Final Four 2021 Preview
After two weekends full of thrills, chills and spills, the field of 68 has whittled down to the Final Four.
Indianapolis has played host to 64 games so far, and they did not disappoint this year. As some games certainly broke all brackets in sight, four teams made their way to Lucas Oil Stadium for a chance to be crowned champions.
Let’s take a look at the games leading up to the National Championship.
Houston Cougars vs. Baylor Bears
The Baylor Bears had their ups and downs this season, but the team managed to string together a few good wins in the tournament to keep their championship dreams alive. This marks Baylor’s first appearance in the Final Four since 1950, when they came out of the Southwest Conference to win the championship.
With Baylor, their guard play and lockdown defensive schemes have brought them to the main card of a national championship run. Winning the turnover battles and the protection of the paint has allowed the Bears to stay at the top of the nation as an early national title contender.
They do square up against the Houston Cougars who had a relatively easy path to the Final Four. They are the first team to get to the Final Four by only playing double-digit seeded teams.
The Cougars rank sixth in rebounds and defensive efficiency in the nation. With the AAC Defensive Player of the Year Dejon Jarreau facing off against a potent offense in Scott Drew’s team, the defense has a tall task at hand, especially considering Baylor’s great perimeter shooting.
Two potent defenses with offenses that can hit three pointers very well face off to see who is the superior school in the state of Texas. This game will come down to which defense can shut down the X-factors of their opponent.
Prediction: Baylor 73, Houston 64
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. UCLA Bruins
This matchup may seem very lopsided on paper, but as the great Ian Eagle once said: “Anything can happen in March!”. UCLA has been the epitome of this quote.
Mike Cronin’s team has made an improbable run to the Final Four, considering they started out in the First Four; that hasn’t been done since the 2011 VCU Rams team led by head coach Shaka Smart. It eventually led to the downfall of second-seeded Alabama and first-seeded Michigan out of the East region.
The Bruins have guards Johnny Juzang, the Kentucky transfer, and Tyger Campbell leading the charge. In their five games leading up to the Final Four, UCLA had to survive a gauntlet of teams who were riding high on emotional wins and win streaks, to which they rose to the occasion.
The Bruins do face one of the best teams in the nation in the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Mark Few’s team has managed to remain undefeated through 30 games, winning 29 of those games by at least 10 points.
It starts with the trio of Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs. These three players have managed to steamroll opponents in many ways, whether through the pick-and-roll or a simple pull-up three.
The team seems to have a chemistry that is unmatched. They all are buying into the idea of being national champions, which is the final item Mark Few needs to cross off his list to be a legendary coach.
This matchup may see the end of UCLA’s cinderella run, based on the track record of how Gonzaga has handled their opponents. Bench points need to be a huge contributor to UCLA’s success if they want to keep up with the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Gonzaga 84, UCLA 62
Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.