The NCAA tournament, back after a one-year absence, returns this week. J. Brady McCollough, The Los Angeles Times’ national college sports reporter, makes his picks for every game, including the First Four games Thursday and the national championship game April 5 in Indianapolis.

All games will be streamed live on March Madness Live. All times Pacific.

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First Four

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No. 16 Norfolk State vs. No. 16 Appalachian State

Thursday, 2:10 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Appalachian State by 3.

Pick: The only other time Norfolk State made the Big Dance, in 2012, it upset No. 2 seed Missouri, so look for the Spartans to conjure some of that magic.

Norfolk State 65, Appalachian State 57

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No. 11 Wichita State vs. No. 11 Drake

Thursday, 3:27 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Wichita State by 2.5.

Pick: Drake’s offensive efficiency will be the difference.

Drake 74, Wichita State 71

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No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s vs. No. 16 Texas Southern

Thursday, 5:40 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Texas Southern by 2.5.

Pick: Mount St. Mary’s wants to play slow, Texas Southern wants to play fast. What gives?

Texas Southern 68, Mount St. Mary’s 59

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No. 11 Michigan State vs. No. 11 UCLA

Thursday, 6:57 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Michigan State by 1.

Pick: What month is it? Oh, March. You don’t pick against Tom Izzo this shallow in the bracket.

Michigan State 64, UCLA 60

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West regional — First round

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No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Norfolk State

Saturday, 6:20 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: N/A

Pick: The Bulldogs will be hungry to send a message to the field.

Gonzaga 110, Norfolk State 68

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No. 9 Missouri vs. No. 8 Oklahoma

Saturday, 4:25 p.m.

TV: TNT

Line: Oklahoma by 2.

Pick: Old Big 12 rivalry goes the way of the Sooners who shoot the lights out.

Oklahoma 77, Missouri 71

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No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara

Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Creighton by 7.

Pick: Creighton just got humiliated by Georgetown, and the Gauchos will pull off the classic 12-over-5 upset.

UC Santa Barbara 71, Creighton 66

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No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Ohio

Saturday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Virginia by 9.

Pick: Virginia, possibly undermanned due to COVID-19 protocols, will be a trendy upset pick, but they won’t bow out that easily.

Virginia 70, Ohio 58

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No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Drake

Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

TV: TNT

Line: N/A

Pick: If Evan Mobley asserts himself early, this one shouldn’t be too stressful for the Trojans.

USC 74, Drake 62

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No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Eastern Washington

Saturday, 10:15 a.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Kansas by 11.

Pick: Kansas has some COVID-19 issues, but it also has the toughness to play through it.

Kansas 81, Eastern Washington 64

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No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 VCU

Saturday, 6:57 p.m.

TV: TNT

Line: Oregon by 6.

Pick: VCU is a top defensive team, but Oregon has too many weapons.

Oregon 69, VCU 62

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No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon

Saturday, 3:25 p.m.

Line: Iowa by 14.5.

Pick: Even the Grand Canyon can’t contain Luka Garza in the post.

Iowa 89, Grand Canyon 65

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Second round

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No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 8 Oklahoma

Sunday-Monday

Pick: Oklahoma has beaten Alabama, Kansas and West Virginia (twice) this season, but Gonzaga is on another level.

Gonzaga 90, Oklahoma 76

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No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara

Sunday-Monday

Pick: The Gauchos won’t take on full Cinderella status with the Cavaliers’ rugged defense in the way.

Virginia 72, UC Santa Barbara 56

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No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 6 USC

Sunday-Monday

Pick: After going through the Big 12, Kansas is better prepared to grind out a win and make it to the second weekend than USC.

Kansas 67, USC 61

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No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 7 Oregon

Sunday-Monday

Pick: In one of the most intriguing matchups of the second round, the Ducks come up just short against the Hawkeyes, who have been building toward this breakthrough.

Iowa 76, Oregon 74

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Sweet 16

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No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Virginia

March 27-28

Pick: Gonzaga beat Virginia, 88-75, Dec. 26 and will authoritatively back up that result.

Gonzaga 87, Virginia 68

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No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 3 Kansas

March 27-28

Pick: Kansas’ big men are no match for Luka Garza and the Jayhawks don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up.

Iowa 77, Kansas 70

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Elite Eight

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No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 Iowa

March 29-30

Pick: These teams played in December with Gonzaga winning 99-88, so hold onto your pants. Iowa has since improved defensively, but the Zags have too many answers.

Gonzaga 92, Iowa 85

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South Regional — First round

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No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Hartford

Friday, 12:30 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Baylor by 26.

Pick: The Bears have been waiting for this tournament to start for a year.

Baylor 88, Hartford 58

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No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Wisconsin

Friday, 4:10 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: North Carolina by 2.

Pick: North Carolina’s Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks will abuse the Badgers’ big men.

North Carolina 73, Wisconsin 59

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No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 12 Winthrop

Friday, 6:57 p.m.

TV: TNT

Line: Villanova by 6.5.

Pick: Winthrop is 23-1 and Villanova doesn’t have Collin Gillespie, but the Wildcats still have championship pedigree.

Villanova 74, Winthrop 68

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No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 North Texas

Friday, 4:25 p.m.

TV: TNT

Line: Purdue by 7.5.

Pick: North Texas will pull off the first big upset of the tournament by slowing the game down and making each possession count.

North Texas 61, Purdue 59

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No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 Utah State

Friday, 10:45 a.m.

TV: CBS

Line: Texas Tech by 5.

Pick: Texas Tech’s Mac McClung will make just enough tough shots to win this defensive battle.

Texas Tech 63, Utah State 59

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No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 14 Colgate

Friday, 9:45 a.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Arkansas by 9.5.

Pick: Colgate will be a popular pick, but Arkansas will excel playing a frenetic pace.

Arkansas 93, Colgate 81

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No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech

Friday, 9:15 a.m.

TV: CBS

Line: Florida by 1.

Pick: These teams are equally nondescript. Virginia Tech will muddy it up and dictate tempo.

Virginia Tech 59, Florida 54

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No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts

Friday, noon

TV: CBS

Line: Ohio State by 16.5.

Pick: The Buckeyes found their mojo in the Big Ten tournament.

Ohio State 85, Oral Roberts 64

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Second round

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No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 8 North Carolina

Sunday-Monday

Pick: Baylor will prove it has arrived as a March-ready program by handling Roy Williams’ volatile Tar Heels.

Baylor 84, North Carolina 75

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No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 13 North Texas

Sunday-Monday

Pick: The Wildcats won’t truly miss Collin Gillespie until the second weekend.

Villanova 67, North Texas 53

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No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech

Sunday-Monday

Pick: The Big 12 was an absolute brawl all season, and the Red Raiders have some recall from their Final Four trip two years ago.

Texas Tech 68, Arkansas 64

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No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech

Sunday-Monday

Pick: Ohio State can beat you so many ways, which will become clear once again against the overmatched Hokies.

Ohio State 70, Virginia Tech 56

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Sweet 16

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No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 5 Villanova

March 27-28

Pick: Just like Gonzaga has to take down a recent champion in Virginia, so too will Baylor on its Sweet 16 path.

Baylor 70, Villanova 60

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No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Texas Tech

March 27-28

Pick: This is one of my favorite games of the Sweet 16. Ohio State’s Duane Washington Jr. will be the best player on the floor.

Ohio State 68, Texas Tech 63

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Elite Eight

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No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 2 Ohio State

March 29-30

Pick: Baylor’s defense is just a little better than Ohio State’s, and Baylor’s guards will get too many open looks.

Baylor 77, Ohio State 75

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Midwest regional — first round

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No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 16 Drexel

Friday, 10:15 a.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Illinois by 22.5.

Pick: The Fighting Illini are the hottest team in the country and will keep it going here.

Illinois 96, Drexel 59

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No. 8 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech

Friday, 1 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Loyola Chicago by 2.5.

Pick: Sister Jean and that Loyola Chicago defense over the Ramblin’ Wreck every time.

Loyola Chicago 58, Georgia Tech 52

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No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 12 Oregon State

Friday, 1:30 p.m.

TV: TNT

Line: Tennessee by 7.5.

Pick: The Beavers’ great story ends here with Tennessee’s ferocious defense.

Tennessee 67, Oregon State 58

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No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 Liberty

Friday, 3:25 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Oklahoma State by 9.5.

Pick: The Cowboys should have been a higher seed and will play angry out of the gate.

Oklahoma State 79, Liberty 62

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No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 Syracuse

Friday, 6:40 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: San Diego State by 2.5.

Pick: This is not a vintage Syracuse bracket buster, and San Diego State will meet the moment.

San Diego State 69, Syracuse 61

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No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 Morehead State

Friday, 6:50 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: West Virginia by 12.5.

Pick: A Bob Huggins team that depends on offense over defense is wild, and we’ll see it for another round.

West Virginia 82, Morehead State 60

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No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Rutgers

Friday, 6:20 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Rutgers by 1.

Pick: Shield your eyes when watching this bloodbath. The country will be on Rutgers’ side.

Rutgers 56, Clemson 51

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No. 2 Houston vs. No. 15 Cleveland State

Friday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Houston by 19.5.

Pick: Kelvin Sampson has built a real winner at Houston, one that won’t let him down with a no-show.

Houston 74, Cleveland State 61

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Second round

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No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 8 Loyola Chicago

Sunday-Monday

Pick: Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings say Loyola Chicago is the ninth-best team in the country, but the metrics love Illinois more.

Illinois 65, Loyola Chicago 54

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No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 5 Tennessee

Sunday-Monday

Pick: Both teams play good defense, but only one has Cade Cunningham.

Oklahoma State 63, Tennessee 56

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No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 6 San Diego State

Sunday-Monday

Pick: No Southern California bias here, but go ahead and book the Aztecs for two weekends in Indy.

San Diego State 68, West Virginia 67

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No. 2 Houston vs. No. 10 Rutgers

Sunday-Monday

Pick: The country will want Rutgers in the Sweet 16, but Houston is a much more complete team.

Houston 70, Rutgers 59

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Sweet 16

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No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 4 Oklahoma State

March 27-28

Pick: Cade Cunningham won’t surprise Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier. Experience matters in March.

Illinois 71, Oklahoma State 66

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No. 2 Houston vs. No. 6 San Diego State

March 27-28

Pick: Two defensive-minded teams will be hoping for an Elite Eight berth, but one has more legit scoring options.

Houston 68, San Diego State 55

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Elite Eight

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No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 2 Houston

March 29-30

Pick: Illinois will play tight with a Final Four berth on the line, and Houston will make the Fighting Illini pay — for 30 minutes.

Illinois 73, Houston 68

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East Regional — First round

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No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 Texas Southern

Saturday, noon

TV: CBS

Line: N/A

Pick: The Wolverines will earn Juwan Howard his first NCAA Tournament win as a head coach.

Michigan 86, Texas Southern 65

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No. 8 Louisiana State vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure

Saturday, 10:45 a.m.

TV: TNT

Line: LSU by 1.5.

Pick: St. Bonaventure won the Atlantic 10 with defense and veteran guard play, and those qualities will frustrate a talented LSU squad.

St. Bonaventure 70, LSU 65

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No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Georgetown

Saturday, 9:15 a.m.

TV: CBS

Line: Colorado by 5.

Pick: Can Patrick Ewing’s box its juju from Madison Square Garden and take it to Indy? Sure, why not.

Georgetown 66, Colorado 63

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No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro

Saturday, 9:45 a.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Florida State by 11.5.

Pick: Leonard Hamilton’s program has turned into a second weekend fixture, and this group is too gifted to fall victim to a big upset.

Florida State 78, UNC Greensboro 61

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No. 6 Brigham Young vs. No. 11 Michigan State

Saturday, 6:40 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: N/A

Pick: Michigan State has beaten two No. 1 seeds this season, but it has also lost a lot of games it shouldn’t have. Tough call.

Michigan State 73, BYU 70

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No. 3 Texas vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian

Saturday, 6:50 p.m.

TV: truTV

Line: Texas by 9.

Pick: Call it a gut feeling. Abilene Christian plays great defense, and now its fans will have bragging rights over Texas for the rest of eternity.

Abilene Christian 66, Texas 64

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No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 Maryland

Saturday, 4:10 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: UConn by 2.

Pick: UConn is back to the level where a great guard can take it to new heights in March, and James Bouknight qualifies.

UConn 65, Maryland 59

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No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Iona

Saturday, 1 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Alabama by 17.5.

Pick: Rick Pitino is back in the Big Dance somehow, but Alabama will send him packing.

Alabama 84, Iona 65

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Second round

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No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure

Sunday-Monday

Pick: Michigan will miss injured star Isaiah Livers more with each passing round, but not quite yet.

Michigan 68, St. Bonaventure 59

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No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 12 Georgetown

Sunday-Monday

Pick: My heart wants to pick Georgetown, but I’m going to trust my brain.

Florida State 74, Georgetown 64

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No. 11 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian

Sunday-Monday

Pick: The Spartans got a gift from Texas, but can they cash it in as a favorite? Tom Izzo won’t let them feel the pressure.

Michigan State 64, Abilene Christian 55

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No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 7 Connecticut

Sunday-Monday

Pick: Alabama is too deep and will find a way to push the tempo to its favor.

Alabama 74, UConn 69

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Sweet 16

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No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Florida State

March 27-28

Pick: Michigan will hear so much noise all week it will feel like an underdog as a one seed and perform with an edge.

Michigan 67, Florida State 64

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No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 11 Michigan State

March 27-28

Pick: Tom Izzo will have his team on fire, but Alabama will control pace and wear out the Spartans.

Alabama 75, Michigan State 62

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Elite Eight

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No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 2 Alabama

March 29-30

Pick: Michigan will play through freshman big man Hunter Dickinson and keep the pace to its liking just enough.

Michigan 75, Alabama 73

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Final Four

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No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Michigan

April 3

Pick: Early last season, Michigan beat Gonzaga by 18 with Isaiah Livers. If Livers remains out with his foot injury, which seems likely, the Bulldogs will be too much to handle.

Gonzaga 80, Michigan 72

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No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 1 Illinois

April 3

Pick: Baylor beat Illinois in December. 82-69, but the Fighting Illini have made up a lot of ground since. The rematch will be one for the ages.

Illinois 81, Baylor 77

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National Championship

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No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Illinois

April 5

Pick: Illinois’ three-guard lineup of Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo, combined with monstrous center Kofi Cockburn, will be enough to give the Big Ten its first national championship since 2000. It will also keep conference rival Indiana as the last team to go unbeaten, in 1976.

Illinois 86, Gonzaga 84

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