The Gonzaga Bulldogs are not the only mid-major team in the Final Four. The Houston Cougars are also looking to advance to the national title game, but they will have to get past the best team from the Big 12 in the form of the No. 1 seed Baylor Bears.
Catch this game live on Sunday, April 4, at 5:14 AM, Manila time
No. 2 Houston Cougars (28-3 overall/14-3 AAC record)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: DeJon Jarreau
- SG: Marcus Sasser
- SF: Quentin Grimes
- PF: Reggie Chaney
- C: Fabian White
It’s not Houston’s fault that it had to go through a perceived weak strength of schedule to the Final Four, as the Cougars have yet to face a one-digit seed in the Big Dance. But in any case, Baylor can’t sleep on Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars.
This is a team that’s been consistently viewed as among the best teams in the nation even before March Madness kicked off. Houston, which is currently ranked third overall by KenPom, found the Oregon State Beavers’ glass slippers and threw them away in a 67-61 win in the Elite Eight. Speaking of glass, Cougars are having this much success in large part because of their rebounding and defense.
Houston is only shooting 43.7 FG% but is seventh in adjusted offensive efficiency with 118.6 points per 100 possession. That makes sense when you consider that the Cougars are excellent in controlling and extending possessions. The Cougars are 328th nationally in adjusted tempo and 331st in average possession length.
Baylor is soon going to find out exactly how the Cougars are doing it, which they mostly pull off on the strength of their insatiable thirst for rebounds. The Cougars are second in the nation with a 39.8 ORB%. In their win over Oregon State, the Cougars had 19 offensive rebounds, essentially killing the Beavers’ attempt to pull off a successful comeback attempt.
No. 1 Baylor Bears (26-2 overall/13-1 Big 12)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Davion Mitchell
- SG: Adam Flagler
- SF: MaCio Teague
- PF: Mark Vital
- C: Flo Thamba
Unlike Houston, the Bears have already been heavily tested in the tournament. After blowing out the Hartford Hawks in the first round (79-55), the Bears defeated the Wisconsin Badgers (76-63) in the second round, and the Villanova Wildcats (62-51) in the Sweet Sixteen.
Even though the Wildcats were missing Collin Gillespie, Baylor’s win over Jay Wright’s team speaks volumes of just how perfectly built the Bears are for the Big Dance. The Bears shot just 15.8% from deep (3-15) but relied on their defense to hold Villanova (top 6 in AdjO) to only 0.89 points per possession.
Houston might have success containing Baylor’s outside shooting just like Villanova did, but the Bears have an equally menacing defense that they can lean on. Baylor is second in the dog-eat-dog Big 12 world with a 97.9 adjusted defensive efficiency.
The Bears recovered their outside shooting in the Elite Eight against Eric Musselman’s Arkansas Razorbacks, this time knocking down 53.3% of their threes (8-15). To those who haven’t followed the US NCAA much before March Madness, now is a good time to learn that Baylor is the best 3-point shooting team in the nation. The Bears are making 41.1 FG% of their 3-point shots. They’re also seventh nationally with a 56.7 eFG%.
The trio of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and MaCio Teague will be at the forefront of Baylor’s offense that’s averaging 80.4 points per game.
Spread: This game can go either way. The Cougars are relentless on both ends of the floor. They’re led by a talented core of Quentin Grimes (former starter for Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks), Marcus Sasser, and DeJon Jarreau. But the Bears are just a different beast. They spread the floor so well and are not too shabby on the offensive glass, t00. Baylor will come away with a win here but Houston will cover as a 5.5-point underdog.
Over/Under: Both teams are great at keeping possessions alive. Take the Under 135.5.