Final Four 2021 Bracket: TV Schedule, Live Stream and NCAA Tournament Picks

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 3, 2021

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs plays against Norfolk State during the second half of a men's college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will try to continue their undefeated season against the only Division I men's basketball program with multiple perfect seasons.

Although this year's iteration of the UCLA Bruins is not viewed as a contender to Gonzaga, there is a bit of symbolism involved in the Zags beating one of the most historic programs in the Final Four to advance to the national championship.

Gonzaga is once again an overwhelming favorite to win in Indianapolis, and unless UCLA halts the run of fast starts, the game may be all but over by halftime.

Saturday's opener inside Lucas Oil Stadium is expected to be much closer, as the Baylor Bears and Houston Cougars share similar strengths in the backcourt. Baylor should advance, but it may face its toughest test of the NCAA tournament to get into the title game.


Men's Final Four Information

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 2 Houston (5:14 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 UCLA (8:34 p.m. ET, CBS)

Games can be live-streamed on the CBS Sports app and CBSSports.com.



No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 11 UCLA

Gonzaga is aiming to be the eighth team to finish a men's basketball season with a perfect record.

The Zags looked the part of the nation's top program in their first four victories. They eclipsed the 80-point mark and won by double digits in each of those contests.

Gonzaga has not let its opponents find a rhythm early on, as it is known for racing out to fast starts and not letting up. Mark Few's team has a first-half winning margin average of 15.5, and it is averaging 45.3 points in the first 20 minutes.

In the Elite Eight, the Zags finished off the USC Trojans within the first 10 minutes and owned a 19-point lead at the break. If Gonzaga solves UCLA's defense and gets off to a similar start, it could once again cruise into the next round.

UCLA's path to an upset revolves around strong defense and support for Johnny Juzang in the scoring column. It only received the strong defensive outing against the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan was one of two teams in the past three games that the Bruins held below 50 points, but achieving that total seems unlikely Saturday versus a team that could put up 50 in the first 20 minutes. UCLA needs to hold Gonzaga to 60-70 points to have a chance of clinching a spot in the final. It also needs more support for Juzang, who earned 28 of the team's 51 points versus Michigan.

If Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez and others chip in, like they did against the Alabama Crimson Tide, UCLA stands a shot to remain close. Even if UCLA plays a mistake-free game, Gonzaga can still win by double digits. The Zags have displayed a terrific closing gear and have a single win by fewer than 10 points this season.

The No. 1 overall seed can control the paint through Drew Timme much better than Michigan did with Hunter Dickinson, and there is a good chance its guards do not have as poor of a shooting night as the Wolverines' guards.

Gonzaga's offense was held under 80 points on two occasions, and it still won those games by double figures.

Every time you try to map out UCLA's potential path to an upset win, there is a Gonzaga stat to discredit it. All of the numbers suggest Gonzaga will win in convincing fashion.


No. 1 Baylor over No. 2 Houston

The all-Texas Final Four opener should be billed as a defensive showdown.

Baylor and Houston both have impressive defenses that are run by a lengthy unit of guards. Baylor runs through Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague, Jared Butler and Mark Vital. Houston relies on DeJan Jarreau, Marcus Sasser and Quentin Grimes.

Houston is more accustomed to playing a grind-it-out type game, as it won its past three contests by scoring in the 60s. The Cougars also ended their American Athletic Conference slate with two tight battles against the Memphis Tigers, which were won by a combined five points.

Baylor's games typically featured more points, with it pulling away through a dominant defensive stretch. For example, the Bears put up 81 points on the Arkansas Razorbacks and used a stretch of 11 missed field goals in a row from the SEC side to create second-half separation.

The Bears were tested on plenty of occasions in the Big 12, but they had five wins of eight points or more against Top 25 sides. They also recovered from a poor start against the West Virginia Mountaineers on March 2 to win by five in overtime.

Baylor's closing ability should give it the edge against a Houston side that struggled to put away the Oregon State Beavers in the Elite Eight. Oregon State looked out of the contest by halftime and then scored 44 second-half points to finish within six of the Cougars.

Houston also could not pull away from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the second round. It had to claw back from behind to avoid an early elimination. Kelvin Sampson's side has not displayed the same killer finishing instinct in close games that Baylor flashed all season.

With the margins expected to be thin, all it could take for Baylor to gain control is a four-minute stretch in which it outscores Houston by five or more points.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.