Final Four preview: Baylor and Gonzaga are on a collision course
It’s time to look at the Final Four! After a college basketball season unlike any other, we’re down to a quartet of teams vying for the 2021 national championship.
Gonzaga, UCLA, Baylor, and Houston remain in Indianapolis for Saturday’s national semifinals, and we’re here to preview both games!
Houston vs. Baylor
Sat, April 3 2021, 9:14 PM
Baylor rolled to double-digit wins over Hartford, Wisconsin, and Villanova before fending off a pesky Arkansas team 81-72 in the Elite Eight. The Bears have an electric offense capable of going on runs at any time, and their defense has come back around after a late-season lull (one that coincided with a COVID-19 pause by the program).
Houston, meanwhile, nearly went home in the second round, when the Cougars needed a 14-2 run to stave off elimination at the hands of the upset-minded Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That was followed up by a dominant defensive showing against Syracuse and a 67-61 thriller over Oregon State, one that saw the Beavers rally from a 17-point halftime deficit to tie the game with less than four minutes to play.
Houston is capable of playing some of the best defense in the country. However, there have been times this tournament where its offense has been lacking. The same cannot be said for Baylor, a team that perpetually seems one run away from blowing its opponent out of the gym. This has the potential to be a very entertaining game, but I think the Cougars’ run ends at the hands of their in-state foes.
UCLA vs. Gonzaga
Sun, April 4 2021, 12:34 AM
What is there to say about the dominance of Gonzaga? The Bulldogs have outscored Norfolk State, Oklahoma, Creighton, and USC by a combined 96 points, an average of 24 points per game. Their offense has been held to fewer than 82 points just once in the team’s last 12 games, and this squad has countless different ways to make opposing defenses look silly.
Up next for the Bulldogs are the UCLA Bruins, who have played the quixotic role of "blue-blooded Cinderella." The Bruins have advanced from the First Four, where they needed overtime to dispatch Michigan State, to the Final Four, and knocked off BYU, Abilene Christian, Alabama, and Michigan to get to this point.
Very few thought UCLA could make it to this point, so it may seem fruitless to ask if the Bruins can be the team that derails Gonzaga’s bid for an undefeated season. After topping Alabama in a shootout and edging Michigan in a defensive struggle, UCLA has shown it’s a worthy opponent. Still, it’s tough to pick against Gonzaga regardless of the opponent. This team plays as smoothly as any squad in recent memory, and I think it has too many weapons for Mick Cronin’s gutsy bunch.