NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga/Baylor Preview, Odds and Prediction - 04/05/2021

by Alec McMordie

NCAAB Monday CBS Preview: Baylor versus Gonzaga.

The National Championship showdown between the two teams generally considered the cream of the crop for the entire season was made official with the Final Four results on Saturday. Baylor plays Gonzaga in a battle of the top two teams in the Associated Press poll on CBS with a tip-off time of 9:20 PM ET.

Baylor had it easy in their 78-59 win against Houston as a 5-point favorite in the first Final Four game on Saturday. The Bears raced out to a 45-20 going into the locker room at halftime. Jared Butler scored all of his 17 points in those first 20 minutes. Five Baylor players scored in double digits.

Butler is the team’s leading scorer with a 16.6 points-per-game scoring average. The junior adds 4.7 assists per game. Senior MaCio Teague contributes 15.8 points per game. Davion Mitchell scores 14.0 points per game, with the junior leading the team with a 5.5 assists per game average. Scott Drew's deep rotation features eight players averaging at least 15 minutes per game. Six players returned from the Bears' rotation that finished 26-4 last year.

Baylor ranks second in the kenpom ratings with a 27-2 record. They finished 13-1 in the Big 12 regular season before getting upset in the conference tournament semifinals to Oklahoma State, 83-74. Baylor has wins against Illinois, Texas Tech (twice), Wisconsin, Villanova, Arkansas, and Houston, who all rank in kenpom’s top-twenty. The Bears’ two losses were against Kansas and the Cowboys.

Baylor is second-best nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom. They lead the nation with a 41.2% shooting percentage from 3-point land. They rank sixth in offensive rebounding by grabbing 36.9% of their missed shots. Drew’s team is the 27th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 24.6% of their opponent’s possessions, ranking third nationally. If there is a weakness to this team, it is with their defensive rebounding. Baylor allows their opponents to rebound 30.9% of their missed shots, 280th in the nation. The Bears do not get many freebies on the charity stripe, given a free throw rate that ranks 295th nationally.

Gonzaga defeated UCLA in the second Final Four game on Saturday with Jalen Suggs’ 40-foot buzzer-beater in overtime, lifting them to a 93-90 victory as a 14-point favorite. It was never easy for unbeaten Bulldogs, who withstood 19 lead changes and never held a lead of more than seven points against the Bruins.

All five of the Bulldogs’ starters scored in double-digits Drew Time led the team with 25 points. The sophomore is scoring 19.2 points per game and averaging 7.1 rebounds per game. Junior Joel Ayayi added 22 points to improve his 12.2 points-per-game average. Suggs contributed 16 points, six assists, and five rebounds. The freshman is scoring 14.1 points per game and averaging 5.5 rebounds per game and 4.6 assists per game. Corey Kispert scored 15 points with five assists and five rebounds. The senior averages 18.8 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. Junior Andrew Nembhard scored 11 points to go with his 9.2 points-per-game mark.

The Bulldogs are the last remaining undefeated team in the nation with a 31-0 record to accompany their number one ranking and top-rating at kenpom. They have rattled off 35 straight victories going back to last season, and they have won 28 in a row by double-digits. Gonzaga played a rigorous non-conference schedule that included powerhouses in Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia, and Iowa. The Bulldogs defeated Norfolk State, Oklahoma, Creighton, USC, and then the Bruins in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga has the country's top adjusted offensive efficiency number according to metrics at kenpom. Their effective field goal percentage of 61.1% is tops nationally. The Zags are eighth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They limit their opponents to rebound 23.1% of their missed shots, 18th best in the nation. If there is a crack in the armor, it might start with their half-court defense. Their opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 47.5%, which is only 55th nationally.

Mark Few returned three players from his seven-man rotation that finished 31-2 last season and looked poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed. This group may be Few’s most talented roster in his 22 seasons as the Gonzaga head coach.

Lucas Oil Stadium is the site. BetAnySports lists Gonzaga as a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 159.

Computer prediction:  Gonzaga 82 Baylor 76

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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