Two games to go until the NCAA crowns a new champion! Here are our best picks this weekend for the Final Four games (ATS).
No. 2 Houston +5 over No.1 Baylor
Yes, I know you may think I’m being a bit biased here because I have Houston beating Baylor in my bracket, but I picked them for the exact same reason why I think they will prevail in this matchup. Houston boasts the second-best offensive rebounding team in the country and if there is one area on the court where the Bears struggle the most it is in the rebounding category. Look for the Cougars to take big advantage of second-chance points as well as capitalizing on the small size of the Baylor guards.
Baylor sports one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, ranking second only to Gonzaga in the nation and sixth overall in points per game at 83.0. Coming into the tournament, the Bears led the nation in three-point shooting at 41.8% and they have a tremendous backcourt in Jared Butler and MaCio Teague who can score at will. Their defense is no slouch either led by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Davion Michell.
Even though they do not score a ton of points, Houston is not far behind the Bears in offensive efficiency coming in at fifth overall. Guard Quentin Grimes has been on fire for the Cougars, hitting an eye-popping 46.3% of his shots from behind the arc. Their strength, however, comes on the defensive side of the ball where they rank first in the country in opponent shooting percentage. This is where I believe they can exploit their remarkable defense by shutting down Butler and Teague and capitalizing on offense with the strength of their rebounding. Only once in the tournament have the Cougars allowed 60 points or more and that was in the Elite Eight against a red hot Oregon State.
This game should be a slow-paced, low-scoring affair that comes down to the wire. Both teams will limit the other’s ability to score, but in the end I believe Houston’s rebounding will prove to be too much for Baylor, edging them out at second-chance points which will be the difference in this game. Take the points, but don’t be surprised for the upset.
No. 1 Gonzaga -14 over No. 11 UCLA
UCLA has made quite the historic tournament run, becoming the first ever play-in team from the First Four to advance to the Final Four. They have won five straight in the tournament – four of which they were underdogs and won outright. They have beat an impressive slate of teams in that time including No.1 Michigan, No.2 Alabama, and No. 6 BYU. Now they will face their toughest competition to date when they take on the best team in the nation, Gonzaga, in a Final Four showdown.
The Bruins excel on the defensive end shutting down fast-paced, up-tempo teams throughout their Cinderella run just like when they limited Michigan to 49 points on Tuesday night. They have strengthened offensively as well. Johnny Juzang has emerged as the top option on offense for UCLA, averaging 22.4 points per game in the tournament and all other four starters have averaging points in the double digits during that span.
Gonzaga meanwhile has breezed through the competition this tournament, winning their first four games by a margin of 24 points. Their closest margin of victory came in the second round where they edged Oklahoma 87-71. They have been that dominant behind a strong starting five led by Jalen Suggs who has the potential to be drafted in the top 3 in this year’s NBA draft.
UCLA has put together an incredible story, but the tale comes to an end here. Gonzaga will prove to be too much to handle on the offensive front for the Bruins and UCLA will struggle to keep up on the shooting end. It’s a hefty number of points to lay but this one is worth it.