NCAA Basketball: Houston/Baylor Preview, Odds and Prediction - 04/03/2021

by Alec McMordie

NCAAB Saturday CBS Preview: Houston versus Baylor.

Houston plays Baylor in the first Final Four game on Saturday on CBS with a tip-off time of 5:14 PM ET.

The Cougars have won 11 games in a row after their 67-61 win against Oregon State as an 8-point favorite on Monday. Houston held a 17-point lead early in the second half before the Beavers knotted the game at 55 with under four minutes to go. The Cougars pulled away on the free-throw line to overcome a 29% shooting percentage in the second half.

Marcus Sasser paved the way with 20 points. The sophomore is second on the team with a 13.5 points-per-game scoring average. Junior Quentin Grimes added 18 points to match his 18.0 points-per-game scoring average. Senior DeJon Jarreau contributed 10 points with eight rebounds and eight assists. The American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 10.8 points-per-game, 5.5 rebounds-per-game, and 4.4 assists-per-game.

Kelvin Sampson returned five of the top seven scorers from the group last year that finished 23-8 and 13-5 in the AAC. The Cougars finished the regular season with a 14-3 record. Sampson has a veteran group with four seniors and two juniors in his rotation. Houston ranks third in the kenpom rankings with a 28-3 record. Their three losses were against Tulsa, East Carolina, and Wichita State.

The Cougars are seventh in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom, and they are second-best in the country by rebounding 39.8% of their missed shots. Houston ranks eighth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom, and they lead the nation with an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 43.3%. They have top-11 marks in both defensive 2-point and 3-point shooting percentages. The Cougars force turnovers in 21.3% of their opponent’s possessions, ranking 53rd nationally.

Baylor won their fourth straight game with an 81-72 win against Arkansas as a 7.5-point favorite on Monday. MaCio Teague led the team with 22 points. The senior is scoring 15.9 points-per-game. Davion Mitchell added 12 points, with ten coming in the second half. The junior is scoring 14.0 points-per-game, and he leads the team with a 5.3 assists-per-game average. Junior Jared Butler is the team’s leading scorer with a 16.5 points-per-game average. Scott Drew has a deep rotation with nine players averaging at least 10.9 minutes per game. Six players returned from the Baylor rotation that finished 26-4 last year.

The Bears rank second in the kenpom ratings with a 26-2 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, and Arkansas, who all rank in kenpom’s top-twenty. The Bears’ two losses were against Kansas and the Cowboys.

Baylor is third-best nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom. They lead the nation with a 41.1% shooting percentage from 3-point land. They rank seventh in offensive rebounding by grabbing 36.6% of their missed shots. Drew’s team is the 28th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 24.7% 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 30.6% of their missed shots, 273rd in the nation. The Bears do not get many freebies on the charity stripe, given a free throw rate that ranks 295th nationally.

BookMaker lists Baylor as a 5-point favorite with the total set at 134.5. Lucas Oil Stadium is the site. The victor plays the winner of the UCLA-Gonzaga contest for the National Championship on Monday.

Computer prediction:  Baylor 70 Houston 65

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

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