Monday, April 19

2021 Final Four Picks, Predictions Against Spread: Why Baylor and Gonzaga Are Safe Bets for Title Game

Which story of the Final Four national championship will come true?

There are four compelling stories to tell heading into the national semifinals at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.

No. 1 Baylor (26-2) meets No. 2 Houston (28-3) in the first national semifinal at 5:14 p.m. The Bears are making their third Final Four appearance and looking to make the game of championship for the first time since 1948. The Cougars are back in the Final Four for the first time since the heyday of Phi Slama Jama in the 1980s. This showdown of former Southwestern Conference rivals should be heated.

That’s the one that sets the table for the second meeting between No. 1 Gonzaga (30-0) and No. 11 UCLA (22-9) in the second semifinal at 8:34 p.m. The Bulldogs are trying to finish the game. first undefeated season since Indiana in 1975-76. The Bruins came out of the First Four and are trying to add a twelfth national championship to their collection.

Which two teams will complete those stories? Sporting News gives its predictions for the national semifinals:

MOST MADNESS OF MARCH: Live results | Updated support | Television schedule

Odds of the Final Four 2021

Below are the March Madness starting odds for the Final Four, including point spreads, money lines, and over-under totals for each game. according to the FanDuel bookmaker.

Play Smeared Money line Below
Baylor vs. Houston BAY -5 BAY -215 134
Gonzaga vs. UCLA GON -14 GON -1100 145.5

Final Four selections, predictions

No. 1 Baylor (-5) vs. No. 2 Houston

Saturday, 5:14 pm, CBS

Baylor is considered the best bet to beat Gonzaga due to a top-10 scoring offense averaging 83.0 points per game, but they will first have to get past a defensive-minded Houston team. That’s a reflection of coaches Scott Drew and Kelvin Sampson.

The Bears’ strength is a backcourt that features Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell. Baylor is hitting 35.7 percent of his tournament three-point attempts, but a hidden key to that success has been role players like Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Mark Vital and Flo Thamba.

That eight-man rotation has been effective and the Bears are good enough to win on offense or defense.

Houston’s offense revolved around Quentin Grimes, who has made 43.6 percent of his 3-point attempts in the tournament. Marcus Sasser is an excellent wing averaging 13.3 points per game, and Dejon Jarreau and Justin Gorham are key players. The Cougars are winning with their defense. They have allowed only 55.8 points per game. in the tournament, and that focus won’t change against Baylor.

The key matchup will be Grimes against Mitchell, who is one of the best defensive players in college basketball. Houston must shoot the ball from 3-point range, and Baylor has opponents limited to 26.4 shots from that range.

Expect a tight game in the first half, with tough defense on both sides. Baylor, however, is the most consistent offensive team, and they should generate enough transition and second-chance points in the second half to walk away. The Bears will have to make late free throws to seal it, and that’s not a guarantee considering they’re at 70.2% for the season.

Baylor, however, recovers and advances to the national championship game.

Final score: Baylor 73, Houston 67

No. 1 Gonzaga (-14) vs. No. 11 UCLA

Saturday, 8:34 pm, CBS

The Bulldogs have beaten their first four opponents of the tournament by an average of 24 points per game, a dominant run in a season in which they averaged 91.6 points per game. Mark Few is on the verge of landing that elusive national championship, and the offense is impressive.

Gonzaga will present UCLA’s offensive woes, and that starts with center Drew Timme (18.9 points per game). The Bruins already have a size advantage, and Timme’s ability to get through double teams will make that job that much more difficult. UCLA forward Cody Riley, who fouled against Michigan, will be on the scene.

Corey Kispert (19.0 points per game) and Jalen Suggs (14.0 points per game) are high-scoring options in the backcourt, and Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard can score double digits on any given night.

UCLA would have to be perfect on both sides, but coach Mick Cronin deserves credit for instilling the belief that led to upsets against No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 Michigan in the Eastern Region.

The Bruins’ offense continues with Johnny Juzang, a Kentucky transfer averaging 22.4 points per game. at the tournament. Jaime Jaquez, Jules Bernard and Tyger Campbell, a point guard who has advanced in the tournament, make up a talented backcourt.

The problem is, UCLA is subject to scoring droughts and can’t afford to have one against Gonzaga’s fast-paced offense. The Bruins are 9-1 when they force 13 or more turnovers, but they may need Gonzaga to commit at least 20 turnovers and have a shot-free night.

It’s too much to ask. Emotions should be high due to the dynamics of Pac-12 pride, but Gonzaga earns that opportunity in a perfect season in style.

Final score: Gonzaga 84, UCLA 70

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