- Baylor and Gonzaga will play for the national championship on Monday, April 5th, at 9:20 pm ET in Indianapolis
- The point spread opened at Gonzaga -5 but has moved slightly in favor of the Bears
- See the current moneyline, point spread, and game total, plus predictions for the 2021 title game
The 67th and final game of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament will take place on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with West #1 Gonzaga (31-0, 16-13-2ATS) facing East #1 Baylor (27-2, 19-10 ATS). Regardless of which team wins, one school will be celebrating its first national title ever.
The point spread opened at Gonzaga -5 but has shrunk by half a point in the last 24 hours. The moneyline has seen more significant movement; it opened at -245/+188 and is now sitting at -200/+163 in favor of the Zags.
Baylor vs Gonzaga Odds (Updated)
|Team||Moneyline||Spread at DraftKings||Total|
|Baylor||+163||+4.5 (-108)||O 159.5 (-108)|
|Gonzaga||-200||-44.5 (-112)||U 159.5 (-112)|
Odds as of 11:04 am ET, April 5th, 2021.
Gonzaga’s Road to the Title Game
Mark Few’s Bulldogs were basically flawless through their first 30 games of the season. They didn’t cover every spread, but it’s hard to crush the spread when a team is laying 20-plus points on a nightly basis.
Gonzaga won 29 of its first 30 games by double digits, including a 12-point win over Kansas, an 11 point win over Iowa, and a 23-point win over Virginia, all on neutral courts. BYU, the only other WCC team to make the NCAA Tournament, went 0-3 against Gonzaga with a 12.7-point average margin of defeat.
The Bulldogs first four tournament games were – or at least looked – comically easy. After nearly doubling up #16 Norfolk State (98-55), they breezed through three Power Six teams: #8 Oklahoma (87-71), #5 Creighton (83-65), and #6 USC (85-66) which was rated the sixth-best team in the country by KenPom at the time of the game.
Speaking of KenPom, Gonzaga’s offense is – for the third straight season – rated first out of 357 Division I teams, averaging 127.2 points per 100 possessions.
Gonzaga needed every ounce of it in their Final Four win over UCLA – a 93-90 victory salvaged by a near-half-court buzzer beater from freshman sensation Jalen Suggs.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the UCLA game is that Gonzaga can be lit up by good offenses. UCLA sat 11th in offensive efficiency. USC – which sat 13th – was stifled thanks largely to going an ice-cold 4-15 from beyond the arc. But looking back to the regular season, the best offense Gonzaga faced (Iowa) racked up 88 points. It’s just that Gonzaga’s own offense was better.
The Zags interior defenders – mostly Drew Timme – had no answer for National Player of the Year Luka Garza (30 points on 13-18 shooting). Similarly, Timme was victimized routinely by UCLA’s frontcourt, specifically Johnny Juzang (29 points on 12-18 shooting).
Timme has been all-world at the offensive end – regular season and tournament. Gonzaga’s leading scorer (19.2 PPG) had a team-high 25 against UCLA and has scored at least 22 in the last four games – leading the Zags in each one. (He only had ten in the blowout over Norfolk State, a game that was more about staying healthy and rested.)
Corey Kispert (18.8 PPG) hasn’t had the best tournament. A lights-out 44.5% three-point shooter is under 40% in the tournament and just 5-18 (27.7%) in the last two games. Point guard Suggs, the highest-rated recruit in school history, has played beyond his years. The soon-to-be lottery pick is averaging 14,8 points and 5.8 assists in the past four games while shooting a solid 48.9% from the field.
Baylor Is Coming in Hot
Unlike Gonzaga, Baylor has been getting better and better over the last few games. After blowing out #16 Hartford (79-55) and outpacing #9 Wisconsin (76-63), the Bears found themselves in a dogfight with #5 Villanova.
Down five at halftime, Baylor was still down six with about 13 minutes to play. Then the Bears went on a 14-2 run, waved goodbye to the Wildcats, and kept them momentum going through the next 80 minutes of action.
In the Elite Eight against #3 Arkansas, Baylor raced out to a 15-point lead late in the first half. While the Razorbacks appropriately clawed their was back into the game in the second half – getting within four with seven minutes to go – the Bears kept their composure down the stretch. Sharpshooting Adam Flagler (an 86% FT shooter) scored Baylor’s final seven points, including going 4-4 from the stripe.
Ultimately Baylor covered the 7.5-point spread.
The Final Four battle with MidWest #2 Houston was supposed to be, at the very least, competitive. Scott Drew’s team had other plans. After Houston took an 8-6 lead early, Baylor went on a 16-3 run. And that wasn’t even their biggest run of the first half. An 18-3 run to end the first led to a jaw-dropping 45-20 halftime lead. The gap was never fewer than 16 in the second.
Baylor’s version of a “big three” – Jared Butler, MaCio Teach, and Davion Mitchell – have been good in the tournament and generally haven’t needed to be great. Somewhat unexpected contributions from the likes of Flagler (9.0 PPG) and Matthew Mayer (8.3 PPG) have taken pressure off the stars.
Flagler had a team-high 16 against Nova while Mayer led Baylor with 17 against Wisconsin. Teague had a team-high 22 against both Hartford and Arkansas. Butler was the high man with 17 against Houston in an extremely balanced offensive performance versus a top-ten D. Five Bears scored in double figures.
The main thing that has given Gonzaga trouble this year is hyper-talented big-men (see Garza and Juzang). Baylor is not that style of team, starting basically a five-guard lineup. They struggle on defense because of their lack of size. Their defense ranks just 280th in the nation in offensive-rebounding rate (meaning they give up offensive boards more often than 279 other teams). They hit the glass hard at the other end, sitting sixth in OR% on offense, but that’s going to be strength-on-strength versus Gonzaga.
The Zags’ defense sits 18th overall in OR%, or a full 262 spots higher than Baylor.
Baylor’s offense is three-point-centric. They score 36.1% of their points from three (50th-most) while Gonzaga kills you from inside. The Bulldogs generate just 24.8% of their offense from beyond the arc (310th-most).
If Baylor shoots the lights out, which it has the propensity to do, they can outscore the Zags in a one-game, winner-take-all scenario. But I’m sticking with the surer bet, which is that the best two-point offense in the history of KenPom finishes off its perfect season in style.
Pick: Gonzaga -4.5 (-109)
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