Dreams do come true, as the 2021 college basketball national championship will feature the two teams that have been head and shoulders better than everyone else all season. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will face the Baylor Bears Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Bulldogs enter the game as 4.5-point favorites, with the over/under set at 159.5 points.
Despite a few sluggish performances after returning from a COVID hiatus, Baylor is back. The Bears ripped apart Houston in Saturday’s national semifinal, racing out to a 25-point halftime lead and cruising to an easy 78-59 win.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga finally found itself in a nail-biter against UCLA on Saturday night. After a season of blowing out virtually every team and winning all but one game by at least 10 points, the Bulldogs and Bruins exchanged leads constantly and went to overtime. Mere seconds from second overtime, Jalen Suggs banked in a 30-foot runner to send Gonzaga to the title game.
Forward Drew Timme continues to be the top scorer for Gonzaga during the tournament. Despite a pinch of foul trouble, Timme scored 25 points against UCLA, making 11 of his 15 field goal attempts. He’s now averaging 25 points per game over his last four games. At the same time, the Bulldogs were incredibly unselfish, with three players dishing out at least five assists against the Bruins with Suggs and Andrew Nembhard combining for 14 assists.
The supporting cast of Nembhard and Joel Ayayi were both huge in the national semifinal. Ayayi started hot and finished the game with 22 points, while Nembhard played brilliantly in the point guard role and hit a huge three late in the game. Gonzaga’s only problem right now is little contribution from the bench, leaving them vulnerable to foul trouble. But the team’s three All-Americans, along with Nembhard and Ayayi make for a perfect lineup.
The Three Bears
While Gonzaga has an incredible five-man lineup, the Bears are led by three elite guards. Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and MaCio Teague have excelled all season. Even against a strong defensive team in the national semifinal, all three scored in double figures and combined for 21 assists, including a 12-point, 11-assist performance from Mitchell.
Unlike the Bulldogs, Baylor typically gets contributions from players coming off the bench. Against Houston, Matthew Mayer continued an impressive tournament with 12 points while forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua contributed 11 points. Supporting players like Flo Thamba, Mark Vital, and Adam Flagler are also candidates to step up in a big game and provide meaningful production to complement the trio of Butler, Mitchell, and Teague.
Gonzaga has a big edge in this game because Baylor may not have the size to defend Timme in the post. Also, the trio of Suggs, Nembhard, and Ayayi comes as close as imaginable to matching Baylor’s trio of Butler, Mitchell, and Teague. However, the Bears still have a slight edge in the backcourt, especially with the way they can shoot from the perimeter and Gonzaga’s occasionally problems defending the three-point line. Since we now know that Gonzaga can play a close game, the best set on Monday is to take Baylor to beat the 4.5-point spread.
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