Baylor vs. Gonzaga 2021: Odds Advice and Key Player Predictions for Men's Title

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 4, 2021

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) celebrates with teammate guard Aaron Cook (4) after making a basket during the second half of a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game against UCLA, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The matchup that men's college basketball fans wanted will happen Monday with a national championship on the line.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears have been the two best teams in the sport all season long. Four 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.


Men's National Championship Odds

Spread: Gonzaga (-4.5)

Over/Under: 160

Money Line: Gonzaga -210 (bet $210 to win $100); Baylor +165 (bet $100 to win $165)

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.


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


Odds Advice

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.

Since 2010, none of the national championship games have 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 reaching 80 points should be 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.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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