Houston Cougars vs. Baylor Bears – March Madness, April 3, 2021
For the first time in NCAA Tournament history, all of the schools that made the Final Four hail from west of the Mississippi River. The action on Saturday kicks off with a couple of teams from the Lonestar State boasting a combined 54-5 record.
The Cougars haven’t lost since February 18th; the Bears hit the cruise control button at the start of March Madness and have been coasting along ever since.
This Final Four preview showcases a Houston vs. Baylor prediction.
Houston vs. Baylor Odds and Key Info
- When: 5:15 pm EDT, 4/3/2021
- Where: Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
- Coverage: CBS
- Line: Baylor -5
- Money Line: Baylor -210, Houston +180
- Total: 134.5
How Did Houston Get Here?
Kelvin Sampson’s bunch took an uncharted path to the 2021 Final Four.
Houston clobbered Cleveland State by 31 in the opener before narrowly escaping against Rutgers. They picked up a relatively easy win in the Sweet 16 over Syracuse thanks to holding the Orange to 28% from the field.
The Elite 8 matchup was more of a rollercoaster filled with plenty of bumps down the stretch. The Cougars doubled up the Beavers in the first half before squandering their 17-point with under four minutes to go. After Oregon State pulled even at 55 apiece, Quentin Grimes hit a three-pointer and a couple of free throws to put Houston ahead for good.
How Did Baylor Get Here?
It hasn’t been quite as smooth of a ride as Gonzaga’s, but Baylor’s road to the Final Four has featured very few obstacles. The Bears enter Saturday’s contest, owning a 14.3-point average margin of victory thus far in March Madness. Only one game was decided by fewer than 10 points – and that’s only because Moses Moody made a couple of meaningless free throws in the waning seconds of the Razorbacks’ nine-point loss on Monday.
After getting past Hartford, Wisconsin, Baylor, and Arkansas, two things stand out that have enabled Baylor to flourish.
- Teams are shooting 8% (19/71) from Three-Point territory against Baylor in the NCAA Tournament.
- Baylor is +40 in Turnover Differential.
You read that right – the Bears have forced 69 turnovers and have only committed 29 in the tourney.
What to Watch For
The rebounding battle. Baylor plays suffocating perimeter defense and is meticulous about taking care of the basketball – that’s not going to change.
Scott Drew and company won the rebounding battle against 16th-seed Hartford but haven’t won the rebounding battle since (-7 on the boards in the last three games). What’s Houston’s best strength?
The Cougars are +45 on the glass in their four NCAA Tournament games. They’ve been +9 or better on the boards in each contest.
Keep in mind – Houston ranks 3rd in all of college basketball in offensive rebounds per game. They clock in 6th in rebounding differential.
Just a little more food for thought before you lock in a Houston vs. Baylor pick.
Houston vs. Baylor Pick
A big reason Baylor is 26-2 and the team many believe best fit to challenge Gonzaga’s throne is their terrific guard play. Three guards in Waco average at least 30 minutes and 14 points per game – they’re all fantastic shooters and brilliant defenders.
- Jared Butler
- MaCio Teague
- Davion Mitchell
While most teams haven’t been able to combat Baylor’s prowess on the perimeter, Kelvin Sampson’s group is armed by a spiffy trio of guards as well.
- Quentin Grimes
- Marcus Sasser
- DeJon Jarreau
Talk about a pesky triumvirate, Grimes, Sasser, and Jarreau each average at least 1.3 steals per game.
Ultimately, my Final Four prediction is that the Bears march on and get a crack at the Zags. However, my Houston vs. Baylor betting pick is that the Cougars cover the 5-point spread.
Houston’s 20-10 ATS this season and won outright by 11 in their only game as an underdog (64-53 W over Texas Tech).
I suggest heading to MyBookie where you can snatch the guys from Space City at -105.