An Early Take a look at the N.C.A.A. Males’s Closing 4

With some blowouts and loads of busted brackets, now we have arrived on the N.C.A.A. males’s Closing 4. And the semifinal matchups promise some good story strains with a Texas intrastate conflict and a top-seeded juggernaut dealing with one of many final groups chosen to be within the subject of 68.

The 4 that stay: Gonzaga facing U.C.L.A. and Baylor taking on Houston. Right here’s a take a look at every staff’s strengths and weaknesses forward of their semifinals on Saturday.


After its 81-72 win towards Arkansas, Baylor (28-3) made it to its first Closing 4 since 1950 and the Bears look as prepared as ever. The Bears, the highest seed within the South area, are a robust defensive staff that’s going to provide Houston its most difficult matchup within the match. The Bears even have nice 3-point capturing — the most effective within the males’s sport at 41 p.c.

Baylor is led by three expert guards — Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell — who mix to attain 46.5 of the staff’s 83 common factors per sport.

The necessary factor for Baylor is to reap the benefits of its capturing strengths. Houston’s protection is a tough one to get previous, however Baylor has the shooters to do it. They simply should make the pictures.


Baylor struggles with turnovers, averaging 11.7 per sport. That carelessness with the ball generally hurts the Bears, prefer it did after they allowed Arkansas to make a comeback from 17 factors down. Houston’s elite and fast protection might take benefit if that occurs once more.


Protection, protection, protection — No. 2-seeded Houston (28-3) out of the Midwest area is nice at it. The Cougars are making their first Closing 4 look since 1984 and looking out like a staff prepared and in a position to cease any offense in its path. Houston is ready to shut in fast and pressure turnovers, making it the second greatest protection in males’s Division I, holding opponents to simply 57.6 factors per sport.

Houston is led by Quentin Grimes, a switch from Kansas who has discovered a lot success with the Cougars. Grimes averages 18 factors and 5.eight rebounds and is vital to the staff’s offensive technique.

The Cougars are additionally an ideal rebounding staff, which will probably be notably necessary towards Baylor’s 3-point capturing to take these second-chance factors away from the Bears.


Houston has to have the ability to both set the tempo of the sport or sustain with Baylor on the offensive finish. It’s clearly a robust staff in relation to stopping its opponents from making pictures, however Houston nonetheless should make its personal.

Grimes is necessary for the Cougars offense, however he isn’t all of it, and might’t be if Houston expects to beat Baylor.


Undefeated No. 1-seeded Gonzaga (30-0) isn’t the staff to be make errors round. The Bulldogs, who simply gained the West area, are dominant as a result of they reap the benefits of turnover alternatives to attain. This staff additionally shares the ball nicely, averaging 18.6 assists.

The Bulldogs additionally rating a mean of 91.eight factors per sport — probably the most of any males’s staff in Division I. They’re extraordinarily environment friendly, push the tempo and might sustain with any form of protection.

Gonzaga is led by Corey Kispert, who averages 19 factors. Shut behind is Drew Timme, averaging 18.9 factors and seven.2 rebounds — he has scored a mixed 45 factors within the final two video games. He is among the most multifaceted gamers in faculty basketball and is considered one of a number of professional prospects among the many Bulldogs.

Nobody has proven itself in a position to actually threaten the Zags of their try to be the primary undefeated champion since Indiana in 1976. It will likely be an enormous problem for U.C.L.A. to get in the best way.


Gonzaga is nice, if not nice, at most issues. It made Southern California look fully outclassed on Tuesday night time and confirmed some well-earned swagger within the course of. However U.C.L.A. has toppled loads of different groups on this match, together with top-seeded Michigan.


U.C.L.A., a No. 11 seed who needed to play a First 4 sport simply to enter the spherical of 64, is definitely the shock of this semifinal quartet after profitable the East area. Coach Mick Cronin has no gamers with earlier N.C.A.A. match expertise on his roster. The Bruins are right here for the primary time since 2008, and are the second staff to go from a play-in sport to the Closing 4.

The Bruins have had fairly a path right here, enjoying in two extra time video games, together with within the First 4 towards Michigan State. Upsetting Michigan, 51-49, they discovered a method to pressure the Wolverines into turnovers and take benefit. If the Bruins have proved something on this match, it’s resilience.

U.C.L.A. is a gifted 3-point capturing staff at 37.2 p.c. Johnny Juzang averages 15 factors and 4.1 rebounds, and he has continued to contribute in huge methods even whereas contending with an ankle harm throughout the postseason. He scored 28 factors within the spherical of eight win.

“No person picked this, no one believed in us,” Cronin mentioned in a sideline interview after the win towards Michigan. “That’s how we prefer it.”


The U.C.L.A. bench had no factors in its win towards Michigan. Its lack of depth might be an enormous drawback towards the versatile Bulldogs. If the Bruins don’t get contributions past their starters, they’ll have a fair steeper climb maintaining with Gonzaga’s fast offense.

The Bruins have additionally struggled from the free throw line of their previous couple of video games which might trigger issues, particularly if they’re being pressured to drive as an alternative of taking pictures from behind the arc.

It’s no secret that the Bruins are going to should play the most effective sport of their season to compete with Gonzaga, however they’ve been stuffed with surprises this postseason.

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