No. 1 Gonzaga will meet No. 1 Baylor in the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball national championship game TODAY (Monday).
Tipoff is scheduled for 9:20 p.m. ET at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will be televised by CBS. Watch Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Baylor Bears 2021 Live: FREE stream, TV channel, NCAA Basketball Cup-Qualifying Game
The Gonzaga Bulldogs VS Baylor Bears have been the two best teams in the sport all season long. Five months after their regular-season meeting in Indianapolis was cancelled, they will meet at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Gonzaga is one win away from an undefeated season. It opened as a five-point favorite, and the spread has fallen to 4.5 points since the line was posted.
Both sides are projected to put up a ton of points, as the over/under sits at 160. To reach that total, the programs need to tap into the scoring depth that was on display in their respective Final Four victories.
Even if the title game does not reach 160 points, we should still be treated to a back-and-forth affair in which the top players on each side thrive.
MORE MARCH MADNESS: Live scores | Updated bracket | TV schedule
Gonzaga (31-0) won the West Region under coach Mark Few and advanced to the championship game with a thrilling 93-90 overtime victory over No. 11 UCLA on Saturday. Jalen Suggs’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer was the highlight, and the Bulldogs hope to carry that momentum into the championship game. Suggs, Drew Timme and Corey Kispert are All-America playmakers trying to cap that perfect season.
Baylor (27-2) won the South Region under coach Scott Drew and advanced to the championship game with a 78-59 victory over No. 2 Houston in the Final Four. The Bears are in the national championship game for the first time since 1948. Baylor’s guard trio of Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell hit double figures against the Cougars.
Here’s everything to know about betting on Gonzaga vs. Baylor in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, including updated odds, trends and our prediction for the Final Four game.
Gonzaga vs. Baylor odds
- Spread: Gonzaga -5
- Over/under: 160
- Moneyline: Gonzaga -245, Baylor +188
Key Player Predictions
Drew Timme: 20 points, 10 rebounds
Corey Kispert: 15 points, 6 rebounds
Jalen Suggs: 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
Davion Mitchell: 18 points, 6 assists
MaCio Teague: 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
Jared Butler: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
MORE MARCH MADNESS: Live scores | Updated bracket | TV schedule
Three betting trends to watch
— The Bulldogs have been favored in every game and are 16-13-2 ATS this season. Gonzaga is 5-1 ATS against top-25 opponents and 4-1 ATS in this year’s tournament.
— Baylor is 19-10 ATS this season, but this is its first game as an underdog. Baylor is 4-1 ATS in this year’s tournament.
— Baylor is 10-3 ATS and 13-0 S/U in nonconference games. Gonzaga is 9-5 ATS and 14-0 S/U in nonconference games.
Final Four history
Gonzaga is in its second national championship game; the first was a 71-65 loss to North Carolina on April 3, 2017. The Bulldogs can become the first undefeated Division I men’s basketball team since Indiana finished 32-0 in the 1975-76 season. Baylor will play in its second title game. The Bears lost to Kentucky 58-42 in the 1948 men’s national championship.
Gonzaga key players
Timme (19.0 ppg) has been a force throughout the tournament. He scored 25 points in the semifinal against UCLA. Kispert (18.9 ppg) and Suggs (14.0 ppg) form a dynamic backcourt. Joel Ayayi (11.8 ppg) and Andrew Nembhard (9.1 ppg) also hit double figures against the Bruins. The Bulldogs do not have a deep bench.
Baylor key players
Baylor uses an eight-man rotation, but everything starts with guards Butler (16.5 ppg), Teague (15.9 ppg) and Mitchell (14.0 ppg). They combine to average close to 12 assists per game, and they combined for 40 points in the victory against Houston. Baylor’s supporting cast includes Adam Flagler (9.0 ppg), Matthew Mayer (8.2 ppg), Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6.3 ppg), Mark Vital (5.7 ppg) and Flo Thamba (3.6 ppg).
Best individual matchup: Jalen Suggs vs. Davion Mitchell
There are popcorn GIFs for this kind of thing. Mitchell is the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, and the 6-2, 205-pound guard is a wide body who is disruptive on the perimeter. Suggs, a 6-4, 205-pound guard, is one of the best — if not the best — players in the country off the drive, and he has shot better than 50 percent from the floor for the season. The Bears have turned up their defense in the last three tournament games, allowing just 60.7 points per game. Mitchell has been at the center of that.
Gonzaga vs. Baylor stat to know
UCLA pushed Gonzaga to the brink by shooting 57.6 percent from the floor. That was the highest field goal percentage against the Bulldogs this season. The other two teams to shoot 50 percent or better? Kansas (53.2 percent) and Oklahoma (50 percent). Gonzaga won both of those games, but those Big 12 schools were successful on the offensive end. Baylor can have that success, and it also can win with its defense.
Get to know … Mayer and Tchamwa Tchatchoua
The two combined for 23 points and 10 rebounds against Houston in the Final Four, and both played over 20 minutes. They are high-energy players who will be valuable on defense given how Gonzaga can push the tempo for 40 minutes. Tchamwa Tchatchoua, a 6-8 forward from Cameroon, likely will see valuable minutes against Timme. Mayer has averaged 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in the tournament. They will need to contribute for the Bears to pull the upset.
Gonzaga vs Baylor prediction
Gonzaga was supposed to win in a blowout and Baylor in a tight one in the Final Four. Those roles were reversed. Still, the Bulldogs did what UNLV and Kentucky couldn’t do in 1991 and 2015, respectively: reach the championship game.
The Bears can score with the Bulldogs, which should lead to a furious first half and a slim Gonzaga lead at intermission. Baylor has defended the 3-point ball well during the tournament, but the common thread in its two losses this season (Kansas, Oklahoma State) was an off shooting night. If the Bears are off, then Gonzaga will win in a blowout.
Mitchell will tie up Suggs, but Kispert and Timme will get the offense going in the second half. The Bulldogs hold off Baylor’s late charge with free throws, seal the perfect season and earn a national championship worth waiting for.
Take the Under
It may be hard to suggest taking the under after Gonzaga and Baylor put on incredible offensive displays Saturday.
However, there will be some strong defense played throughout the contest that could slow the scoring pace toward.
Since 2010, none of the national championship games had 160 regulation points. The Virginia Cavaliers and Texas Tech Red Raiders combined for 162 points in 2019, but 26 of those came in overtime.
During that span, eight of the 20 title game participants reached the 70-point mark and three games had both teams eclipse that total. Only Virginia in 2019 and the Louisville Cardinals in 2014 surged over 80.
Gonzaga played at a higher scoring pace than Baylor this season, but three of its five NCAA tournament games had under 160 points because of how well its defense played. Baylor’s defense held four NCAA tournament foes under 65 points. The low concessions allowed the Bears to feel comfortable beneath 80 points.
The Zags will give Baylor the toughest defensive matchup it faces all season, and the same can be said about the showdown on the other end of the court.
Jalen Suggs, Andrew Nembhard and Joel Ayayi will try to keep Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell in check and vice versa.
The Suggs-Mitchell matchup has the potential to be fantastic since both players are terrific on the ball and can make shots from anywhere on the court.
Mark Vital could draw a one-on-one clash with either Corey Kispert and Drew Timme, which could make life frustrating for either one of Gonzaga’s stars.
Timme will face Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua down low. Both Baylor big men possess the size that Timme has rarely seen from two players on an opposing roster.
If the Baylor big men make life difficult for Timme and avoid getting into foul trouble, most possessions could end in high-difficulty shots.
There is always the chance Gonzaga and Baylor come out red-hot from the field and put the over in play, but there is so much defensive talent on display that should make reaching 80 points difficult.
Rely on Gonzaga to Win and Cover
Gonzaga played arguably its worst defensive game of the season Saturday and still won by three points in overtime.
The Zags have Suggs to thank for that, as he made a few terrific plays at the end of the second half and overtime to keep them in the contest.
Suggs’ block and a long assist late in the second half and his game-winning shot were the two most important plays of the win over the UCLA Bruins.
Gonzaga received UCLA’s best punch on every possession and it struggled at times to contain the production of Johnny Juzang and Co. That was an uncharacteristic defensive showing since the Zags allowed one prior team to get above 70 points in Indianapolis.
The defensive lapses likely will not be there for a second straight game from a team that is one win away from the eighth undefeated men’s basketball season.
When breaking down which team to bet on the spread, you also have to consider Gonzaga’s ability to break open games in an instant through its defense and transition games.
There were a few times throughout Saturday’s second half in which the Zags appeared ready to burst open a double-digit advantage because of four- or five-point swings that were caused by their defense.
If Gonzaga can run in transition and make easy baskets down low through Timme, it will create the separation needed to win and cover the spread.
Timme’s play could be the key to victory, as he has a chance to get Baylor’s big men into foul trouble with his agility underneath the basket.
If Gonzaga creates that small advantage down low, it could open up additional free-throw opportunities and make enough of a difference on the scoreboard.