the national championship game, we want to see that matchup: Gonzaga and Baylor," Katz said.

Gonzaga received 61 first-place votes in the latest AP poll, while Baylor received the other three first-place votes. They've been ranked No.  1 and No. 2, respectively, all season and they were supposed to play each other, but the game was postponed.

Baylor currently holds a slight edge over Gonzaga on kenpom.com, with both teams outscoring their opponents by an average of at least 30 points per 100 possessions.

2. No COVID-19 issues sidelining any teams

"A lot of issues, understandably, in November and December," Katz said. "Fingers crossed we can get to January and February with the COVID issues and postponements and cancellations being over."

1. Good health for Florida's Keyontae Johnson

"More than anything, Florida's Keyontae  Johnson, with an inspirational video on his Twitter feed, thanking everyone, so grateful for the medical staff in Tallahassee and Gainesville," Katz said. "But just seeing him smile and sitting upright. My biggest wish for 2021 and the gift would be the gift of good health for Keyontae Johnson of Florida."

 
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