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No. 2 Houston vs. No. 1 Baylor preview, picks for the Final Four round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

The Houston Cougars and Baylor Bears meet at Lucas Oil Arena in the Final Four round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

The Houston Cougars celebrate after defeating the Oregon State Beavers in the Elite Eight round of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 29, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

UPDATE 5:00 p.m. Here are the latest bet splits from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Houston +5 (25% of action, 20% of bets)
Baylor -5 (75% of action, 80% of bets)

It’s a Lonestar State showdown in the first game of the 2021 Final Four as the No. 2 seed Houston Cougars from the Midwest Region will face the No. 1 seed Baylor Bears from the South Region.

The game will tip off at 5:14 p.m. on Saturday, April 3rd from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN, and will be broadcast live on CBS. The Bears will also enter as a slight favorite.

We take a look at the matchup and how both teams got here below.

No. 2 Houston 28-3 (14-3 American Conference)

First Round: Defeated No. 15 Cleveland State 87-56
Second Round: Defeated No. 10 Rutgers 63-60
Third Round: Defeated No. 11 Syracuse 62-46
Fourth Round: Defeated No. 12 Oregon State 67-61
KenPom rating: 4 Overall, 8 Offense, 6 Defense
Leading scorer: Quentin Grimes (18.0 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: The Cougars are the first team to have played four double-digit seeds to reach the Final Four.

Houston’s length and athleticism are rarely seen amongst teams outside the power conferences of college basketball. The AAC’s champion is the top team in the country in effective field goal defense at a stifling 43.3% even when the made three-pointers count for more. The hold opponents to just 29.2% from downtown, and the matchup with the elite guard play of the Bears will likely decide the winner. Baylor is the best three-point shooting team all of the NCAA.

For UH to spring the mild upset, they’ll need a huge game from junior guard Quentin Grimes. The 6’5 team leader averages 18.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 41.3% from three-point land. Grimes vs. the troika of backcourt Bears is where this game might be won and lost.

No. 1 Baylor 26-2 (13-1 Big 12)

First Round: Defeated No. 16 Hartford 79-55
Second Round: Defeated No. 9 Wisconsin 76-63
Third Round: Defeated No. 5 Villanova 62-51
Fourth Round: Defeated No. 3 Arkansas 81-72
KenPom rating: 2 Overall, 3 Offense, 27 Defense
Leading scorer: Jared Butler (16.6 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: Baylor has shot 30-84 from three-point range in the tournament. and leads the nation in three-point percentage this season at 41.4%.

They’re the best backcourt in America, and no one else is really that close. Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell all average between 14 and 16 points per game, but it’s how they key things defensively makes the Bears the favorite here.

BU gets a steal more than once every eight possessions, but the Coogs cough it up only once every 13 trips. The Bears actually play a pretty plodding style of basketball (186th in pace), but when they force live ball turnovers at a high rate they’re almost unbeatable.

Where Baylor will need to win is on the glass and find a way to get at least some post scoring. The length of Cougars such as Justin Gorham in the paint might cause fits for the Bears bigs such as Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: Baylor -5
Point total: 135.5
Moneyline: Houston +180, Baylor -220

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Houston +5
Point total pick: Under 135.5
Pick to Win: Baylor

We’re going cover here if only because Baylor hasn’t seen a team all season with the length and quickness they usually only matchup against in practice. The Coogs are playing their best basketball right now, comfortably controlling their last two games without maximum effort.

But they’ve also had the easiest path by total seed value of any Final Four team ever. The raw talent of the Bears should be enough to get some key baskets late for the win, but not necessarily the cover. And the in-game coaching edge between Kelvin Sampson and Scott Drew might be pretty significant for UH.

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