Smart Money NCAA College Basketball Picks For Saturday 4/3/2021

April 3, 2021by Lobo Grande0
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Smart Money NCAA College Basketball Picks For Saturday 4/3/2021

Smart Money NCAA College Basketball Picks For Saturday 4/3/2021: Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, & Jalen Suggs - Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. UCLA Bruins

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We’ve made it to the holy grail. We’ve reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. I’ve written a bunch over the past few weeks about how crazy it is that we’re finally here and how happy I am that this actually happened despite all of the obstacles. I’ll save the sob story and get right into the stuff everyone cares about – who is winning? And more importantly, who is covering?

Houston Cougars @ Baylor Bears: Houston +5 (+100)

Our best shot at a close game this weekend. I’m very excited to see these two teams face off, and I think we could be in for a fun one.

I think the spread here is in line with what it should be. Baylor hasn’t been as dominant as Gonzaga has been over these past few weeks, but they aren’t very far behind. They’ve handled each opponent thrown their way with relative ease and are looking every bit of the part of a 1-seed.

Houston has had to grind their way to a few victories but has shown that they are worthy of their 2-seed status and are a very tough out. They can kill you on the glass and with their defense. And having watched all of their games during the Tournament, I know they're a team I wouldn’t want to face.

On the one hand, I think it would be poetic and very interesting to see Baylor and Gonzaga square off in the finals like many have expected. On the other, March Madness is about the unexpected and I’d love to see Houston make a run here.

It doesn’t really matter what I want to happen, we’re here to talk about what I think will happen. And that is Houston covering five points.

Why Houston Will Cover

If you’ve been following my picks and analysis throughout the Tournament, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I’m all aboard the Houston bandwagon. There are two key stats that I’ve zeroed in on that make me like them to cover this one, and those are their rebounding and three-point stats throughout March Madness.

Through their four games, they are averaging 39.5 rebounds per game (tied for 7th amongst Tournament teams) and 8.3 three-pointers per game (20th amongst Tournament teams). These certainly aren’t stats that are going to blow your mind. But what’s important is that they are both more than Baylor.

Baylor is averaging just 33.3 boards per game, giving Houston a significant advantage. They are also averaging 7.5 threes per game, not a huge advantage, but it could be the difference between a win and a loss. Again, while these may not sound like a huge deal, just remember that when Houston is cleaning the glass for putbacks and second possession threes.

I like Baylor a lot, and I think they’ve shown some serious potential to win this whole thing. But I just think that Houston is a very tough out and has what it takes to stick around in this one. Five points is a nice cushion to get in a game that I think could be decided by one possession.

The Pick: Houston +5 (+100)

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UCLA Bruins @ Gonzaga Bulldogs: Under 145.5 (+105)

The nightcap features the 1-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs against the 11-seeded Cinderella UCLA Bruins. It’s a little bit weird to keep calling them that given the history of the program that we all know about, but as an 11-seed in the Final Four, I think they fit the criteria.

I don’t want to touch the outcome of this game with a 10-foot pole. A 14.5-point spread in the Final Four has my brain in a pretzel, and I have no idea what to think of it. Do I think Gonzaga is going to dominate this game? Yes, I do. But do I confidently think they will cover 14.5? No, I do not.

That brings us to the game total. Both of these teams have played four games so far in the Tournament, technically five if you’re counting the play-in game, and the under is 6-2 in those games. That struck me as strange given that Gonzaga is leading all teams in scoring during the Tournament with 88.3 points per game, but they are putting the clamps on with their defense.

Each team has played in just one game that’s gone over out of their four. And the one for UCLA had a bit of help from an OT period against Alabama.

The Over/Under in This Final Four Game

I’m riding the under in this one. We know the Gonzaga Bulldogs are going to get their points, but will the UCLA Bruins be able to get theirs? They’ve been winning games without scoring a ton of points, scoring just 51 in their Elite Eight win over Michigan.

I think Gonzaga's defense may be too much for UCLA to handle, and this one could end up being low-scoring. There’s always the chance that it turns into a blowout and the three-point brigade comes out. But I’m confident betting against that happening on the big stage.

If you’re nervous betting the under here, throw it in a teaser with Houston and call it a day. I can understand not wanting to sweat out meaningless chucks with 3 seconds left on the clock in a meaningless game. And this game has that written all over it both from a point-spread perspective, and a point total one.

The Pick: Under 145.5 (-109)

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