Baylor vs. Gonzaga (-4.5)
We waited almost two full years since the 2019 NCAA Championship (4/8/19) and the collision course between Baylor and Gonzaga has finally arrived.
On Monday, April 5, we will see one of the most historical matchups in college basketball history and, hopefully, a game that lives up to the hype. Most of you that follow me know, I have Baylor winning it all.
I grabbed Baylor midseason at a +450 price tag. After Baylor lost to the Kansas Jayhawks, I grabbed Baylor again at +375 to win it all for another unit, so now I am riding with two units for a +8.25 unit payout if they win. The odds dropped as low as +200, so I saw a ton of value there and am quite happy with my decision in doing so.
So, yes, I am rooting for Baylor to win and will not be playing a side on this Championship Game unless a -120 opportunity or better presents itself to live bet Gonzaga to win as a hedge. Instead, I look at first-half betting options in this matchup, which appears to be a far better bet, in my opinion.
Both Gonzaga and Baylor are ranked first and second in the country for adjusted offensive efficiency and top four in offensive effective field goal percentage. The tale of this matchup is which offense will outpace the other or which defense can slow the other down?
UCLA did a fantastic job at times slowing the game down versus Gonzaga or controlling the pace. The Bruins were going deep into shot clocks at times but getting quality looks compared to what Creighton or USC could get off. Despite UCLA slowing the tempo, they were also able to push the pace and score with Gonzaga when need be.
UCLA recorded 1.22 offensive points per possession compared to USC's 0.92 or 0.89 from Creighton. Baylor posted 1.34 offensive points per possession versus Houston, 1.19 against Arkansas and 1.09 facing Villanova.
The Bears held their last three opponents to 0.98 points per possession - the Bulldogs 1.01.
I look at the offenses as both defenses will not be able to slow each other down. Based on the previous five NCAA Championship Games, eight-of-10 teams reach 31 or more points in the first half. Luckily for us, we have arguably the two best first-half teams in all of college basketball matched up versus each other in this Championship.
NCAA Championship First Half History
2019: Virginia 32, Texas Tech 29
2018: Villanova 37, Michigan 28
2017: Gonzaga 35, North Carolina 32
2016: North Carolina 39, Villanova 34
2015: Duke 31, Wisconsin 31
The NBC Sports Edge model fancies the Full Game Over of 159.5 in this matchup, requiring both teams to hit 80 or more, unless we see a blowout. I like the first-half as Gonzaga and Baylor are both better first-half teams than the previous 10 Championship Game contestants are.
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Only the 2016 NCAA Championship between North Carolina and Villanova featured a first-half over 67 points. The Over/Under for Gonzaga versus Baylor's set at 76.0 - what I feel like must be the highest first-half total in Championship history.
The 76.0 first-half total is only fitting and both teams could considerably push the Over with a 40-point outing.
Gonzaga averages 45.7 first-half points per game on the season and in the last three games. Baylor is averaging 45.0 over the two outings and 39.6 on the season. Gonzaga scored 94 points in the last two first halves and Baylor totaled 90.
Both teams are just playing fast, efficiently and confidently out of the gate. Watching Gonzaga's first 20 minutes of action seems like a lifetime because of the rapid pace they play at and the extra amount of possessions they give themselves.
I expect both teams to surpass the 36-point mark in the first-half and cut it close to this 76.0 first-half total set.
Gonzaga's last four games all hit 76 or more points in the first half and its opponents averaged 35.2 points per first 20 minutes. Baylor is coming off holding Houston to 20 points in the first-half, a Final Four record, so the Bears stats are slightly skewed. However, Baylor's first-half team total is set at 36.5, right around what Gonzaga has been allowing.
Baylor went Over 36 points in four-of-five NCAA Tournament games. Gonzaga's team total is 39.5 and they have scored 40 or more in four straight and nine of the previous 10 games. I expect both teams to get out on quick starts like they have been before the coaches and defense's game plan at the half on how to overcome the opposition's offense in the second half.
I will take the Over 76 In the first half or grab 77 for +100 as the line will more than likely move in that direction.
Baylor +3 at half is intriguing but Gonzaga could easily win the half 40-36 and spoil that bet. I feel the first half total is the best bet and live betting Gonzaga as the second. The Bulldogs will have much better value in this game than most because of the level of competition, but don't get too carried away as Baylor could win this game.
Since I already have Baylor to win it all, twice, I will be on the Bears' side and for +170, you can probably get better odds in game. Take the Over in the first half and enjoy what should be a game full of fireworks and one of the more memorable NCAA Championships of the last 25 years.
Game Pick: First-Half Over 76.0 Points (1u)
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