NCAA Championship Game 2021: Baylor vs. Gonzaga Final Score PredictionsApril 5, 2021
The college basketball season will conclude Monday with a battle between the two best teams on the men's side.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears have been atop the rankings all season, and since their December meeting was cancelled, everyone around the sport has hoped for another shot at the matchup.
Gonzaga and Baylor have looked in control for the majority of their games in Indianapolis. The only slip-up was Gonzaga's trip to overtime against the UCLA Bruins on Saturday.
What makes Gonzaga so good is it can absorb the best game from its opponents and still come out on top. Baylor possessed the same quality throughout Big 12 play, as it navigated a schedule full of Top 25 teams without many blemishes.
Monday's matchup is expected to be tight because neither team has a significant advantage in any area of the court. An argument can be made that Gonzaga has a bit more scoring depth than Baylor, but that is one of the few areas where an edge is held.
Final Score Prediction
Gonzaga 75, Baylor 70
Gonzaga and Baylor could easily reach the 80-point mark against any other opponents. However, the defensive form of both teams and history suggest we are more likely to see a game finish in the 70s on Monday night.
Since 2000, the winning team in the men's national championship game eclipsed the 80-point mark on eight occasions. Four of those occurrences happened between 2000 and 2004. In that same span, the victor had at least 70 points on 14 occasions, including each of the past four title clashes.
Those numbers suggest we could see an offensive battle that ends up short of Gonzaga's typical offensive pace.
Gonzaga averaged 89.2 points per game in its first five NCAA tournament games, but Baylor's defense is the toughest it will face all season. The Bears made every possession from the Houston Cougars feel difficult Saturday, as their guards gave up little space and closed down on most shots that looked open for a split second.
The Bears have held three foes under 60 points in Indianapolis, including Houston in the Final Four. Baylor's defense could hold an early edge Monday since Gonzaga is coming into the contest with a disadvantage in rest and off a game that demanded maximum energy on every possession.
If Scott Drew's team limits Gonzaga's output in the first five to 10 minutes, it will be hard for Gonzaga to reach 80 points again.
Saturday's win over the UCLA Bruins could hurt Gonzaga physically at the start, but how it played out may help it close out a victory Monday. Mark Few's squad received 33 points from Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard. If Ayayi and Nembhard reach double figures again, Baylor's defense could be stretched thin.
The Bears have to focus on Drew Timme, Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs, but if Ayayi and Nembhard get hot, they may have to alter their defensive strategy and avoid any double teams.
Baylor's guards could bring up the same issues in Gonzaga's defense, but if it can't drive into the paint against Timme, it may struggle to have a well-rounded approach. If Gonzaga affects enough of Baylor's short-range shots and turns those misses into transition opportunities, it could break open the game in a few quick spurts.
In Suggs, Ayayi and Nembhard, Gonzaga has three guards who can race down the court and shift the momentum in its favor in a few seconds. If Gonzaga forces enough misses and takes advantage of its pace in transition, it should build enough of a lead to complete its undefeated season.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.