The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears have been on a collision course all season. Now the two best teams in college basketball will meet on Monday night in the 2021 NCAA National Championship Game. Undefeated Gonzaga is a 4.5-point favorite on the betting line.
Our college basketball experts and hosts of the BetQL U podcast, Eli Hershkovich and Reed Wallach, give their best bets for Gonzaga-Baylor with odds courtesy of BetMGM. In the biggest game of the season, our experts are on different sides of the much-anticipated matchup.
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We’ve reached the pinnacle of the season, and there’s only one way I see betting this game — by taking the points.
Gonzaga will have an advantage if it’s pushing the tempo in transition throughout, as Baylor is allowing the 83rd-highest 2-point scoring rate in the country. The Bears won’t necessarily look to slow down the tempo for an entire 40 minutes, but Scott Drew’s team would be wise to play more in the halfcourt than it did against Houston, generating 1.34 points per possession in the process.
Although the Bulldogs don’t turn the ball over often, tallying the 34th-lowest turnover rate in the nation, the Bears are a different beast with their extended ball pressure. Baylor’s Davion Mitchell, who’s the best defensive guard in college basketball, and Jared Butler both present the footspeed and physicality to frustrate Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs.
Slowing down Bulldogs forward Drew Timme won’t be easy with his skillset around the rim, but the Bears have the length to cause some disruption with bigs Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
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At the other end, Gonzaga’s biggest defensive weakness is via inside the arc, letting up the 40th-highest opponent’s 2-point scoring rate. Mitchell’s prowess for attacking the paint should give the Bulldogs fits, especially if Baylor can get Timme into pick-and-roll sets. That’ll set up the Bears’ perimeter offense, as they’ve notched the No. 1 3-point percentage (41.2%) and the 50th-highest scoring rate from behind the arc.
Baylor wing MaCio Teague (38.9% on 3s) will benefit if the Bears’ game plan comes to fruition, and there could be some value with his player props. Teague shot just 1 of 5 from the perimeter against Houston on Saturday, and he should have a bounce-back performance in store.
I’ll wait to see if public money pushes this line up to Gonzaga -5 before betting Baylor. If not, I’ll grab the current point spread. I think the Bears can keep it within two possessions.
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We are finally here. All we wanted all year was Gonzaga-Baylor and thankfully we are going to get it on the biggest stage.
Ultimately, I think that the Zags are going to complete their quest for an undefeated season and cover the spread.
Over the weekend, Baylor dismantled Houston in the Final Four and Gonzaga had to go to overtime with UCLA, but those results don’t warrant a full point adjustment as is the case here.
Gonzaga was -5.5 at most shops in the lookahead market, so I see the public overreacting to the Final 4 results, making the Bulldogs the play at anything under -5.
These are the two best offenses in the country, but I think that the Zags ability to score from inside -- the best two-point offense in the country, hitting nearly 64% of their shots from inside the arc -- is going to be the defining characteristic of this one.
Drew Timme is going to be able to work down low and be the most reliable offense source on either end.
On the defensive side, Gonzaga does a great job of using their length to run the opposition off the three-point line, allowing the 66th lowest three-point rate in the country. That’s big against a Baylor offense that generates the 50th highest percentage of points from beyond the arc. If Baylor isn’t getting clean looks from deep, they are going to struggle to keep up with Mark Few’s offense.