Final Four predictions for men’s NCAA Tournament games
In a flash, the men's NCAA Tournament field has gone from 68 to four in less than three weeks, setting the stage for the two national semifinal matchups at the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Gonzaga continues its quest for an unbeaten season when it faces fellow West Coast power UCLA in the marquee matchup Saturday night. Before those sides clash, Baylor and Houston meet in a reunion of former Southwest Conference foes. The winners will advance to Monday's national championship game (9 p.m. ET, CBS).
Our experts make their predictions for Saturday's showdowns that will decide which teams play one more time this season:
Baylor (26-2) vs. Houston (28-3)
Nancy Armour: Had this game occurred a month ago, or rather, were Houston playing the Baylor team of a month ago, I’d feel better about Houston’s chances. But the Bears have regained their mojo during this tournament, looking like the team that was considered the best in the country earlier this season. Stingy as Houston’s defense is, Baylor’s guards have shown they can overcome pretty much anything. Baylor 63, Houston 58.
Scott Gleeson: While Houston’s defense is top-notch, Baylor’s guards (Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague) can carve through any defense. The best backcourt in the country helps the Bears lead the nation in threes by keeping defenses honest — penetrating first — and then connecting from beyond the arc. DeJon Jarreau is a top defender, but coach Kelvin Sampson will need three DeJon Jarreaus to slow the Bears’ backcourt attack. Baylor 70, Houston 63.
Paul Myerberg: Houston has the defense to keep Baylor under wraps but not for 40 minutes. Guard play will eventually wear down the Cougars and send the Bears to the championship game for the first time since 1948. It’s worth asking whether Houston’s road to the Final Four has prepared the Cougars for this challenge. Baylor 67, Houston 54.
Erick Smith: The tournament has revealed more about Baylor than one might have expected on the way to the Final Four. The Bears were pushed by Villanova and Arkansas and showed they can win under pressure when their usually reliable three-point shooting is off. Houston has to stop the penetration of Davion Mitchell for its defense to have a chance. Like UCLA, the question for the Cougars is where does the scoring come from? Quentin Grims can't do it all himself. The depth of Baylor, especially with its offense off the bench, proves pivotal in this game. Baylor 63, Houston 55.
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Eddie Timanus: We should acknowledge that the American Athletic Conference has actually had a successful postseason. Houston is in the Final Four, of course, and Memphis just rolled to the NIT championship. Yeah, we know, the NIT – but sometimes that leads to bigger things. As for the Cougars, I’m afraid their run has reached its end. We know Houston can defend, but the Bears have a lot more weapons than any team the Cougars have seen thus far. Baylor and Gonzaga have been on a collision course all year. It’s about to happen. Baylor 81, Houston 64.
Dan Wolken: The Cougars will try to ugly this game up and hope that they can scrap and offensive rebound their way into a one or two possession affair late. But Baylor's got enough physicality in the backcourt that I don't think they'll be too rattled by Houston's defensive pressure. The Bears have not shot the ball great from distance in the tournament, but the good news for them is they don't necessarily need that to win. Baylor 61, Houston 55.
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