2021 NCAA National Championship Bets
The Gonzaga-UCLA Final Four game was one for the ages. Beyond the near half-court buzzer-beater in overtime by Jalen Suggs, the largest lead by either side was just seven points, and there were 19 lead changes. It truly doesn’t get much better than that. With just one game left in the college basketball season, Matt Gajewski and I are back for another combo piece to break down our favorite bets for the Championship game. Like last time, Matt provides his insight on his favorite bet against the spread, while I dish out a couple of player props.
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2021 NCAA National Championship Bets
Baylor (1) vs. Gonzaga (1)
Gonzaga -4.5 (-108 at PointsBet)
After finishing the regular season with just a pair of losses, Baylor ran through each of their tournament opponents with a margin of victory of nine points or more. Upon dismantling Hartford, Wisconsin, Villanova, Arkansas and Houston, Baylor earned a trip to the finals for the chance to play Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have a perfect 31-0 record to this point, with wins over Norfolk State, Oklahoma, Creighton, USC and UCLA in the NCAA tournament. After overcoming the Bruins by three points in overtime, Gonzaga now sits as a 4.5-point favorite over Baylor in a game with a 159.5-point overall total.
While people may point to Gonzaga’s narrow victory over UCLA as a reason to back Baylor, this argument ignores an impressive full body of work. Gonzaga has now won 29-of-31 games by double-digit points—25 of those by at least 14 points. Facing solid competition along the way, the Bulldogs knocked off Virginia, West Virginia, Iowa and Kansas, in addition to their tournament opponents. Even in the UCLA game, Gonzaga overcame immense adversity to secure the win. UCLA put up a historic performance, shooting 57.6% from the field with only 10 turnovers. They also held Gonzaga to seven three-pointers. Teams hitting those three benchmarks are 98-1 this season, pointing to Gonzaga’s own elite performance.
On the other side, Baylor has also played strong competition to date. However, they’ve displayed some important weaknesses along the way. Dropping games to Kansas and Oklahoma State, Baylor has struggled with teams possessing size with good ball control. While Baylor shot 23% and 21.4% from three, respectively, in those two games, they also allowed 43 and 35 rebounds. Those two marks were the most and fourth-most rebounds allowed by Baylor all season.
Looking at each team’s starting five, Gonzaga holds a clear size advantage. Baylor starts four players standing 6-foot-5 or shorter, with a rotating big man occupying the last starting position. Meanwhile, Gonzaga starts Drew Timme (6-foot-10), Corey Kispert (6-foot-7), Joel Ayayi (6-foot-5) and Andrew Nembhard (6-foot-5). Unsurprisingly, Gonzaga holds the advantage in rebounding, averaging 37.6 per game (67th) to Baylor’s 35.9 (137th).
This rebounding weakness has already appeared in a few games for Baylor this postseason. Wisconsin, Villanova and Arkansas all out-rebounded Baylor in their respective tournament games. However, Baylor’s sixth-ranked turnover defense tipped the scales, winning the turnover battle in each of the three. Unfortunately, Gonzaga ranks 260th in offensive turnovers, creating a tough stylistic matchup for Baylor's defense.
Baylor does possess certain advantages, like their 41.2% three-point shooting percentage as a team (1st). However, Gonzaga also shoots 37% from three (45th) and plays with the pace to keep up with an efficient Baylor offense. Interestingly, despite their strong three-point shooting, Baylor only shoots 70.1% from the free-throw line (201st). Gonzaga shoots 73.1% (94th), giving them a slight advantage in close games as well.
Despite the recent close game against UCLA, Gonzaga still holds important advantages over Baylor in this contest. With the line sitting at just 4.5 points, Gonzaga still looks like a strong play against the spread.
Risk: 1.08 units on Gonzaga -4.5 on PointsBet to win 1 unit.
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Jared Butler Over 3.5 Assists (-134 at DraftKings)
With the game total at 160 points, sportsbooks have priced up all the Gonzaga player props but didn’t really move the needle much on Baylor players. Considering the spread is only 4.5 in Gonzaga’s favor, I think that’s a mistake. Baylor’s core players also aren’t getting much love in the market. As Matt noted above, all of Baylor's wins have been by 9+ points in the tournament. This has led to a player like Jared Butler playing 33, 32, 36, 29 and 33 minutes in his five tournament games so far. That’s good usage, but most projections have him penciled in for 35 minutes, assuming Baylor doesn’t notch a near-double-digit win. Butler is averaging 4.7 assists per game on the season and has recorded 4+ assists in 10-of-11 games he played 32+ minutes. In a game projected for a ton of points, I could see him notching 5-6 assists with ease. I also like putting a half unit on over 4.5 assists at PointsBet (+115).
Risk: 1.34 units on Jared Butler over 3.5 assists on DraftKings to win 1 unit.
Risk: 0.5 unit on Jared Butler over 4.5 assists on PointsBets to win 0.575 units.
MaCio Teague Over 3.5 Rebounds (-118 at DraftKings)
Similar to Butler, Teague also projects to play 35+ minutes in this spot. The Zags may have an advantage on the glass but this number is so short he only needs four rebounds to hit the over. The senior averaged 4.0 rebounds per game this season and has gone over 3.5 rebounds in 17-of-29 games (58%) this season. In the 10 games Teague played 35+ minutes, he recorded 4+ rebounds in eight of them.
Risk: 1.18 units on Macio Teague over 3.5 rebounds on DraftKings to win 1 unit.
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*All lines accurate at the time of publication.
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