Two schools that have not been in the Final Four since before the start of the NCAA Tournament expanded era in 1985 are back in the spotlight this year.
No. 1 Baylor will meet No. 2 Houston in a Final Four national semifinal on Saturday. Tipoff will be at 5 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. ET at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will be televised by CBS.
Baylor (26-2) won the South Region under coach Scott Drew with an 81-72 victory over Arkansas in the region final. The Bears are in the Final Four for the first time since 1950. Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell continue to carry Baylor through its tournament run.
Houston (28-3), the Midwest Region champion, is in the Final Four for the first time since the Phi Slama Jama heyday of 1982-84. Coach Kevin Sampson returns to the Final Four for the first time since 2002. Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser combined for nine 3-pointers in the Cougars’ 67-61 victory over Oregon State in the Elite Eight.
Here’s everything to know about betting on Baylor vs. Arkansas in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, including updated odds, trends and our prediction for the Final Four game.
Baylor vs. Houston odds
- Spread: Baylor (-5)
- Over/under: 135.5
- Moneyline: Baylor -210, Houston +176
Three betting trends to watch
— Baylor is 19-10 ATS this season. The Bears are 8-3 ATS when favored by fewer than 10 points.
— Baylor is 9-3 ATS and 12-0 S/U in nonconference games.
— Houston is 20-11 ATS this season and 11-0 S/U in nonconference games. This is the Cougars’ first game as an underdog this season.
Final Four history
Houston is making its sixth Final Four appearance. The Cougars reached the NCAA championship game in 1983 and 1984 with teams led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Baylor made Final Four appearances in 1948 and 1950. Kentucky beat the Bears 58-42 in the 1948 national championship game.
Baylor key players
Butler (16.5 points per game), Teague (15.9 ppg) and Mitchell (14.0 ppg) carry the scoring load for the Bears, and the upperclassmen also combine for close to 12 assists per game. Baylor has a deep core of role players, too, including Adam Flagler (9.0 ppg), Matthew Mayer (8.2 ppg), Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6.3 ppg), Mark Vital (5.7 ppg) and Flo Thamba (3.6 ppg). That eight-man rotation is meshing at the right time.
Houston key players
Junior guard Quentin Grimes averages 18.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He is 17 of 39 (43.6 percent) from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament. Sasser averages 13.3 points as part of the Cougars’ dynamic backcourt, and senior Dejon Jarreau contributes 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Justin Gorham (8.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg) is the lead post player
Best individual matchup: Grimes vs. Mitchell
This has become a theme for Baylor throughout the season. Mitchell is a stopper — the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. The Bears’ defense struggled in the first half against Arkansas when Mitchell picked up three first-half fouls. Grimes has just one game with 10 or more free throws this season, and he cannot settle for 3-point shots with Mitchell on the perimeter.
Baylor vs. Houston stat to know
Both teams have defended the 3-point line well throughout the tournament. Houston’s four opponents have shot 24 of 80 (30 percent) from there. Baylor has limited opponents to 19-of-72 shooting (26.4 percent) from 3-point range. If that trend continues, then fast-break points and half-court execution will make the difference on both sides.
Get to know . . . MaCio Teague
Teague, a senior who began his career at UNC-Asheville, has emerged as one of the feel-good stories of the tournament. He failed to score in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time this season in the second- and third-round games against Villanova and Wisconsin, but he bounced back with 22 points against Arkansas. Teague is Baylor’s second-best free-throw shooter at 85.9 percent. On a stage where that matters, he could be a key player in the final minutes.
Baylor vs. Houston prediction
The schools have a history that dates to their Southwest Conference days, and the Cougars have a 38-15 advantage in the series. The teams have not met since 2003, however, and the dueling Final Four droughts should add to the intensity. Both teams can win with their defense, and that could lead to some rough shooting in the first half. Look for both teams to settle in during a tight second half, but Baylor’s backcourt (and depth) will be a difference-maker. The Bears take advantage of second-chance points and make clutch free throws down the stretch.
Final score: Baylor 73, Houston 67