This year's March Madness had more than its share of upsets but the final pair of teams left standing in the NCAA Tournament have been the two most dominant programs in the country all season long.
The National Championship game will take place between the unbeaten Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Baylor Bears, and college basketball betting lines opened with the Zags as 4.5-point favorites.
Here are our free March Madness picks and predictions for Gonzaga vs. Baylor in the National Championship game on Monday, April 5. Tipoff will be a 9:20 p.m. ET from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Baylor vs Gonzaga odds
Sharp money and line movement reportBy Patrick Everson
At 6:30 p.m. ET, less than three hours from tipoff, Wynn Las Vegas has Gonzaga -4.5, which is where the number has been almost exclusively since opening Saturday night. "We tested the waters at 5 this afternoon and were convinced shortly thereafter to go back to 4.5," Wynn sportsbook director Doug Castaneda said, perhaps alluding to some sharp play on underdog Baylor. That said, the Zags are the public side tonight. "We are getting inundated with Gonzaga money. Most of the big plays are on Gonzaga, although the ticket count is about equal. We need Baylor for a little." Likewise, Wynn Las Vegas needs Baylor in the futures market, though Castaneda said the book does well to either team cutting down the nets. "As of now, we'd like Baylor outright. But it's still three hours until tipoff." The total inched from 160 to 159.5, and while Castaneda noted bettors are leaning toward the Over, it's not much of a decision at this point.Check out the full line movement for this game
Baylor Bears vs Gonzaga Bulldogs betting preview
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Betting trend to know
Both of these schools light up the scoreboard on neutral ground with the Bulldogs 13-5 to the Over in their last 18 games at neutral sites while the Bears are 10-3 O/U in their previous 13 games in such situations. Find more NCAA betting trends for Baylor vs. Gonzaga.
Baylor vs Gonzaga picks
First to 15 pick
Gonzaga has been known for its fast starts, averaging a sensational 45.7 points per game in the opening half, but it doesn't have the greatest track record of winning this prop bet in recent outings.
The Zags lost the race to 15 against UCLA on Saturday night and are a middling 4-5 to this prop over their last nine games, getting beaten to that 15-point mark by mediocre squads like Loyola Marymont and Santa Clara.
Baylor has been much more consistent about winning the "First to 15" bet, cashing that prop in seven consecutive games. Take the plus money with the Bears here.
PREDICTION: First to 15 Baylor (+105)
First half pick
We mentioned Gonzaga's ludicrously high scoring in the first half but the Bears fill up the bucket in the early going as well. Baylor is sixth in the country with 39.6 ppg in the opening 20 minutes and is coming off a 45-point first half against a slow-paced, highly ranked defensive team in the Houston Cougars.
Now they face a fast-tempo Zags squad that ranks outside the Top 100 in first-half scoring defense by giving up 32 ppg. With Gonzaga fresh off a game against the Bruins where it surrendered a whopping 44 points in the first 20 minutes, take Baylor's first-half team total.
PREDICTION: Baylor first-half team total Over 36.5 (-115)
Player prop pick
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs has leap-frogged teammate Drew Timme on the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player odds board. But despite Suggs' recent heroics, Timme continues to be the Zags most efficient scorer.
The 6-foot-10 forward is coming off a 25-point performance on 11-for-15 shooting from the field against UCLA. He also scored 23 points in his previous game against USC, added 22 points in just 27 minutes against Creighton in the Sweet 16, and put up a season-high 30 points in the second round of the tourney versus Oklahoma.
While Baylor will likely try to lock down Suggs with Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Davion Mitchell, they don't have anyone with the length to match up against Timme. Take the Over 21.5 on his points total.
PREDICTION: Drew Timme Points Over 21.5 (-102)
Against the spread (ATS) pick
The Bulldogs are coming off a terrific Final Four matchup against the resilient UCLA Bruins, who pushed them into overtime before Jalen Suggs hit a deep game-winning three at the buzzer. It was one of the few times all season that the Zags have even been tested, with an incredible 29 of their 31 wins coming by double-digits.
The Zags could go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team and have a shot at an unbeaten season but Baylor has been equally as outstanding, going 29-2 with an average scoring margin of plus-17.5 points per game.
There's a reason that Baylor has been ranked at No. 2 in the AP poll for 15 weeks. The Bears had a bit of a hiccup after being forced off the court for three weeks in February due to health protocols, but now that they've shaken off the rust they look as good as ever.
The Bears trampled the Houston Cougars by 19 points in the Final Four and comfortably cruised past a very talented Arkansas squad in the Elite Eight. While they had some problems in the opening half against Villanova in the Sweet 16 when their 3-pointers weren't falling, they got back to the basics in the second half and pulled away for another easy win and cover.
Generally, when you look at high-octane elite offensive teams like the Zags, the key to beating them is by slowing the game down and playing lockdown defense. But Gonzaga simply has too many weapons to pull that off. The teams that have come closest to beating the Zags this season (UCLA, West Virginia, and Kansas) were able to go blow-for-blow on offense.
The Bears are more than capable of that as they are the best three-point shooting team in the country, can pressure the Zags ballhandlers into turnovers, and have the athletes to run the floor in transition. With what should be a very close National Title battle between easily the two best teams in the nation, take the Bears with the points.
PREDICTION: Baylor +4.5 (-110)
With an Over/Under of 159.5 this is the highest total in a National Championship game over the last 20 years.
The Bulldogs are the No. 1 offensive team in the nation with 91.6 points per game against Div 1 foes—more than six ppg more than second-place Colgate. The Bears are fourth in that category with 82.8 ppg and lead the country in 3-point percentage by connecting on 41.2 percent of their shots from deep.
Baylor has a guard-dominated lineup led by the three-headed monster of Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell. Butler was a first-team All-American and averages 16.6 points and 4.7 assists per game. Gonzaga can score inside and out with four starters averaging over 12 ppg, led by Drew Timme (19.2 ppg) and Corey Kispert (18.8 ppg).
The Zags also play a torrid pace, ranking seventh in the country in KenPom's adjusted tempo, and they do an excellent job at sucking slow-paced teams into their run-and-gun style as you may have noticed in their last contest against UCLA and their season opener versus Kansas—where they combined for 192 points.
Both of these teams are very efficient when it comes to shooting, with Gonzaga leading the country with an effective field goal percentage of 61.1 and Baylor fourth at 56.7. Combine that efficiency with the speedy tempo that the Zags play at and we've got all the ingredients for a shootout. Back the Over.
PREDICTION: Over 159.5 (-110)
Baylor vs Gonzaga betting card
- First to 15 Baylor (+105)
- Baylor first-half team total Over 36.5 (-115)
- Drew Timme Points Over 21.5 (-102)
- Baylor +4.5 (-110)
- Over 159.5 (-110)
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Where can I bet on March Madness odds?
March Madness is one of the most popular times of the year for sports bettors, which of course makes it one of the busiest times of the year for online sportsbooks. Every betting site will offer March Madness odds but the top sites are safe and secure, offer a wide range of banking options, and give you a ton of markets for each game. Check out the best March Madness betting sites in your region.