The Sweet Sixteen turned out to be wild one day and tame the next (a recurring theme in this tournament). In the end, at least we got the two best teams into the Final Four.
Last week, we had another mixed bag of results for our picks. We won on Gonzaga and Baylor, and lost on Arkansas, Syracuse, and the parlay. If you’ve been riding Gonzaga from early March like we have, you’re enjoying a nice run of wins. Now that Gonzaga is just two games away from the title, those +250 title odds we put out in February look very nice right now.
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This week, we are going with a double in the Houston vs Baylor game, doubles in the Gonzaga game, and a futures pick (Most Outstanding Player) for those of you who still want to get a little value on the Gonzaga bandwagon. The betting lines come from the DraftKings Online Sportsbook.
The Men's #FinalFour is set:
🏀 No. 2 Houston vs. No. 1 Baylor
🏀 No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 1 Gonzaga pic.twitter.com/rdwGXbf7Vh
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 31, 2021
Baylor -5 (-113) vs Houston
The two teams we’ve been right about this whole tournament are Baylor and Gonzaga. I’m thrilled they’re each playing in one of the two Final Four games, because I feel like both Houston and UCLA have only a slim shot here.
The thing about Houston here is, they’re the first team to advance to the Final Four without ever playing a single-digit seed. Their regular-season schedule was even softer. Their only major victory in the regular season against a ranked opponent was their win over Texas Tech.
They are a good defensive team and have been good at rebounding throughout the tournament. However, for an “explosive” offense, they’ve been rather tame since their opening round game against Cleveland State (67 or less points in each game). Unfortunately for them, they’re facing an even better defensive team in Baylor.
Baylor is loaded with good shooters and has had much more impressive performances thus far — against much better opponents. I like for Baylor to make the big shots and contain the Houston offense. In order for Houston to cover or win, they’re going to have to get a pretty poor performance from Baylor and they’re going to have to find holes in the Baylor defense. I don’t expect both these things to happen, so I’m all over Baylor here.
Gonzaga -14.5 vs UCLA
UCLA looks like a completely different team than the one we saw lose four games to end the season. UCLA was 17-5 before their losing streak, down star guard Chris Smith (knee injury) and without forward, Jalen Hill (left the team).
At that point, UCLA was likely looking at a 6 seed. When the four-game streak happened to end the season, nobody was too shocked. It made sense anyway. A team loses a star and another key player and they tumble out of the tournament consideration. However, UCLA got a lifeline when they were awarded a play-in game.
Since the second half of the play-in game, UCLA has figured out a winning formula. In each of their games, there have been a number of both favorable matchups and fortunate bounces. It appears UCLA has a rare ability to shrink a basket for their opponents at the foul line late in a game. The problem this time around is the team they’re playing doesn’t allow for any matchup advantages for UCLA.
Gonzaga is as close to a perfect team as one could imagine in modern basketball. One key here may be the Michigan game. All second half, Michigan got back into the game by pounding the ball down low to their big. It worked incredibly well. Now, UCLA will have to face Drew Timme in the post.
Timme is much more athletic and skilled than any other big they’ve faced in the tournament. He may not have the overall physicality of some of the other bigs UCLA has faced, but he’s quick for his size, very athletic, and very conscious of where his teammates are. Gonzaga has only won one game by less than double digits on the year. That game was against a strong West Virginia squad in a game Gonzaga thought they lost Jalen Suggs to injury.
Gonzaga has only looked like a decent team in a handful of games this season. The rest of the time, they look outstanding. I feel like even with the big spread, Gonzaga still has a great chance to cover it. They’ve been covering the spread all tournament.
NCAA Final Four betting picks
Baylor vs Houston Under 134.5
The more I look at this matchup, the more I like the idea of this game being relatively low-scoring. I don’t feel particularly strong about Baylor’s offense — from a consistency standpoint — and I know Houston has yet to see a defense like Baylor’s on the season and in the tournament.
This game just doesn’t seem to me like the kind of game where both teams are getting good looks. Also, it’s worth noting again that Houston has not exceeded 67 points since the opening round (and all double-digit seeds, mind you). For that reason, I like the under here.
Prediction: Baylor 71 Houston 60
Gonzaga vs UCLA Under 145.5
I love Gonzaga this year. I’ve made no attempt to hide this. They have four players who will likely be professionals, with two of them lottery picks in this year’s draft. The talent is undeniable and so is this advantageous matchup.
UCLA offers no real threat to the Bulldogs, other than whoever is tasked with guarding Johnny Juzang. I think Gonzaga’s offense will lean heavily on Drew Timme down low, with Suggs dominating Campbell, and Kispert getting some clean looks outside.
On the other side, I don’t have a lot of faith in UCLA’s offense, outside of Juzang. Tyger Campbell will likely be blanketed by Suggs, and the offense should struggle to find any sort of rhythm in the game. I think Gonzaga will really slow this game down in the second half, as they should be able to comfortably ride this one out and book their reservation for the Championship.
Prediction: Gonzaga 81 UCLA 63
Most Outstanding Player – Drew Timme
We’ve already explained why we believe Timme will have a good game. He’s been killing it all tournament and if Gonzaga makes the championship (hint: they have a decent shot), Timme could win the award, even if Gonzaga loses the final. Timme’s numbers are far and away better than any other player on the board. If this seems like a slam dunk, it’s because it is.