The two top teams in college basketball for most of the year – and the consensus betting favorites – will finally meet for the ultimate prize on Monday night in Indianapolis, with either the Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-0 SU, 16-13-2 ATS) or Baylor Bears (27-2, 19-10) cutting down the nets as NCAA basketball national champions.
The unbeaten Bulldogs opened as 4.5-point favorites against the Bears following a thrilling 93-90 overtime victory against the UCLA Bruins in the Final Four on Saturday. The Bulldogs are attempting to become the first team to end the season with a perfect record since the Indiana Hoosiers finished 32-0 in 1976.
Opening Odds Analysis
There has been no movement on the point spread since the opening number was released Saturday night at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark while the total is down slightly to 159.5 from 160. Gonzaga looked vulnerable for perhaps the first time this season in its national semifinal win over UCLA, opening the possibility for Baylor to potentially pull off the upset. But the Bulldogs also showed a lot of resiliency and proved themselves as the best team in the country yet again.
The Bears blew out the Houston Cougars 78-59 in the other semifinal, were barely tested after the first 10 minutes or so, and have the talent to match up here. The closing number will come down to whether bettors think Baylor has a chance to win.
Baylor News & Notes
The South Region champion Bears closed as 5-point favorites against the Midwest champion Cougars and covered the number easily without making their backers sweat at all. The total came down to a couple of late buckets made by scrubs in the final minute, finishing just OVER 135.5 with 22 seconds remaining.
The OVER improved to 3-1 in Baylor’s last four games in the big dance after cashing for the second straight time, with the team averaging 75.2 points per game in the tournament overall and going 4-1 ATS.
The defense was the deciding factor vs Houston, limiting the No. 2 Cougars to 20 points in the first half and 38.2 percent shooting (21 of 55) for the game. The No. 1 Bears won the South final by playing outstanding defense and they will need to do the same thing again vs a much more formidable offensive foe to have a shot to win it all.
Gonzaga News & Notes
Gonzaga was 4-0 ATS in its first four games of the NCAA Tournament and probably did not expect UCLA, which won the East Region as the play-in No. 11 seed, to compete at nearly the same level in its sixth game going back to the First Four.
The Bruins should be applauded for their efforts, as nobody expected them to get this far. They nearly won straight up as 14.5-point underdogs, taking the Bulldogs down to the wire before Jalen Suggs banked in an improbable three-pointer from more than 30 feet out in OT for the game-winner.
But it was seven-foot center Drew Timme who was nearly unstoppable for the West Region champs, scoring a team-high 25 points despite playing the end of regulation and the extra session with four fouls.
Timme scored the team’s first six points of OT and was instrumental in leading the team down the stretch, even while battling foul trouble. However, one potential issue for the Bulldogs could be depth, as four of their five starters played 40 minutes or more against the Bruins, and Timme would have too had it not been for the fouls. Two reserves played 19 minutes total and scored four points.
Betting Pick: OVER 159.5
Nobody wants to root for an UNDER, especially in a championship game. This is the first time Baylor has been an underdog this season, although these teams were originally scheduled to square off on December 5 before COVID-19 protocols prevented that from happening – Gonzaga was also favored in that spot but by a smaller number.
There are a bunch of future NBA players on both sides and they will showcase their talents on this stage for everyone to see. The numbers simply do not lie, as these teams have played to the OVER in a majority of their games this year. While the Bears would love to use their defense to slow down the Bulldogs, I do not see that happening. Go OVER here.