The Gonzaga Bulldogs are coming off an epic victory over UCLA, winning 93-90 in overtime on a long-range bank shot buzzer beater by star guard Jalen Suggs. Gonzaga is 31-0 on the season and the win against UCLA was only the second time all season that Gonzaga was within 10 points of their opposition. (In early December, they beat No. 11 West Virginia 87-82.)
It is not as though the Baylor Bears are limping into this final. They have a 27-2 record and, like Gonzaga, they were a No. 1 seed in their region and their closest margin of victory in the tournament was an 81-72 win against Arkansas in the Elite Eight. Their two losses this season came at Kansas and then in the semifinal of the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State.
Gonzaga has a chance to be one of he great all-time teams. Indiana University in 1975-1976 was the last time there was an undefeated national champion in college basketball and the Bulldogs are favored to do exactly that this year.
The sophomore forward with the glorious ‘stache has been consistent and efficient in the tournament. In the past four games, he has averaged 25.0 points per game on 66.7% shooting from the field. Baylor is a strong defensive squad but may have a hard time containing the relentless Gonzaga attack.
Jared Butler LESS THAN 16.5 POINTS
Baylor’s leading scorer, the junior guard is averaging 16.6 points per game but had been having a hard time putting up points. He scored 17 against Houston in the national semifinal and that was more than he had scored in any of his previous five games.
Davion Mitchell MORE THAN 5.5 ASSISTS
Baylor’s playmaking guard is averaging 5.5 assists per game for the season but had 11 assists against Houston in the semifinal, his second highest total this season, and has recorded at least six assists in three of the past four games. It’s reasonable to expect Mitchell to play a similarly significant role against Gonzaga in the title game.
Joel Ayayi LESS THAN 6.5 REBOUNDS
The junior guard is a consistent force on the boards. With the only exception a bizarre 0-rebound performance against Loyola-Marymount in late February, Ayayi has grabbed at least six rebounds in 10 of his past 11 games. It gets a little closer, though, when requiring seven, as Ayayi has at least seven rebounds in six of those 11 games.
Jalen Suggs -1.5 FANTASY POINTS vs. Corey Kispert
Coming off a monster performance in the semifinal win against UCLA, and after putting up 38 fantasy points against the Bruins, Suggs is averaging 31.3 fantasy points per game this season. Kispert, on the other hand, is averaging 30.1 fantasy points per game this season – the senior forward scores more but does not get assists or defensive stats as readily as Suggs.
Jared Butler -1.5 FANTASY POINTS vs. MaCio Teague
While Butler’s scoring has been inconsistent for Baylor, the junior guard is still averaging 31.91 fantasy points per game this season. Teague has also been inconsistent offensively and, overall, is putting up 25.35 fantasy points per game. Even if Butler hasn’t been at his best in the tournament, he is worthy of being favored in this matchup of Bears guards.
Davion Mitchell +5.5 FANTASY POINTS vs. Drew Timme
While scoring is the focal point of Timme’s game, he does rebound effectively and contributes in other ways, earning an average of 33.67 fantasy points per game. Mitchell brings a more balanced approach and is averaging 29.57 fantasy points pe game. That’s close enough to like Mitchell getting an extra 5.5 fantasy points in the championship games.
*The contests listed in this article are subject to change leading up to tip-off*
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Scott is a sportswriter with a focus on analytics, rankings, fantasy. Even though he’s Canadian, his interests and analysis extend a wee bit beyond hockey and maple syrup. Eh?