Baylor (-5) vs. Houston
No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Houston face off in the 2021 Final Four, which should be the more competitive game of the two. This will be Baylor's first Final Four appearance since 1950 and Houston, 1984.
The two squads are a combined 54-5 on the ML this season (91.5%) and 38-20 ATS (65.5%). Let us take a look at the best bet in this matchup.
Houston's offense has not impressed lately. The Cougars shot 30% from two versus Oregon State and 34.4% from three. Against Syracuse, Houston shot 26.9% from three, but 47.1% from two, then 36.4 (three) and 37.8% (two) versus Rutgers before that.
Houston has had many inconsistencies in the last two games, plus a poor effort versus Rutgers across the board. What Houston has done well, though, is offensive rebounding, getting to the free-throw line and making enough of its freebies.
Houston went 16-of-24 (66.7%) from the charity stripe versus Oregon State and 9-of-14 (64.3%) versus Syracuse. The Cougars hit 73.4% of their free-throws on the season, but in the last three games of the NCAA Tournament, they are making 64.2% on 18.7 attempts per game.
Over the previous three games, Houston's shooting has taken a significant drop. In the last five games, the Cougars shot 42.5% from the field, 34.3% from three and a 53% true shooting percentage. Those numbers drop to 35.9% from the field, 32.5% from deep and a 46.6% true shooting percentage over the past three games.
Houston does average 40.0 rebounds per game over the last three, 10 more boards per game than Baylor. That is a huge factor in this matchup because Baylor ranks 273rd in the country in defensive rebounding percentage (30.6%). Houston has 62 offensive rebounds in four games compared to Baylor's 45.
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I think Baylor can take advantage of Houston because of the Cougars' lack of offensive versatility for scoring. Outside of Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser, Houston needs more to beat Baylor. The Bears have clearly been the second-best team in the country all season and they finally prove it with a win over Houston.
While I do think Baylor wins, there is also another bet I see value in. If you grabbed Baylor first-half -2 (-110), you got great value because this will be -3 or more by the time the game tips.
In the first 20 minutes, Baylor has scored 37 or more points in three of the last four games. Houston's NCAA Tournament-high was 37 versus Cleveland State and scored 27, 30 and 34 in the last three. Despite Houston scoring 34 and leading by 17 at the half versus Oregon State, the Cougars shot 35.2% from the field, 33.3% from three and made five free-throws.
Baylor has averaged 48% or better in three of its four first halves. In Baylor's worst first half of the tournament, versus Villanova (23 points), Baylor shot 34.4% from the field. That is just a hair under what Houston did in a 17-point lead versus Oregon State.
On the season, Houston averages 36.5 points per game in the first half (43rd) and Baylor 39.4 (8th). Both defenses play at slower tempos, stretching out possessions for their opponents late into the shot clock. That will be detrimental to Houston's offense which is not as talented off the dribble or creating its own shots.
Houston's average offensive possession is 19.3 seconds per possession, ranking 331st and the adjusted tempo 328th (64.6). Baylor plays much quicker offensively at 16.8 seconds per possession (112th) and overall quicker (186th in tempo).
I think Baylor's talent, tempo/speed, and determination to battle Gonzaga will earn them the win. I am backing Baylor on the first half spread and on the ML in parlays. I will wait until Houston cuts it close or takes the lead to make a play on the Bears live.
I have Baylor +450 to win it all, so I intend on sitting back and enjoying the show the final 20 minutes. Another good player bet to buy some stock on now is MaCio Teague for Baylor to earn Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.
I have steadily grab his odds from +2500 to +2000 and +1000 to be the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. Teague has averaged 15.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 34 minutes over the last five games, plus he scored 22 points on Hartford and Arkansas.
Game Pick: Baylor First Half -2 (1u), Baylor ML in parlays
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