Men’s Final Four Preview: Baylor-Houston, Gonzaga-UCLA

by April 03, 2021
478

Through all of the upsets and broken brackets, the NCAA tournament has come down to four: Baylor (26-2), Houston (28-3), UCLA (22-9), and Gonzaga (30-0). We’re only moments away from seeing who will have a shot at bringing home this year’s national championship. 

 No.3 seed Baylor, equipped with a stacked roster full of strong guards, will take on the scrappy, defensively strong No.6 seed Houston. Then, No.11 UCLA will look to keep the ball rolling against Gonzaga No. 1 seed Gonzaga, who is undefeated and has dominated every game this season. On Friday, head coach Mark Few won Naismith Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. 

This year’s Final Four matchups will include many historic firsts for each of these programs. Baylor will be making their first Final Four appearance since 1950, and if successful, will look to win their program’s first national championship. Houston, just like Baylor, has had a long Final Four drought since 1984 and is looking for their first title. Gonzaga is also seeking its first national championship although after its last run to the championship coming short in 2017. The UCLA Bruins are looking to become the first team above a No.8 seed to win a title.

No.1 Baylor will face No.2 Houston (5:14 p.m. ET, CBS) and No.1 Gonzaga plays No.11 UCLA (8:34 p.m. ET, CBS) in Indianapolis on Saturday.

To get you ready for the madness, we’ve taken a look at how each team has performed in the tournament so far: 

Baylor

Coming from the south, No.1 ranked Baylor is entering the Final Four for the first time in 71 years. The Bears have played consistent basketball throughout the tournament. Elite guard play and team defense have been the key to success for the Bears this March. 

Upperclassman guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague have led the Bears all season and have kept up the pace going into the tournament. The guards were both huge contributors in the win over Arkansas in the Elite 8. Teague put up a strong 22 points to go with 5 rebounds. Butler was second in scoring with 14 points and 5 assists.

Guard Davion Mitchell has been the spark the Bears need to go all the way and is averaging 13.5 points, 4.8 assists and 2 steals in the tournament. Mitchell also swept all of the Defensive Player of the Year awards this year.

With guard play being valuable in college basketball tournament play, Baylor has that as an advantage. They’ll have to step up against No.2 ranked Houston coming from the Southern region. 

Houston

The Houston Cougars have been tested in some close matchups throughout the tournament. A close three-point win from Rutgers in the second round could have sent them home early. In the Elite 8, they beat Oregon State by six points, despite having a 17 point lead at halftime.

They are led by guard Quentin Grimes—who is one of the Cougars’ main offensive contributors. Grimes, who is averaging 18.0 ppg in the tournament, stepped up big for the Cougars in the Elite 8—he dropped 18 points against a competitive Oregon State. 

The Cougars are also equipped with guard Marcus Sasser and forward Justin Gorham. They both were huge in the Elite 8, as Sasser dropped 20 points and Gorham snagged 10 rebounds. 

It seems that the Cougars have found their stride late in the tournament, and tonight we’ll see how well they can hold their own against Baylor. 

UCLA

Time and time again, the NCAA tournament has proven that rankings are just a number. Amid a four-game losing streak, the No.11 seed UCLA Bruins were counted out in a lot of brackets. 

Instead, UCLA has powered through against some of the toughest teams in the tournament: they polished off No.2 Alabama and No.1 Michigan to claim the East.

The Bruins have played team basketball all tournament long. Led by guard Johnny Juzang—who has been on fire and is averaging 15.5 ppg this season. Juzang dropped 28 points in a win against Michigan in the Elite 8, scoring more than 50% of the team’s total points (51).  

UCLA has a challenge ahead of them against No.1 ranked Gonzaga. Can they stop Jalen Suggs and the Zags? We’ll just have to find out. 

Gonzaga

After plowing through the West region, Gonzaga enters the Final Four with an impressive 30-0 record. No team has come within ten points of beating the Zags so far this tournament, and they’re continuing to prove why they are the number one ranked team in the country. 

The Bulldogs will be making their second Final Four appearance, and are seeking their first-ever NCAA title. 

Gonzaga is equipped with multiple offensive standouts that, together, have made the team unstoppable. Drew Timme has been huge for the team throughout the tournament and is averaging 19 ppg.

He’s playing alongside top NBA prospects Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert. Suggs is projected to be a top pick in the NBA Draft and made his case known in the Elite 8 against USC. He had 18 points 10 rebounds and 8 assists, just two assists shy of a triple-double. 

The Bulldogs have been a favorite to win the championship all season and have the loaded talent to get it done. They’re just two wins away from becoming the first team since 1976 (Indiana) to go undefeated and win the title. 

Will the Zags make history? Only time will tell, but until then, they’ll have to get past one of the most surprising teams in the tournament, UCLA. 

Let the madness begin. 

For everything college-basketball, follow @slamuniversity on Instagram.

478