The Houston Cougars are in their first Final Four since 1984. The Baylor Bears are in their first Final Four since 1950. Two programs that took very long walks in the college basketball wilderness are now back on the big stage. There won’t be the 70,000 fans typically seen inside a football stadium for the Final Four national semifinals, but this still the Final Four, and this is still a game whose winner will play for the national championship next Monday night.
It is a career-defining and life-elevating experience for everyone involved. Let’s see how these two former members of the Southwest Conference will perform on Saturday afternoon and examine the sports betting odds.
Houston Cougars vs Baylor Bears
Date: Saturday, April 3rd, 2021 – 5:14 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
College Basketball Odds: Baylor -5½
The Houston Cougars are the first Final Four team in NCAA Tournament history to beat four double-digit seeds on the road to the national semifinals. Houston beat a 15 seed (Cleveland State), a 10 seed (Rutgers), an 11 seed (Syracuse), and a 12 seed (Oregon State) to make the Big Show. Coach Kelvin Sampson is making his second appearance in the Final Four, having led Oklahoma to this stage of March Madness in 2002.
Houston is not a great shooting team, but the Cougars are an elite rebounding team and a top-tier defensive team. They want to muck the game up and make it as ugly as possible. Houston will not beat opponents in a track meet played in the 80s or 90s. The Cougars have to slow the game down, use their rebounding prowess to gain more possessions than their opponent, and play the game in the 60s or even the high 50s. They’re an example of a team winning games not by doing lots of positive things, but by making the opponent play poorly and limiting the opponent’s opportunities to make an impact.
The Baylor Bears have a very strong defense on par with Houston’s, but they also have elite offensive players. Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell are both going to be picked in the upcoming NBA draft. They have speed, a big first step off the dribble, great handles, and above-average shotmaking ability. Houston does not have players who can score at the same rate Butler and Mitchell can. Baylor can hang with Houston on the glass – the Bears have big bodies inside – but Butler and Mitchell are the two players who separate the Bears from Houston.
What also helps Baylor is that this team played 2018’s national champion, Villanova, in the Sweet 16 and received a very tough test from the Wildcats. The Bears also got a test from third-seeded Arkansas in the Elite Eight. Baylor has played high-level teams in this tournament, while Houston has played four double-digit seeds. Houston’s lack of elite competition puts Baylor in a great position to win this game and win it comfortably and cover the line set at the BetUS sportsbook.