By Hocine Loukkaf on 3/31/2021
With Gonzaga and Baylor as the clear favourites of this F4, Houston and UCLA won’t have any pressure on saturday. Can a miracle happen ?
Houston (28-3) vs Baylor (26-2)
The Texas derby will be interesting as the two teams have a lot of similarities and Houston’s strength may be Baylor’s biggest weakness.
Playing only against 10+ seeds, Houston had to wait the last moments to lead against Rutgers while they were still tied in the last minutes against Oregon State. Despite the bad offensive efficiency of its two best scorers Sasser (36pts but on 11/35 FG over the last three games) and Grimes (32pts on 10/30 over the last two games), Houston can count on the versatility of the third starting guard Jarreau (8rbds 8as and 1.5 per game in the last two games) and the rebounding effort of the whole team (at least +9 in each of the last three games) besides a suffocating defense.
Like Houston, Baylor depends mainly on its guards on offense with projected first round picks Butler (only 23pts on 8/25 over the last two games) and above all surprising junior Davion Mitchell (averages of 14pts 5.3as 1.7to and at least 50% FG over the last three games). Teague could also be the X factor if he can perform like he did against Arkansas (22pts on 3/7 3pt). One of the bottom 100 rebounding teams in the country, the Bears did a pretty good job against three solid teams (Wisconsin, Villanova and Arkansas) but the African frontcourt duo Thamba/Tchamwa Tchatchoua needs to rise to the occasion.
Prediction : If Baylor can limit Houston’s rebounding and harass their guards, they have too much talent to lose that game.
UCLA (22-9) vs Gonzaga (30-0)
The storied at-large team against the mid-major number one school in the country, what a nice scenario for this second semi-final.
As they trailed by 13 in the First Four against another storied program, Michigan State, who thought the Bruins would get to the Final Four? After losing Chris Smith and Jalen Hill and ending their regular season with four losses, UCLA, behind his coach Mike Cronin and shooter Johnny Juzang, has grinded his way to the Final Four. With 21.6pts per game in the tournament including 28 of his team’s 51pts against #1 seed Michigan and only one game under 45% FG, Juzang has been the dynamo of his team. In the more uptempo Sweet 16 game against #2 seed Alabama, the team was the star as six players scored at least 10pts while limiting the turnovers to eight shooting 20/25 from thre free throw line.
From Stockton to Dickau, Calvary, Morrison, Turiaf or more recently Hachimura, Sabonis or Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga has become the best mid-major in the country sending many of its players to the NBA. The only thing lacking is a college championship, which seemed out of question until recently. The undefeated Bulldogs are used to an easy ride in the WCC but they started the season with wins over Kansas, Auburn and West Virginia before the cancellation of the Baylor game which could have turned into a loss. Gonzaga has destroyed its opponents with the closest win being a 16-point win against Oklahoma. Despite good perfs by potential top 5 pick Suggs (12.2pts 4.7as) and senior top 20 bound Corey Kispert (17.3pts), the man of the tournament has been surprising sophomore Drew Timme, who has been on a tear dominating against Oklahoma (30pts 12rbds 4as) and Creighton (22pts 6rbds 4as) before outplaying potential top three pick Evan Mobley (23pts 5rbds 4as 3st). making his moustache, dubbed the “Drew Manchu” a trend.
Prediction : it’s hard to imagine the Bruins being able to stop Gonzaga’s army. Gonzaga at least by 10pts.
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