Not many thought a No. 11 seed would still be playing in April, but here we are! What a wild ride.
It’s the final countdown in the college hoops tournament, as No. 1 Baylor faces No. 2 Houston and No. 1 Gonzaga battles the unlikely underdog, No. 11 UCLA.
Uncover all the important betting angles for Saturday’s huge showdowns, as well as one of the top wagering matchups for the new MLB season.
No. 2 Houston Cougars vs. No. 1 Baylor Bears
Saturday, April 3 | TV: CBS
From the way Baylor has stormed through the tournament, you wouldn’t have been able to tell this team missed three weeks of action in February. The Bears’ offense has looked very consistent heading into a clash with an impressive Houston defense that will attempt to slow down Baylor’s fast-paced backcourt. Even though Houston’s games in the tourney have all been low-scoring, none of the Cougars’ past opponents hold a candle to Baylor’s three-point shooting arsenal. Baylor has a total of five players that all shoot near 40 percent or above from beyond the arc, led by the double-digit scoring combo of Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell.
That doesn’t mean Houston can’t keep up with Baylor from long distance. Guards Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser attempted 23 three-pointers in the Cougars’ last win over Oregon State, so they let it fly when necessary. That said, Houston’s shooting efficiency can leave much to be desired, which is going to be problematic against Baylor’s aggressive defense. Also worth noting: Baylor faced a much harder schedule, with 11 total Quadrant 1 wins compared to Houston’s 4. This has the makings of an intense defensive contest with a lot of perimeter shooting, but Baylor’s star talent should prevail comfortably.
No. 11 UCLA Bruins vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Saturday, April 3 | TV: CBS
UCLA head coach Mick Cronin has done the improbable by leading the Bruins past March, but this will be a far tougher battle than the one against Michigan. Although it was a fantastic defensive performance to shock the Wolverines, this Gonzaga club possesses many more offensive weapons, and the large points spread is entirely justified – especially after Gonzaga’s drubbing of USC. The Bulldogs are still undefeated behind the stellar trio of Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme and Corey Kispert, but they’ve also got sneaky scoring threats in Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard. It’s really all too much firepower to handle, even for a stout defensive unit like UCLA’s.
The question that remains is whether UCLA can slow down the Zags’ blistering pace. We don’t think so. If UCLA’s 88-78 victory against Alabama was any indication, the Bruins can find themselves in faster-tempo games than they’d prefer, and stars Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. have shown to be capable of trading baskets with the opposition. UCLA also wound up in a high-scoring exchange with Michigan St. during the First Four matchup, too. The Bruins might not have any magic left, but they should at least do their part to keep the points total higher than expected.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees
Saturday, April 3 | TV: YES Network
It’s a great weekend to be a sports fan with the return of the MLB season also in the spotlight. We’re getting our first look at two AL East powerhouses in this opening series between the Blue Jays and Yankees. It’ll be a battle of right-handers, as Ross Stripling takes the mound for Toronto and offseason addition Corey Kluber makes his debut for New York. Last season, the Yankees hit .254 vs. right-handed pitching, while the Blue Jays fared slightly worse at .252. Stripling had mixed results in two relief appearances against New York last season and will be heavily tested here.
There are some serious question marks surrounding Kluber, since he was sidelined for most of last year with a strained shoulder. The two-time Cy Young winner had 14 strikeouts over 13 innings in spring training, but he struggled to regain his control a bit with 7 walks. Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted that Kluber’s pitch count will be on the conservative side, which could result in a bullpen game for New York. That might be the case for Toronto as well, since Stripling is making a spot start in place of the injured Robbie Ray. Overall, we like the chances of this being a higher-scoring affair for both clubs.