College Basketball

How to bet the national championship game between Baylor and Gonzaga

April 5

By Jason McIntyre
FOX Sports Betting Analyst

Here's the good news about the Final Four: You knew very early that Baylor was the right side.

The bad news? You knew very early that Gonzaga was the wrong side.

In the end, the result is positive, considering that we get a matchup of the two best teams in the nation in the national championship.

My record betting every game in the tournament is 35-26 (57.3%), so let’s finish on a high note.

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No. 1 Gonzaga (-4.5 at FOX Bet) vs. No. 1 Baylor

The line opened at 5, and it didn’t take long for it to be bet down to 4.5. The public will come in on Baylor, which throttled Houston from start to finish in a 19-point rout. Gonzaga needed overtime and a 35-foot bank shot at the buzzer to beat 14-point underdog UCLA.

Recency bias will be in play, as the public will quickly forget that Gonzaga won 27 straight games by double digits.

The big problem for the Bears will be Gonzaga center Drew Timme, who in his past four tournament games is shooting 66% from the field and averaging 25.0 points per game. At 6-foot-10 and possessing moves that harken back to Kevin McHale, Timme is going to be a mismatch for Baylor’s 6-foot-8 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and 6-foot-10 reserve Flo Thamba. We might see agile 6-foot-9 Matt Mayer give it a try, too.

A key weakness for Baylor is keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Gonzaga is 94th in the country when it comes to offensive rebounding, while Baylor ranks 280th on the defensive boards.

That was supposed to be a problem against Houston, but it wasn’t. Then again, Houston didn’t have anyone like Timme.

Just how good is Gonzaga’s defense? The stats say the Bulldogs are a top 10-unit, but UCLA shot 61% on 2-pointers Saturday, feasting in the midrange and around the basket. Baylor has a deeper array of scorers, prefers the 3-ball and led the country in 3-point shooting. 

Will fatigue be a factor? Gonzaga played the late game Saturday and needed overtime, with four starters logging 40-plus minutes. Toss in the weight of an undefeated season and emotionally bouncing back from a thrilling buzzer-beater, and the pressure is on Gonzaga. 

The matchup to watch is 22-year old Davion Mitchell against 19-year old Jalen Suggs, two outstanding defensive players who also create (Mitchell had 11 assists and zero turnovers vs. Houston).

I’m not sure how Baylor will match up with Corey Kispert. The Bears don’t have a 6-foot-7 wing to chase him inside and out, and 6-foot-5 forward Mark Vital is a power player. He sometimes seems like the emotional center of the team, but he’s often in foul trouble. This probably means more minutes for Mayer, an NBA prospect who tends to be a black hole on offense.

This is the first time since 2005 that the top two overall teams on the seed list are meeting in the title game. In 2005, UNC was favored by two and won 75-70 as Sean May dominated inside (26 points, 10 rebounds) against guard-oriented Illinois, which was led by Deron Williams.

This is a similar matchup, with Timme inside against Baylor’s guard-heavy attack.

Favorites of four or more in the title game in the shot clock era are 9-9 against the spread but have covered six of the past seven. I took Baylor +5 when the line came out, but the world will probably be on the Bears as well.

I still like it at +4.5, but I’d have to go Gonzaga at 4.

Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports gambling analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, "Coming Up Winners," in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.

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