(CBS Local)- As the 2021 NCAA Tournament whittled its field down to the Final Four, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs would be here. Entering the tournament undefeated, they have breezed through their first four games, winning each by a margin of 16 or more points and never really feeling like they were in trouble at any point. Heading into their semifinal matchup with 11-seed UCLA, oddsmakers are expecting much of the same installing the Bulldogs as 14 point favorites.
But, Mick Cronin’s group has shown plenty of grit, winning two overtime games and holding Michigan to just 49 points in the Elite 8. That defensive, slow tempo style historically is better suited to the Final Four than the high-scoring Zags offense points out SportsLine analyst Kenny White.
“Favorites of four or greater who scored 80 or more points in the Elite 8, that would be Gonzaga who scored 85, are just 2-10 ATS in this round. Teams that hold their opponent or scored 65 or less in the Elite 8 are 8-2-1 ATS,” said White in an interview with CBS Local’s Katie Johnston. “Teams that score low in the Elite 8 and get in do well, teams that score a lot of points in the Elite 8 and go to the Final Four, they don’t do as well covering the point spread.”
It is for that reason that while he thinks Gonzaga is still likely to come out on top Saturday night, the Bruins can make them sweat a little.
“I like UCLA +14. This is it, the game of the year for UCLA. They have nothing to lose, playing with house money here. Gonzaga I think has all the pressure on them to win this basketball game. I think UCLA can keep it close,” said White.
The Bulldogs are, at this point the favorite to win the championship, checking in with -220 odds. Not far behind is the other one seed left, Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears, who are +280. They face an in-state rivalry matchup with the Kelvin Sampson’s University of Houston Cougars. As White notes, the teams are similar in many regards, “both teams have great offenses, both have great defenses, this is going to be fun to watch.”
As for the trends, they favor the Cougars as White explains.
“The Big 12 hasn’t done well in the Final Four as of late. The last five times they have been there they are 1-4 ATS. So, that may lead to taking the points and Houston in this game,” said White.
The Bears and Cougars feature similar lineups, each led by a trio of guards who can lock down on defense and shoot the lights out on offense. Houston, however, like UCLA, has played more of a low tempo style, holding all four of their tournament opponents to 61 points or fewer. We’ll find if they can continue that defensive dominance on Saturday when they tip off the first of the two national semifinals at 5:14 p.m. ET on CBS. Following that game will be the Gonzaga vs. UCLA battle with tip tentatively scheduled for 8:34 p.m. ET on CBS.