A couple of VSiN’s college hoops analysts dive into Saturday’s national semifinal games.
No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 1 Gonzaga
Youmans: The second national semifinal features No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga going for the first undefeated season since Bob Knight’s 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers. The Bulldogs will face the last remaining low seed in
No. 11 UCLA, which has had to win five games already, including one in the First Four. UCLA is also the last remaining team from the Pac-12, which is 13-2 ATS against all other conferences.
Gonzaga was favored by 14 on Friday at BetMGM with a total of 145.5. Expect this number to go up and close as the largest point spread in a Final Four game since 1985. The Bulldogs are 4-0 ATS in the tournament, winning by 24 points per game, so the betting public will stick with what has worked.
I’m not going to emphasize the weak schedule Gonzaga has faced the past three months or make a case for UCLA pulling off a stunning upset. The Zags are legit, the Bruins are lucky to be here, and that’s why the line is headed north of 14.
USC attempted to run with Gonzaga and trailed by 19 at halftime, so it’s no secret UCLA coach Mick Cronin hopes to limit possessions by making it a shortened game The Bruins have committed only 36 turnovers in five games, with point guard Tyger Campbell totaling 20 assists against six turnovers. That type of efficient play will be needed just for the underdog to stay within striking range.
UCLA’s Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez are big guards who can get to the paint and score. Some bookmakers expect this line to hit 15.5 or 16, and that’s when I’ll bet it. I’m not playing this until it appears the point spread has reached the peak.
Youmans’ recommendation: UCLA, +15.5/16 (waiting for the best number).
No. 2 Houston vs. No. 1 Baylor
Stall: It’s certainly not easy to jump in front of Baylor, but in my opinion this line is a point or so too high. In my opinion, Baylor has been the best team in the nation not named Gonzaga all season, but even so I can’t pass up a team as good as Houston getting a handful of points.
Houston is one of only four teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Cougars are No. 1 in defensive effective FG percentage and No. 2 in offensive rebounding percentage. It isn’t always pretty, but Houston consists of an avalanche of high-level athletes who usually overwhelm opponents.
Obviously, Baylor will be the toughest test Houston has had to this point, but the Cougars have the talent to do it. It’s also worth noting the Cougars take care of the ball very well, checking in 41st in turnover rate. That’s even more critical against a Bears defense that’s No. 3 in forcing turnovers. If you can get a shot up, you actually aren’t in horrible shape. Baylor ranks only 120th in effective FG percentage defense and certainly isn’t immune to allowing some nice, clean looks.
I’m not quite calling for an outright Houston win, but I will say five points feels high in a game I fully expect to come down to the final minutes.
Stall’s recommendation: Houston, +5.5.