According to some late-breaking information from the folks at BetOnline, almost 54% of their customers who have wagered on the pointspread have gone with the Baylor Bears in their national championship game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
And 65% of the moneyline bettors have gone with Baylor, which is priced at +167.
So are we siding with the public here? Let's explore that.
NCAA Tournament - Championship Game @ Indianapolis
GONZAGA BULLDOGS vs. BAYLOR BEARS, 9:20 PM ET (CBS)
NCAA Championship Odds: Gonzaga -4.5 / Total 159.5
Baylor had a very easy time with Houston when they played the national semi-final. Truth be told, they took advantage of the fact that the Cougars did not have a lot of ways to generate offense. That certainly won't be the case in the championship game.
Gonzaga has the offensive approach that emphasizes moving the basketball around freely, with a lot of screens and cutting, with an accent on clearing things for a high-percentage shot inside the three-point arc. Sure, they'll hit the three-pointers if they have to, and that is something Baylor is going to have to be ready for.
There is a certain rhythm that is required there. And I am guessing that if a team were to disrupt that rhythm a little, it would have a tremendous effect on what the 'Zags want to do.
Baylor appears to be such a team, particularly in the way they can pressure an opponent in the half-court setting, I can see them pressuring every Gonzaga pass. This may not stop the 'Zags, but it promises to slow them down a little. And that might be all they need.
There is a reason Baylor is third best among 357 Division I teams when it comes to causing turnovers. It's one thing to force 24 turnovers out of Hartford from the America East. But these Bears have taken even the most careful teams and driven them out of character. Go ahead and look it up - Wisconsin and Villanova are actually 1-2 in the nation in terms of committing the least turnovers. And Baylor forced them into 13 and 16, respectively, on the way to a double-digit victory in this tournament. Don't doubt their ability here.
And let's talk about the wild card. He's Davion Mitchell, who was named the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. Yes, he will give up a few inches - as will Jared Butler - to the Gonzaga guards, but it will still be interesting to see how much he can take Suggs out of his game, as that will be a focus for him and coach Scott Drew.
And remember that if the Bears come anywhere close to their three-point proficiency (41.2%, best in the nation), they are going to put a lot of pressure on Gonzaga from all angles.
When I have written about Gonzaga, I have taken note that during the season, they beat teams like Iowa, Kansas and Virginia, not to mention BYU (three times, mind you) by double digits. And that's very impressive.
But I often wonder how well they would have done - and in fact, whether they could remain undefeated - if they had to run the same gauntlet Baylor did in the hyper-competitive Big 12.
These Bears not only scored a double-digit win over Illinois, they also beat the likes of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas by ten points or more, and also beat West Virginia and Kansas in conference play. That's aside from wins by nine points or more over Wisconsin, Villanova, Arkansas and Houston in the tournament. Those are great credentials.
This is a game where Gonzaga is going to have to be on its toes because of Baylor's defensive pressure, and hustle points on the part of the Bears created by offensive rebounds have to be countered. For that reason, I think there is going to be a carry-over effect from Gonzaga's game against UCLA. Face it - when Baylor was breezing by Houston, they had an opportunity to conserve minutes for some of their starters. Only two of them played more than 30 minutes in that 19-point win.
Conversely, the 'Zags were in an intense battle throughout regulation with UCLA and then had all that anxiety during overtime before Jalen Suggs' last-second shot. Suggs played 40 minutes; three other starters logged more than that, and Drew Timme played 37. This is going to be a tough turnaround for them.
We're going to indeed be going the same way as the money in this one - taking Baylor plus the points and also on the moneyline.
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