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He easily could be quarterbacking Ohio State right now, preparing for annual trips to college football’s final-four postseason bacchanal.

Instead, Jalen Suggs leads Gonzaga into the NCAA Tournament championship game Monday night against Baylor (27-2), and maybe into the college hoops history books.

The 31-0 Zags are attempting to become the game’s first undefeated team since 1975-76, when the Indiana Hoosiers and coach Bob Knight wrote an immortal chapter.

It’s the game that had been slated, for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, in early December, but was canceled hours before tipoff due to two positive Gonzaga coronavirus tests, involving a player and someone among its traveling party.

Gonzaga was No. 1 all season, Baylor playing second fiddle to the Bulldogs most of the campaign. Most anyone with an interest expected these two to play for the crown come Monday.

It might have been delayed for four months, but the game gets its desired matchup inside Lucas Oil Stadium. And the Zags will finally capture a proud and long-respected program’s first championship.

Baylor vs Gonzaga NCAA Championship Odds

BetMGM Sportsbook:

  • Spread: +4.5 (-110) Baylor vs -4.5 (-110) Gonzaga
  • Moneyline: +165 Baylor vs -200 Gonzaga
  • Total: 159.5 (-110)

FanDuel Sportsbook:

  • Spread: +4.5 (-110) Baylor vs -4.5 (-110) Gonzaga
  • Moneyline: +168 Baylor vs -200 Gonzaga
  • Total: Over 160 (-109) / Under 160 (-110)

BetRivers Sportsbook:

  • Spread: +4.5 (-106) Baylor vs -4.5 (-115) Gonzaga
  • Moneyline: +165 Baylor vs -208 Gonzaga
  • Total: Over 160 (-109) / Under 160 (-110)

PointsBet Sportsbook:

  • Spread: +4.5 (-108) Baylor vs -4.5 (-108) Gonzaga
  • Moneyline: +170 Baylor vs -213 Gonzaga
  • Total: Over 159.5 (-108) / Under 159.5 (-108)

Caesars Sportsbook:

  • Spread: +4.5 (-110) Baylor vs -4.5 (-110) Gonzaga
  • Moneyline: +175 Baylor vs -208 Gonzaga
  • Total: Over 159.5 (-110) / Under 159.5 (-110)

Draftkings Sportsbook:

  • Spread: +5 (-115) Baylor vs -5 (-106) Gonzaga
  • Moneyline: +165 Baylor vs -208 Gonzaga
  • Total: Over 160 (-109) / Under 160 (-110)

Chart for historical March Madness Future Odds

UCLA, however, never went gently into the night, back to the airport and back to Westwood, just happy to have received an invitation to the NCAAs.

Having come back from a double-digit deficit to defeat Michigan State in overtime of a First Four game, the NCAA’s glorified play-in competition, the Bruins wound up being among the peskiest squads to ever play in the game’s grand tournament.

Ultimately, they would log six 40-minute games and three five-minute extra sessions, and only until the final second of those 255 minutes would they be eliminated from the competition.

Jalen Suggs’s 30-foot buzzer-beater beat the Bruins, 93-90, late Saturday night in one semifinal, advancing Gonzaga into the finale.

After an ugly Elite Eight victory over a listless Michigan team, in which only Johnny Juzang produced for UCLA, the Bruins never allowed Gonzaga the leverage it has enjoyed all season.

All but one of the Zags’ victories so far had been by double digits, but not Saturday night. They committed turnovers and fouls, continued to miss bunnies and were on the ropes much of the second half and at the end of overtime.

They had been pushed and pressed against Brigham Young in the finale of the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas, and someone (guilty) believed that was the wake-up call Gonzaga would use as fuel to cruise through the NCAAs.

UCLA had other ideas. With the nonpareil pedigree of 11 national titles, the Bruins acted as if nothing and nobody, even an undefeated foe from the eastern edge of Washington, would keep it from an even dozen trophies in the case.

They roared with the echoes of Wooden and Alcindor and Walton, and only finished a hair short against a long-successful program in desperate desire of its very first crown.

More Fireworks

Earlier Saturday, the Bears of Baylor cruised to the easy victory, over Houston.

Now, the heavyweight Main Event is set. A dissection of the combatants shows that if anything can top Gonzaga-UCLA, it’ll be Gonzaga-Baylor.

These are the two most-efficient offenses in college hoops. The Zags’ have an edge on defense, where it’s rated eighth to the Bears’ No. 27 adjusted efficiency rating by stats guru Ken Pomeroy.

In effective field-goal percentage, Baylor’s 56.7% is ranked fourth; Gonzaga, however, is first at 61.1%.

In their past two games, though, the Bulldogs have shown glaring signs of mortality, missing easy inside shots, carelessly turning the ball over, committing rookie fouls.

Gonzaga entered Saturday’s game as the nation’s highest-scoring team, at 91.6 points. All it did is improve upon that against UCLA.

And Baylor ranked fourth, at 83. Then it doused Houston, 78-59.

That the Bears could tally 78 points against a Cougars’ defense that had been second in the country, yielding only 58 points, was quite impressive. In fact, that’s championship material.

Timme Time, Indeed

After a desultory first game in the NCAAs, Gonzaga 6-foot-10 sophomore Drew Timme has been electric, hitting 40 of 57 shots and scoring 100 points in the Bulldogs’ past four games.

In the previous two, against USC and UCLA, he recorded six assists and no turnovers. He’s in a groove upon which Most Outstanding Player honors are bestowed.

No Baylor player can match that excellence. Instead, the Bears have an all-around hound-dog defense that has been stout and a variety of players who produce points. In the NCAAs, only Arkansas has registered more than 63 points against the Bears.

Gonzaga figures to score more than the 72 that the Razorbacks put up, and the title game promises to be exciting. Suggs, and Timme, Corey Kispert, and Joel Ayayi form an imposing quartet.

Remember Nembhard

Baylor likely won’t forget about junior guard Andrew Nembhard. He played 67 games for the Florida Gators before bolting to Spokane, Wash., and the Bulldogs, and he produced some key plays Saturday.

None were bigger than the 3-pointer he canned from the top of the key, with 74 seconds left in overtime, to give Gonzaga a 90-85 advantage over UCLA.

Monday figures to be fun. If, somehow, it outshines Gonzaga-UCLA, we will all be fortunate witnesses. The Zags have the roster and the hunger, but Baylor wants more, too.

We see fireworks, and the Over, and Gonzaga making key late plays for the cover. It will be a dynamic cap to a fantastic season that every single hoops fan, from coast to coast, needed.


About the Author
Rob Miech

Rob Miech

Rob Miech is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today, covering soccer and producing sports betting features. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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