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National Championship Game Preview: Gonzaga vs. Baylor

1 Gonzaga vs. 1 Baylor 4/5 (9:20 p.m. on CBS)

Gonzaga and Baylor will square off in the national championship game tonight at 9:20 p.m. EST on CBS.  Both teams were victorious in the Final Four, though they won in markedly different ways.  Gonzaga played UCLA in a Final Four classic in which both teams scored at least 90 points. It was an offensive showcase of a game, ultimately ending in a Jalen Suggs buzzer beater from just inside the half court line (final score, Gonzaga 93 – UCLA 90).  It was the game of the tournament by far, and it ended UCLA’s valiant run in this year’s tournament. 

In the other Final Four game, Baylor beat Houston comfortably and never let Houston get close in the second half (final score, Baylor 78 – Houston 59).  Baylor’s guards won their matchups against Houston’s guards and also limited Houston’s offensive rebounding after the first ten minutes of play.  Prior to the Final Four, Gonzaga and Baylor were a fan favorite matchup for the title game. This was also a matchup that should have happened during the regular season but was canceled due to COVID-19. 

Why Gonzaga will win…

The Zags are looking to become the first team to go undefeated and win the national championship since 1976 (Indiana). Gonzaga, offensively speaking, has been poetry in motion this tournament, averaging more than 80 points per game.  On the defensive end, the Zags have been pretty solid other than this last game against UCLA, where they gave up 90 points.  Compared to UCLA, Baylor has more talent and more players who can score consistently, so Gonzaga will need to play better defense against Baylor.  Gonzaga’s guards will need to defend at a very high level to slow down Baylor’s guards, who have dominated thus far in the tournament.  Gonzaga will have the advantage in the frontcourt, led by Drew Timme and Corey Kispert.  Timme and Kispert help Gonzaga stretch the floor because they have the ability to score in a variety of ways.  Gonzaga will need to play better team defense, and their frontcourt (Timme & Kispert) will need to do well scoring for the Zags to win their first national championship.

Why Baylor will win…

The Baylor Bears have been exceptional all season long, especially in the NCAA tournament.  Baylor has won every game in the tournament comfortably due to the excellent guard play of Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and MaCio Teague.  The starting three guards combined for more than half of Baylor’s points, and the team shot the ball over 45% from three-point range.  Since Gonzaga struggles defensively at times, Baylor will need to take advantage of this by continuing to shoot at the percentages they have thus far.  Mitchell will be key for Baylor because of his ability to defensively limit opposing guards. He will match up against Gonzaga’s best in Jalen Suggs.  Baylor will also have a depth advantage with guards Mayer and Flagler coming off the bench.  If Mayer and Flagler can chip in with scoring the ball while playing solid defense, Baylor’s chances of winning will go up significantly.  The Bears frontcourt of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Mark Vital, and Flo Thamba will need to limit Gonzaga’s frontcourt scoring and keep them off the offensive glass.  To become national champions, Baylor will need more stellar plays from their starting guards and solid contributions from the bench, as well as for their frontcourt to neutralize Gonzaga’s frontcourt production.

Summary

The NCAA Tournament final between Gonzaga and Baylor has the potential to be an all-time great national championship game.  This matchup features the two best teams in the country, and it’s the one that fans really want to see. Guard play will be pivotal, and whichever team’s guards play better will likely be the deciding factor of the game.  The frontcourt battle will also be important because of Gonzaga’s frontcourt scoring (Timme & Kispert), so Baylor will need to do their best to limit those players. 

Make no mistake: this game is the most highly anticipated game of the year, and it’s perhaps one of the most exciting national championship matchups ever.

Betting Lines

Spread: Gonzaga -4.5

O/U: 158.5

Money Line: Gonzaga -200, Baylor +168

Stats provided by Sports-reference.com

Betting Lines provided by Action Network

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