This is the exact way a great NCAA men's tournament should end, with a great matchup between the two best teams on the final Monday night of the season.
This year's tournament has had a little bit of everything, with a lot of upsets early, a No. 11 seed going from the First Four to the Final Four and many fantastic games, highlighted by a Gonzaga-UCLA Final Four game that immediately ranks among the best games in college basketball history.
And on Monday night, we'll see two programs that have never won a national title, but had phenomenal seasons. Undefeated Gonzaga is going for the sport's first perfect season since 1976. The Bulldogs will face Baylor, which hadn't even been to a Final Four since 1950 but are 53-6 the past two seasons.
This season hasn't been easy and even the NCAA men's tournament had a historic cancellation in the first round due to COVID-19 issues with VCU. But we get to finish it in style.
Here's the betting preview for tonight's championship game, with odds from BetMGM and tip time Eastern:
No. 1 Gonzaga (-4.5) vs. No. 1 Baylor, 7:20 p.m.
I was surprised a bit by the line. Gonzaga's lines were surprisingly high in every round, and look-ahead lines indicated a title-game matchup against Baylor might be -5 or -6.
Gonzaga's close call against UCLA brought down the line just a tick. The Bulldogs, a 14-point favorite against UCLA, needed overtime and a buzzer-beating 3 from Jalen Suggs to survive. BetMGM opened the line at -5 but it was quickly bet to -4.5. Previous to this game, Gonzaga's tournament lines had been inflated, bettors took the Bulldogs anyway and Gonzaga would cover, until the UCLA game. I was figuring on a sixth straight round of the same story.
This looks like a necessary correction to the original line. Baylor deserves more respect than any of Gonzaga's first five opponents.
Baylor looked great in its Final Four game on Saturday, not that anyone remembered by the time the second game was done. The Bears might not have been quite as good as Gonzaga this season, but they were clearly the second-best team in college basketball. Before Baylor's COVID-19 pause in early February, Gonzaga and Baylor were both chasing undefeated seasons and their championship odds were the same. Even if Gonzaga pulled away a bit since mid-February, Baylor is still capable of winning a title. The Bears have had a couple performances in this tournament, including one against Houston on Saturday, that reminded us all of that.
Baylor's matchup disadvantage will be with Gonzaga's size. Baylor doesn't have the size to match the Bulldogs, and 6-foot-10 Gonzaga forward Drew Timme in particularly will be a problem. But the Bears have gone 27-2 with this lineup, beating many very good teams. Baylor's strength is its many great guards, who run the second-most efficient offense in the nation, according to KenPom.com (Gonzaga is first). Baylor is the best 3-point shooting team in the nation, their guards can get to the rim when they need to, and Baylor should have no problem scoring. The over/under of 159.5 looks a little too low for this game.
Even with the line ticking down just a bit, the value is still on Baylor. I think this will be a close game and the Bears are certainly capable of winning it. If Baylor can't hit 3s or Gonzaga's inside game proves to be too much for the Bears, it could get out of hand. But I don't anticipate that happening. I think Baylor will keep it close the whole time ... and the Bears will win it at the end.
Pick: Baylor +4.5, Baylor moneyline +165