clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

March Madness predictions 2021: Instant picks for the Final Four schedule

We give our instant picks for the 2021 NCAA tournament as the matchups for the Final Four round are finalized.

Which team other than Gonzaga has the best chance to win it all?

Ever heard the phrase “think long, think wrong?” Well here are our instant picks as we get to the last three games of the season and the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

This is just our quick rapid reactions to each matchup at hand, and we’ll have plenty more analysis this week, but here’s where we're starting with the first gut reaction that of course never fails.

Semifinal No. 1: Houston +5 over Baylor

We’re still not sure if the Coogs can actually win outright, but the computers have loved UH all season long for a reason. They defend at an extremely high level, and take away the thing Baylor does better than anyone: Shoot the three.

Baylor makes a preposterous 41.1% of their three-pointers, the best rate in America. But Houston opponents only make 29.2% of shots from downtown, and the Coogs are No. 1 in eFG% defense at 43.3% (where three-pointers count at 150% of two-point shots). They can get stops at an elite level, and have length and athleticism that can bother the Bears.

KenPom actually has this game 72-71 for Baylor, and that sounds about right to us. It should be a lot closer than the public is expecting.

Semifinal No. 2: Gonzaga -14 over UCLA

Put this line at 20 and we’re not happy about it, but we’d still take the Zags. The amount of luck UCLA has needed to win five games to get here is almost absurd. Michigan State was at 85% win expectancy against the Bruins with 2:30 to go in the First Four, and just melted down. Alabama (7-28 from three) missed so many gift-wrapped opportunities they are been banned from singles bars less than an hour before closing. Michigan? 3-13 from long-range. And UCLA opponents are 34-70 from the free throw line in the tournament which... how is that even possible in Division I basketball?

Johnny Juzang (21.6 ppg) has been incredible, and his numbers are even more amazing considering his usage rates while his teammates stare at him for another clear out. But you can’t set basketball back 40 years against the Zags, who will show different looks to the Bruins while trying to speed them up. If any team can keep it close by being boring, it’s a UCLA team that averages just 64 possessions a game. But that won’t matter here. Zags win big.