The Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. the UCLA Bruins
UCLA is the Cinderella story of this year’s NCAA Men’s tournament. The UCLA Bruins lost their final 4 games before entering the NCAA Tournament where they had to beat Michigan State to earn their 11 seed. UCLA has won 5 in a row to get to the Final Four. Including UCLA this year, only five 11 seeds have made the Final Four, starting with LSU in 1986. The second such team did not appear until 20 years later, in 2006, when George Mason reached the Final Four, ultimately losing to the University of Florida who won the National Championship that year.
UCLA will have to play their best game of the year to beat #1 Gonzaga. However, getting past #2 Alabama and #1 Michigan out of the East bracket gives them the confidence going into their game Saturday night vs. Gonzaga. It still looks like it’s Gonzaga’s tournament to lose.
The Zags have blown through all of their opponents by double digits and are favored by 14.5 points. If Gonzaga goes on to win the National Championship this year, they could be considered the G.OA.T. of College Basketball. They certainly have all the statistics to back it up.
They are just the sixth team to win their first four tournament games by 15-or-more, since expanding to the 64 team tournament 36 years ago. They are bidding to become the first undefeated team to win the National Championship since 1976 and the only second champion in 45 years to spend the entire season ranked No.1 by the AP poll.
The Baylor Bears vs. Houston Cougars
The most evenly matched game of the Final Four is The Baylor Bears vs The Houston Cougars. The Bears are back in the Final Four for the first time since 1950, while the Cougars are returning to college basketball’s final weekend for the first time since 1984. Houston arguably has the best defense left in the tournament, only allowing their opponents to score 55.7 points per game. Baylor on the other hand, has the most potent backcourt averaging 46.4 points from their big 3 and led the nation in 3-point percentage at 41%.
It’s not that crazy to think of this matchup on this side of the bracket; number 1 Baylor vs. number 2 Houston. Most brackets had this match up. The other bracket not so much. Certainly, everyone had Gonzaga most likely winning the National Championship, but only a few had their opponent UCLA.
Pride vs. Money
The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is always fun to watch, no matter if your team is in the Final Four or not. We sometimes forget that these are 18 – 21 year old men that play like NBA athletes. However, the difference is these athletes play for pride, not money. Well, maybe some play for money, but that’s another article that needs to be written.
Right now, watch both games on Saturday April 3, 2021. If the Gonzaga Bulldogs don’t win out, it will be a crushing loss to a perfect season. If UCLA can pull off the win, it would be one of the greatest wins in history. Baylor and Houston is a toss up even with Baylor being favored by 5. I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston wins their game, but getting by Gonzaga will be a real test. At the end of the day, whichever team wins, playing in a bubble, dealing with smaller crowds, COVID-19 and throughout the political landscape, these players and coaches are all champions!