NCAA Tournament 2021: Final Four picks against the spread for both games
By Jason McIntyre
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
The Final Four is set, with two No. 1 seeds, two teams from Texas and two teams from the West Coast.
More than anything, this means we have only three games left to gamble on in the college basketball season. After I redeemed myself in the Elite Eight, betting on every game in the tournament has me sitting at a robust and profitable 57.6% – an overall record of 34-25 against the spread.
Let’s finish strong (with all odds via FOX Bet):
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No. 1 Baylor (-5 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 5 points vs. No. 2 Houston
Houston’s path to the Final Four was a joke.
You can beat only whomever is in front of you, but the facts are the Cougars dispatched Cleveland State by 31, rallied to beat Rutgers by three, smothered Syracuse by 16 and held off Oregon State by six. They’re 2-2 against the spread, and none of those four teams ranks in the top 35, according to KenPom. Conversely, the Bears went 4-0 ATS, and three of their opponents were top-20 KenPom teams.
Baylor is the best 3-point-shooting team in the country (41.1%), while Houston has the 11th-best 3-point defense. Ask Syracuse how stifling Houston's defense is: The Orange went 5-for-23 on 3-pointers and scored a mind-bogglingly poor 46 points in the Sweet 16.
In Houston's most recent two losses – to East Carolina and Wichita State – the opponents shot more than 40% from deep. Rutgers also shot more than 40% from behind the arc and had Houston beaten in the second round, leading 58-49 before an epic collapse, as the Cougars' defense sparked a 14-2 closing kick.
The matchup to watch is Houston star defender DeJon Jarreau against Baylor’s lightning-quick Davion Mitchell. The problem is the Bears are stacked with other weapons: Jared Butler leads them in scoring this season, MaCio Teague poured in 22 to lead the Bears past Arkansas, and reserve Matthew Mayer has three games scoring at least 17 points off the bench.
Houston knows that Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser will produce, but after that, there’s a drop-off. Pick: Baylor (-5 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 5 points
No. 1 Gonzaga (-14 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 14 points vs. No. 11 UCLA
The Bruins are one of the best stories in recent tournament history – no seniors, lost their previous four games heading into the tournament, trailed by 16 (!) in their play-in game, needed two overtime games to get to the Final Four … and here we are.
The good news ends there for the Bruins. This is a terrible matchup for them.
Gonzaga's defense has options. Have Jalen Suggs try to contain Tyger Campbell and stop the offense before it starts. Or have Suggs shadow Johnny Juzang, perhaps the best individual scorer left in the tournament.
Gonzaga will have a large edge inside with Drew Timme (23 points vs. USC). The most points in the paint that the Trojans allowed in a game all season was 36. The Bulldogs had 32 in the first half in the Elite Eight.
If you want to get behind the UCLA storyline and take the points, please consider this: Alabama made only 11 of 25 free throws, and Michigan was 6-of-11 from the line and didn’t make a basket in the final five minutes. Sure, maybe Gonzaga misses a dozen free throws to make this interesting.
But a UCLA win would be on par with Duke’s upset of undefeated UNLV in 1991. Pick: Gonzaga (-14 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 14 points
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.