March Madness betting: Who can stop Gonzaga and Baylor in the NCAA Tournament?
Pretty much from start to finish this season, it was a foregone conclusion that Gonzaga and Baylor would be the top two overall seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Confirmation came on Selection Sunday, when March Madness hype reached a new level with the first bracket reveal since 2019. Now the question is if anyone can prevent a Gonzaga vs. Baylor title game; and if so, who?
As we continue the process of helping you fill out your bracket., let’s take a look at where the Zags and/or the Bears could be vulnerable.
Can Iowa win the West?
Gonzaga (26-0) may be the No. 1 overall seed, but it did not find itself in the easiest region. The Bulldogs could go up against Oklahoma in the second round, and any battle-tested team coming out of the high-powered Big 12 can be dangerous. A potential Sweet 16 opponent for head coach Mark Few’s squad is none other than Virginia, which is technically the defending national champion (the Wahoos cut the nets down in 2019 before last year’s NCAA Tournament was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic). Of course, Gonzaga will take a ton of confidence into that matchup if it does come to fruition. After all, the Zags humiliated UVA 98-75 during the regular season.
That brings us to Iowa, the No. 2 seed in the West Region and the Zags’ likely Elite Eight opposition. The Hawkeyes could be a dangerous matchup, too, because they are one team that can keep up with Gonzaga in the points department. The Zags score 92.1 points per game (second in the nation), while Iowa is not too far behind (ninth) despite playing a rigorous Big Ten schedule. Luka Garza is a lock for the Wooden Award and is capable of taking over any game at any time. Although Gonzaga does not have any real weakness, it is stronger in the backcourt than down low. As such, keeping Garza in check could be a problem.
Gonzaga is a +205 favorite to win it all and -230 to reach the Final Four.
Bluebloods stand in Baylor’s way
Similar to Gonzaga’s projected path, experience is unlikely to be an issue for Baylor’s opponents. North Carolina, a potential second-round foe, won its third National Championship under head coach Roy Williams in 2017—one year after it lost the title game to Villanova on a buzzer-beater. Speaking of ‘Nova, the Wildcats have won two of the last four NCAA Tournaments and they could run into Baylor in the Sweet 16. Head coach Jay Wright’s team was in the mix for a No. 1 seed for much of the 2020-21 campaign, but Collin Gillespie suffered a torn MCL earlier this month. Without Gillespie, Villanova is vulnerable; No. 4 seed Purdue could be the Sweet 16 competitor out of that section. Prior to the Elite Eight, North Carolina is arguably Baylor’s biggest threat. The Tar Heels have been playing some of their best basketball in recent weeks and they are awesome in the frontcourt whereas the Bears are at their best in the backcourt. It would be an intriguing contrast in style.
Neither Ohio State nor Texas Tech could be entirely discounted in the Elite Eight. However, Baylor took care of the Big 12 rival Red Raiders twice during the regular season—and with relative ease. The Buckeyes look more dangerous. They are coming off a runner-up performance in the Big Ten Tournament, in which they pushed Midwest Region No. 1 seed Illinois to overtime.
Baylor is a +500 second choice to win it all and -134 to reach the Final Four.
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