Free NCAA Tournament Betting Picks for Final Four
And then there were four.
I feel like it was just yesterday that I was sitting in front of my TV and filling out my bracket with each team that was announced, including the play-in games that kicked off the tournament. To say this year’s tournament has been anything short of outstanding – especially after being canceled last year – would be an understatement. We’ve been witness to some miraculous upsets, buzzer-beaters, amazing individual performances, and storylines. And at the end of the day, we are now down to the four best (should say hottest) teams in the country.
The Final Four will be contested on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, and it will get underway when No. 1 Baylor takes on No. 2 Houston in what should be an incredible game. As of writing this, Baylor is six-point favorites, with the total set at 134.5. In the nightcap, unbeaten No. 1 Gonzaga takes on this year’s Cinderella, No. 11 UCLA. The Zags are 14-point favorites with the total set at 145.5.
To date, I am 5-4 with my free picks in articles like this one, so let’s see if we can close out the tournament on a 3-0 run. Here are my picks for the Final Four.
Doc’s Sports offers free college basketball picks for nearly every game on our free NCAA basketball predictions page.
No. 2 Houston vs No. 1 Baylor (-6) (Saturday at 5:14 pm)
With all due respect to the 30-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs, the best game of the Final Four will be this one. Both Houston and Baylor are formidable opponents, and both teams would give Gonzaga a good run for its money should they get through this game and Gonzaga beat UCLA.
For Houston, they are severely underrated and were underrated coming into this tournament despite being given a No. 2 seed. Houston has a record of 28-3 and has won 11 straight games, including games against Rutgers, Syracuse and Oregon State, all of whom play different styles of basketball and all of whom sharp cappers were on in each round. The Cougars rely on their defensive style of play to shut down the opposition. And with the total set at only 134.5, Houston’s best chance of winning this game is by grinding out a low-scoring game. Houston has given up more than 61 points just once over their last seven games, and that was to a tough Memphis team. The Cougars rank third in defensive rating (88.1), which is far better than Baylor, and they rebound the ball incredibly effectively as they rank sixth overall in rebounds and third overall in offensive boards. The Cougars play at an extremely slow pace, and they will try to wear you down.
As for Baylor, they are 26-2 on the season and can beat you in a plethora of ways. They can score points at will as seen by their last game against Arkansas where they put up 81, or they can slow the tempo down and grind out low-scoring games like the 62-51 win against Villanova. Baylor has some of the best guard play in the country, but they are also effective in the paint. They rank 18th overall in field goal percentage (48.6 percent) and they hit their three-point attempts at a ridiculous rate of 41.1 percent, which is the best in the country. Defensively, the Bears are second in offensive rating with 119.7. It’s going to sound stupid to say, but this game is going to come down to which team wants it more. Which team is willing to make the extra pass or take the extra charge? Both teams rate out as even, and because of that, I’m grabbing all the points I can and taking the underdog based on the spread.
Pick: Houston +6
No. 11 UCLA Bruins vs No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (-14) (Saturday at 8:34 pm)
Raise your hand if you had UCLA in the Final Four taking on Gonzaga? Okay, now put it down because you are lying to yourself. Quick fact – of the 14.7 million brackets down on ESPN, only 2,873 of them had this quartet of teams playing basketball on the first weekend of April.
UCLA could have been the biggest story of the tournament. However, when you had teams like Oral Roberts and Loyal-Chicago and Oregon State getting deep into the tournament as well, you often overlook a No. 11 seed as a Cinderella. But here we are. The Bruins will be looking to add to their resume of one of the all-time best programs and grab their 12th National Championship. To do so, they just have to beat one of the best college basketball teams I’ve seen in my lifetime, but from a purely fundamental perspective. I’ll explain that a little more later on. The Bruins are also looking to be the first play-in team to play for a national title, let alone win one.
In the intro, I stated that these four remaining teams were the “hottest” teams left in the tournament. I was referring to UCLA specifically, because while the other three teams may be better, UCLA is peaking at the right time, as seen by their wins against No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 Michigan. Nobody gave UCLA a chance in hell to get to this spot with the path they had to navigate. So, what’s UCLA’s best game plan to win this game? I don’t think they have one, and that’s probably okay with the team because anything can happen in a one-off basketball game.
As for the Zags, what can I say about them that doesn’t involve adjectives and hyperbole? They are the best and most complete basketball team I’ve ever seen. Sure, some teams like Kentucky had amazing teams, but that was because they had legitimate one-and-done, NBA lottery picks on their team. Gonzaga doesn’t have that, and yet here they are, 30-0 and about to make history and become the first team to have a perfect season and win the national title since Indiana in 1976. The Zags can beat you any way you want them to. They play an up-tempo style of game and they shoot the ball lights out (54.9 percent from the field). They rank second in assists per game, first in true shooting percentage (64.1), first in offensive rating (123.4), and 14th in defensive rating (yes, they can defend as well). They have won 28 of their 30 games by 10 or more points. That’s absurd. They play fundamental basketball, and their players buy into it.
The only way I see Gonzaga losing this game or making it closer than it should be is if they shoot 25 percent from the floor and miss a bunch of free-throws – AKA – come into this game hungover. That’s not happening. Gonzaga rolls UCLA and advances to the National Title game.
Pick: Gonzaga -14
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