• Brian Cooney

2021 Final Four Matchup Preview

After a crazy first few rounds, four teams remain in the hunt for the national championship. These four teams have stayed hot throughout the stint of March Madness and defied the odds. No matter the outcome, it will undoubtedly be entertaining to watch.

 

#1 Gonzaga (-14) vs #11 UCLA

April 3, 2021/ 8:34pm EST

A freshman phenom, a guy with a handlebar mustache, and a three-point sniper are running March Madness like none other right now. Gonzaga is by far the best team in college basketball right now, and it's not even close. They have beaten their opponents by an average of 24 points in the past four games. Drew Timme, Jalen Suggs, and Corey Kispert are impossible to stop all at once. Each guy can score at will, so teams have to pick and choose who to try and stop. People questioned whether or not they'd be able to handle a competent big-man in the tournament; however, they stomped on 7'2 Evan Mobley and USC Tuesday night, showing no weakness at all. The real question is, can anyone beat this team?


Doesn't it fit that an #11 seed makes the Final Four this year? More upsets have happened this March than ever before. The UCLA Bruins happen to be the Cinderella team to make it to the dance. UCLA comes into this battle having upset the #1 seeded Michigan Wolverines. Their hustle and defense stopped Michigan from scoring at the rate they have been all tournament long. Johnny Juzang put up an impressive 28 points against one of the top-rated defenses in the NCAA. Shots couldn't fall on either end of the court last night, so Juzang stepped up when his team needed him most. Michigan tried multiple different defenders on him Tuesday night, yet none were effective. In a defensive game, his offense was able to bring them to the Final Four.


The odds are stacked against UCLA once again. They face off against arguably the best team in the past decade in Gonzaga. Not only are they going to have to click defensively again, but every one of their players has to be locked in offensively. If they get lazy at any point, Gonzaga will attack their weaknesses like they've done all season.


Unless the "Monstars" from Space Jam steal all Gonzaga's powers, I see no chance for the Bruins. Gonzaga has swept the floor with every team they've faced thus far. Thus far, UCLA has made a historic run, as they are only the second team in tournament history to reach the Final Four from the play-in tournament. However, Gonzaga is a team we've never seen before. They have virtually no holes on defense, have great ball movement, and have star-power. The swagger and poise they play with on the floor can't and won't be matched by UCLA. I predict Gonzaga covers the spread and destroys UCLA, one step closer to perfection.

 

#1 Baylor (-5) vs #2 Houston

April 3, 2021/ 5:14pm EST


The Baylor Bears are hungry to compete in this year's Final Four. Last year, they were one of the top teams with hopes of winning a National Championship. Their season last year was cut short due to the cancelation of college basketball after the pandemic hit. However, their main workhorses returned this year to compete again, and they have lived up to the hype.


The combination of Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell has proven to be lethal in this year's tournament. Their blend of great defense and the ability to score at will on the other end has been vital. Baylor has also proven their ability to beat good teams, with wins over Villanova, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. It will take quite the effort from Houston to upset such an established team.


Houston has had quite an exciting run to the Final Four. College Basketball fans call them out for an easy run thus far, but in reality, they've played some dangerous teams. Houston is the first-ever team to make the Final Four without playing a seed lower than 10. Technically, they have had an easy run in terms of seeding, but these lower seeds they've faced proved to be formidable opponents. Houston deserves the be here, ladies and gentlemen. They, too, have one of the best defenses college basketball has to offer, as they've held their opponents to just 30% shooting from behind the arc. The key for Houston on Saturday is to get Quentin Grimes the ball down the stretch. He has scored at a high volume efficiently all season long and will have to continue to do so if they will have any chance.


Houston has yet to play a team as good as Baylor all season long, so it may be a rude awakening for them. However, Houston hasn't disappointed this year, so we can't expect them to lose because they haven't faced a Baylor caliber team. The defense will play a big part in this game, so expect a slower start to the game and a team to pull away in the 2nd half. I predict this game will be one of the tournament's best games thus far, as two stacked teams face off with high-level defense and top-heavy talent. I expect Baylor will pull away at some point and advance to the national championship.