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SBD’s Experts Offer Their Baylor vs Gonzaga Picks

Sascha Paruk

by Sascha Paruk in College Basketball

Apr 4, 2021 · 6:45 PM PDT

Matthew Mayer, Guard, Baylor
Baylor guard Matthew Mayer (24) celebrates during the first half of a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game against Houston, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
  • Baylor and Gonzaga will play for the 2021 national championship on Monday, April 5th (9:20 pm ET)
  • SBD’s editorial team has weighed in with their expert picks: moneyline, ATS, game total, and their favorite props
  • See where they differ and where there is consensus

The 2021 college basketball national champion will be crowned on Monday, April 5th, when the Baylor Bears and Gonzaga Bulldogs meet at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (9:20 pm ET).

SBD’s editorial team – half of whom predicted Gonzaga to win at the outset – have made their picks for the game, which you can find in the table below.

All odds below from DraftKings on Sunday, April 4th.

Expert Picks: Baylor vs Gonzaga

“Expert” Moneyline ATS Total Best Prop Bet
Matt McEwan Gonzaga (-210) Gonzaga -4.5 (-112) Over 159.5 (-110) Kispert Over 15.5 Points
Mitch Robson Baylor (+165) Baylor +4.5 (-108) Under 159.5 (-110) Adam Flagler Over 8.5 points (-113)
Ryan Metivier Gonzaga (-210) Baylor +4.5 (-108) Over 159.5 (-110) Baylor 1st Half Total – Over 36.5 (-121)
Ryan Sura Gonzaga (-210) Gonzaga -4.5 (-112) Over 159.5 (-110) Joel Ayayi Over 12.5 Points (-125)
Sascha Paruk Gonzaga (-210) Gonzaga -4.5 (-112) Under 159.5 (-110) 1st Half Under 76.0 (-113)

Odds as of 9:25 pm ET, April 4th.

Matt McEwan

In my opinion, the deciding factor in this game will be how well Gonzaga can defend the perimeter.

Houston wasn’t able to pressure the ball against Baylor in the Final Four, and we saw the Bears catch fire from behind the three-point line early. I don’t foresee Gonzaga allowing that to happen.

The Bulldogs are too efficient offensively, and I think we’ll see Corey Kispert come out on fire in this one. After not shooting the ball very well from beyond the arc in the Final Four, I like the Zags to get him some open looks early to get Kispert going.

Mitch Robson

I’m fading the public as well as the majority of our staff by riding with the Baylor Bears on Monday night.

We saw UCLA expose some areas of how to attack the Zags on Saturday night, and the Bears possess the ability to consistently make enough shots to keep pace with Mark Few’s squad.

While they aren’t likely to slow the tempo as they like to run as much as Gonzaga, the Bears on-ball defense led by Davion “Off-Night” Mitchell is the strongest that Jalen Suggs and co. will have seen this season – and I expect them to create enough turnovers and channel that into extra scoring opportunities.

The key will be keeping Mark Vital and Flo Thamba out of early foul trouble combatting Drew Timme inside.

As for a player prop, Adam Flagler has scored over 8.5 points in three of their five tourney games so far, and should see enough open looks with the defensive focus elsewhere to reach double figures.

Ryan Metivier

It’s two top-three offenses, a fast-paced Zags team ranked first in overall offense and field-goal shooting (best of all-time), up against a Baylor team ranked first in three-point shooting, versus a 90th-ranked Zags defense against the long-ball.

I want to make a case for the under, but that would be primarily just because the number, 160, is so big, and in an effort to be contrarian.

Even with both teams shooting lights-out in the semifinals, the total of 162 (81-81) at the end of regulation between Gonzaga and UCLA would’ve just fallen over this number. The eventual outcome (93-90) was the first single-digit win for the Zags since December 2. The books weren’t expecting the Bruins to push the Zags, as evidenced by the 14-point spread. This will be different. Baylor can match the talent of Gonzaga and this one should see a ton of points.

If we’re expecting a high-scoring, up-tempo game, then it makes sense to also look towards the first-half totals as well. Baylor has scored 45, 46, 23, 42, and 37 first-half points in each of their tournament games.

Gonzaga just allowed 44 first-half points to UCLA, who ranks 143rd in points-per-game, a far cry from the third-ranked Bears. The Zags’ previous three games against USC, Creighton and Oklahoma also saw them allow 30, 33 and 34 first-half points respectively.

Baylor’s offense is better than all of those teams and if the scoreboard starts lighting up early, they could easily hit 37.

Ryan Sura

These are two of the highest-rated offensive teams in college basketball history. Gonzaga has the highest rated effective field-goal percentage, while the Baylor Bears have the best three-point shooting team in the country.

UCLA had to shoot the lights out to bring Gonzaga to overtime. Although Baylor has a lot of offensive firepower, I think it will be tough for them to contain Drew Timme down low and also account for their high-percentage shooters behind the arc in Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs, and Joel Ayayi.

I feel like a lot of attention will be on Timme and Suggs after their big Final Four performances against UCLA, which means more space for Ayayi. The Bears will keep it close in the first half, but Gonzaga will pull away near the end in a high-scoring affair.

The Zags were pushed by UCLA in the Final Four thanks to electric nights from Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez. But Baylor doesn’t matchup the same way. Their small-ball, four-guard (sometimes five-guard) lineup won’t give the Zags the same issues down low.

If Baylor is lights-out from three-point range, they can win this game. But the margin for error is extremely low, facing the best two-point offense of (at least) the last 20 years.

Gonzaga has the athletes to force difficult shots from the outside. They sat 90th (out of 357 Division I teams) at KenPom in three-point defense for the year, which is admittedly a fairly random statistic with limited predictive value.

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