Baylor guard Davion Mitchell (45) and Mark Vital (11) celebrate after beating Arkansas 81-72 during an Elite 8 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium, Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
- The Baylor Bears will meet the Houston Cougars in an NCAA Final Four game on Saturday (time TBD)
- Baylor opened as a 4.5-point favorite in its second-ever Final Four appearance
- How will the line shift as the games nears?
South No. 1 seed Baylor and Midwest No. 2 seed Houston will meet in an NCAA Final Four game on Saturday, April 3rd. The Bears have opened as a 4.5-point favorite after winning their first four tournament games by at least nine points.
Odds below from DraftKings
Houston vs Baylor Opening Odds
|Team||Moneyline at DraftKings||Spread||Total|
|Houston Cougars||+165||+4.5 (-108)||136 (Ov-107)|
|Baylor Bears||-200||-4.5 (-112)||136 (Un-113)|
Odds as of March 30.
Baylor: Second-Half Bears
Baylor weathered a late surge by Arkansas for an 81-72 victory in the Elite Eight after pulling away from Villanova in the second half in the Sweet Sixteen.
The Bears held Arkansas without a field goal for an 8:15 stretch of the second half Monday to turn a four-point lead into a 13-point edge while regaining its touch from the outside against the Hogs.
MaCio Teague had 22 points and made three three-pointers. Baylor as a team went 8-of-15 from distance to increase their NCAA Division I-leading three-point accuracy to 41.1%. Phi Slama Jama they are not — the Bears attack from the outside and averaging 9.93 threes per game.
Baylor made 3-of-19 three-point attempts against Villanova but used a defense-fueled 39-21 second half spurt for a 62-51 victory. The Wildcats went without a field goal for 5:15 and had only three meaningful baskets in the final 11 minutes.
The athletic three-guard Bears — Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell were first-team All-Big 12 selections and Mitchell was the Defensive Player of the Year — also had a 31-16 turnover edge and scored 43 points off turnovers in the two games.
Houston: Defense, Rebounding
Houston made it through Syracuse and Oregon State by relying on its two staples, defense and offensive rebounding.
The Cougars lost all of a 17-point lead in a 67-61 Elite Eight victory over Oregon State, but broke a tie at 55 by scoring five second-possession points for a 60-56 lead. Houston then created turnovers on the Beavers’ next two possessions to effectively end it.
The active, athletic Cougars out-rebounded Syracuse and Oregon State 81-60, combined, and had 30 offensive rebounds. Nineteen of those offensive boards came versus Oregon State and it seemed as if the Cougars used their outside misses as a way to enter the ball inside.
The Cougars are not a great shooting team (43.7%) and had trouble with the Beavers’ 1-3-1 matchup zone in the second half but overcame that with 19 second-chance points.
Houston limited Syracuse to 14-of-50 field-goal shooting, and guard DeJon Jarreau did the heavy lifting, shutting down Orange leading scorer Buddy Boeheim by giving him very little operating room on the perimeter.
Jarreau, a 6’5 senior, also shut down Beavers’ leading scorer Ethan Thompson. Boeheim was 3-of-13 from the field; Thompson was 3-of-12. Jarreau showed no ill effects of a hip pointer suffered in the tournament opener against Cleveland State.
Opponents are shooting 37% from the field against Houston, the lowest in NCAA Division I. The Cougars are second in scoring defense, giving up 57.5 points per game, and sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
Which Way Will the Line Move?
Baylor appears to be back in top form after two COVID-19 pauses, one that left them without a game for 21 days. Remember, this team won its first 18 and beat fellow No. 1 seed Illinois by 13. The Bears’ scheduled game against Gonzaga was COVID-ed out.
Also worth noting: Houston had the easiest road to the Final Four in NCAA Tournament history, in terms of seeds played. The Cougars advanced by beating No. 15 Cleveland State, No. 10 Rutgers, No. 11 Syracuse, and No. 12 Oregon State.
Don’t be surprised if the line moves in Baylor’s favor.
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Jack has covered college and professional sports for various Arizona media outlets and has written for the AP, USA Today and Baseball America, among others. He staffed the 2015-17 World Series and has staffed four Super Bowls.