2021 NCAA Men's Tournament: Final Four Opening Odds and Betting Preview

SI Gambling insider Frankie Taddeo shares the latest betting information for Saturday's Final Four matchups in the NCAA men's tournament.

After four exciting Elite Eight matchups, the 2021 Final Four of the 2021 NCAA men's tournament is officially set. The No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs are the only undefeated team this season at 30–0 and have looked unstoppable, outscoring opponents by a combined 96 points in four tournament victories. 

In order to get to the championship game, the Bulldogs face a UCLA club that is the biggest surprise of March Madness. The success of the Pac-12 conference, which sent five schools (Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Colorado and Oregon) to the tournament, have posted an incredible 14–3 (82%) against the spread (ATS) mark—with the Bruins now representing the conference in the Final Four.

Michigan, the No. 1 seed in the East Region, fell to No. 11 seed UCLA, 51–49 as 6.5-point favorites. The Bruins are the first team in NCAA tournament history to make it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed after participating in the play-in round of 68. 

On the other side of the bracket, NCAA fans and bettors will get treated to No. 1 Baylor taking on No. 2 Houston. The Bears, be making their first Final Four appearance since 1950 after earning an 81–72 win over Arkansas, will now face a Cougars club that has won 11 consecutive games, following its 67–71 victory over Oregon State in the Elite Eight.

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The Vegas Whispers' sharp information, shared directly by SI’s Vegas insider Frankie Taddeo, struggled in the Sweet 16 after an excellent opening weekend and currently stands at 4–5 ATS in March Madness plays shared here at SI Gambling. The NCAA tournament betting plays have followed up major financial success, thanks to Alabama (+220), Illinois (+375) and Georgia Tech (+2500) all delivering conference tournament championship victories in the SEC, Big Ten and ACC, respectively, for all SI PRO members.

In addition to the Vegas Whispers, the unofficial respected plays and information have gone 32-25-0 ATS since February in college basketball for SI PRO subscribers.

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Against the Spread and Straight-Up Numbers in the NCAA Men's Tournament

In the opening round, favorites went 21–11 straight-up (SU) but posted an 18–13 (58.1%) ATS mark.

Favorites went 10–6 SU and 9–7 ATS in a thrilling second round that saw No. 15 Oral Roberts (+330), No. 12 Oregon State (+225), No. 11 Syracuse (+155) and No. 8 Loyola Chicago (+285) pull off outright upsets.

In the Sweet 16, favorites went 6–2 SU and 5–3 ATS, with only two underdogs winning straight-up, when No. 12 Oregon State (+255) and No. 11 UCLA (+245) notched victories over No. 8 Loyola Chicago and No. 2 Alabama, respectively. One eye-popping trend in the Sweet 16 was games cashing 6–2 to the under against the totals posted by oddsmakers.

In the Elite Eight, favorites went 3–1 SU and 2–2 ATS, with only one outright upset by an underdog when UCLA, at odds of +260, came through for their backers. Once again, backing the under against the posted total was the way to go as three of the four Elite Eight games stayed under the betting projections by sportsbooks. 

Through the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament, favorites are ahead 40–20 SU while underdogs hold a slim advantage at 30–29 ATS. Over the last 12 games of the tournament, betting the under is red-hot going 9–3 (75%).

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Historical Trends in the Final Four

Last 10 Tournaments—Favorites:

  • Straight-up (SU): 15–5 (75%)
  • Against the spread (ATS): 9-10-1 (47.4%)

Last Two Tournaments—Favorites:

  • Straight-up (SU): 3–1 (75%)
  • Against the spread (ATS): 2–2 (50%)

Note: We cannot track by "better" seed in this round because often the “same” seeds can meet each other after emerging from their region. (e.g., No. 1 vs. No. 1; No. 2 vs. No. 2)

Twice in the last three tournaments the underdogs have come out ahead in ATS wagering: 2019 (2–0) and 2017 (2–0). However, one interesting trend to highlight is that five of the 10 (50%) underdogs that have covered ATS have won the game outright: 2019 (Texas Tech +3), 2015 (Wisconsin +5), 2014 (Connecticut +7), 2012 (Kansas +3) and 2011 (Connecticut +2) and advanced to play in the championship game. 

Betting Odds and Breakdowns

Editor's Note: Odds are subject to change.

No. 2 Houston vs. No. 1 Baylor

Spread: No. 2 Houston +5 (-110) | No. 1 Baylor -5 (-110)

Total: 135 Over (-110) | Under 135 (-110)

Moneyline: Houston +180 | Baylor -210

Game Info: Saturday, April 3, 5:14 p.m. ET/2:14 p.m. PT | CBS

Records: HOU: 28–3 (SU); 20-10 (ATS) | BAY: 26–2 (SU); 18–10 (ATS)

Site: Lucas Oil Stadium

Editor's Note: Odds are subject to change.

The line has ticked up slightly since the opener displaying No. 1 Baylor (26–2 SU; 18–10 ATS) as 4.5-point favorites over No. 2 Houston (28–3 SU; 21–10 ATS) at DraftKings Sportsbook, now reflecting a line of 5 points.

The Baylor Bears have been sensational all season posting an outstanding 26–2 record. One of the keys to their success is the play of one of the best backcourts in the country led by Jared Butler (16.5 points per game). Baylor also gets solid production from MaCio Teague (15.9 points per game) and Davion Mitchell (14.0 points per game). All three talented guards shoot above 39.6% from three-point range, forming arguably one of the nation’s best trio’s from beyond the arc.

Those three players were instrumental in their 81–72 win in the Elite Eight over Arkansas, helping the school advance to its first Final Four appearance in 71 years. Teague poured in a game-high 22 points and five rebounds, Butler contributed 14 points and five assists, while Mitchell added 12 points and six assists despite experiencing foul issues the majority of the first half. The formidable triad combined to shoot 5 of 10 (50%) from three-point range in the victory, but will likely need greater production against Houston in the Final Four.

The Bears head into the Final Four after earning wins over Hartford (-25.5), Wisconsin (-6.5), Villanova (-7.5) and Arkansas (-7.5). The only time Baylor has really faced adversity was in the Sweet 16 against Villanova. The Bears, down 30–23 at halftime, dominated the Wildcats in the second half en route to earning a 62–51 straight-up, and ATS win. Baylor is 3–1 ATS thus far in the tournament, but it has been tough for bettors to trust posting a 5–6 ATS record over its last 11 games.

No. 3 Houston, champions of the American Athletic Conference (AAC), have reeled off 11 consecutive victories that have resulted in a 6–5 ATS mark. The Cougars soared past Cleveland State (-20.5) in the opening round before earning a come-from-behind 63–60 win over Rutgers in the second round where they failed to cover the 7.5-point spread. Houston dominated Syracuse in the Sweet 16 earning a 62–46 victory as 6.5-point favorites, anchored by their efforts on the defensive end holding Buddy Boeheim and the Orange to just 5 of 23 (21.7%) shooting from beyond the arc. In the Elite Eight, the Cougars were up by 17 points at halftime and were able to hold on to defeat Oregon State, 67–61. However, for their backers, Houston failed to cover the 7.5-point spread and are now only 2–2 ATS in the NCAA tournament.

Houston is led by the AAC Co-Player of the Year Quentin Grimes, who is averaging 18.0 points per game and 6.0 rebounds on the season. The dynamic junior guard has filled up the stat sheet in every game of the tournament going for 18-4-4 in the win over Cleveland State in the first round, 22-9-1 in the victory over Rutgers, followed up by 14-4-1 in the Sweet 16 facing Syracuse. In the Elite Eight victory over the Beavers, the all-around talent poured in 18 points while once again shooting over 40% from beyond the arc for the third time in four tournament games.

The key matchup here is likely Butler’s Davion Mitchell, who is arguably the best defensive guard in the nation, against Grimes. Mitchell's defensive prowess has clearly been a pivotal factor in the Bears' four tournament victories, leading the club with eight steals. The versatile Mitchell is also shooting 58.3% from the field on the offensive end. Baylor will need Mitchell to avoid foul trouble to ensure being on the court for 30-plus minutes if it has any hopes of containing Grimes on Saturday.

No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 1 Gonzaga

Spread: No. 11 UCLA +13 (-110) | No. 1 Gonzaga -13 (-110)

Total: 143.5 Over (-110) | Under 143.5 (-110)

Moneyline: UCLA +720 | Gonzaga -1050

Game Info: Saturday, April 3, 8:34 p.m. ET/5:34 p.m. PT | CBS

Records: UCLA: 22–9 (SU); 17–14 (ATS) | GU: 30–0 (SU); 16-12-2 (ATS)

Site: Lucas Oil Stadium

Editor's Note: Odds are subject to change.

The opening line displays No. 1 Gonzaga (30–0 SU; 16-12-2 ATS) as 13-point favorites over No. 11 UCLA (22–9 SU; 17–14 ATS) at DraftKings Sportsbook.

As expected, No. 1 seed Gonzaga has faced little resistance so far in their first four games of the NCAA tournament rolling past Norfolk State (-33), Oklahoma (-15.5), Creighton (-11.5) and USC (-9) by an average of 24.0 points per win. The Bulldogs produced yet another statement win on Tuesday night, crushing No. 6 USC, 85–66, as 9-point favorites in the Elite Eight. Gonzaga earned its 30th consecutive victory this season in impressive fashion, dominating the Trojans from the opening tip to the final whistle. The Bulldogs were efficient all game building a 49–30 halftime lead en route to maintaining that margin in the second half and earning a 19-point victory.

The Bulldogs are 4–0 ATS thus far in the tournament, thanks to being the most balanced team in the field. Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, a projected top-five overall NBA lottery pick, was stellar in the Elite Eight filling up the stat sheet with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. On the block, Gonzaga also received solid production from talented big man Drew Timme who chipped in 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Bulldogs lead the country in scoring with an average of 92.9 points per game.

No. 11 UCLA has won five games in the tournament. The Bruins came from 14 points down in the second half to defeat Michigan State (+2.5) in the play-in game, and then followed it up with victories over BYU (+3.5), Abilene Christian (-5.5), Alabama (+7) and Michigan (+6.5). The Bruins have posted a financially beneficial 6–1 ATS mark over their past seven games, cashing on the moneyline as the underdog in four of their five tournament victories.

By far their most impressive win in the tournament came in the Elite Eight when the club defeated No. 1 Michigan, 51–49, in a defensive battle. Leading scorer Johnny Juzang, who scored a game-high 28 points, has scored in double figures in every tournament game for the Bruins. Juzang was amazing, carrying his club to the win, scoring 54.9% of UCLA's points and hitting timely shots whenever Michigan tried to close the gap.

On paper, Gonzaga looks like the stronger team, but UCLA (like the rest of the Pac-12) has been undervalued by oddsmakers this entire tournament. For bettors, this game will likely come down to UCLA’s ability to slow down the prolific Bulldog offense. In order to keep pace with the best team in the country, Mick Cronin will need a balance from Jaime Jaquez, Jules Bernard, Tyger Campbell and Cody Riley, who have all averaged double figures in scoring this season. However, only Campbell (11) was able to contribute more than four points in the win over Michigan and against Gonzaga that will simply not be enough to help bettors who choose to back the Bruins by grabbing the 13-point spread.