Houston Cougars vs. Baylor Bears Odds & Predictions

April 3, 5:14 PM EDT

Betting Odds

Point Spread: 
Hou +/Bay -5

This year's NCAA tournament Final Four tips off with an all-Texas affair when the Baylor Bears battle the Houston Cougars in the first national semifinal Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis. These former Southwestern Conference rivals (anybody remember the SWC?) used to meet a couple of times a season through the 1970's and 80's but this will be their first meeting since 2002. And they've never played for bigger stakes. Baylor is the betting favorite here but by one of the shortest lines it's faced this season. How are we playing this game with our free NCAA tournament Final Four college basketball pick?

NCAA Tournament Basketball Betting Odds

The NCAA tournament Final Four college basketball betting lines opened Baylor at -5 over Houston, with an over/under of 135.5. Early betting action then dipped that total to 134.5.

According to Sagarin's ratings at USAToday.com the Bears should only be favored by 2.5 points for this game.

Houston vs. Baylor NCAA Final Four Betting Preview

The Cougars played 14-3 through the AAC this season, then won the conference tournament. Sagarin ranks the American as the 7th-toughest conference in the country this year. Houston then, as a two seed, advanced through this NCAA tournament by beating 15th-seeded Cleveland State 87-56, 10th-seeded Rutgers 63-60, 11th-seeded Syracuse 62-46 and 12th-seeded Oregon State 67-61.

So the Cougars are back in the Final Four for the first time since they made three in a row with those super teams backs in 1982-83-84.

But they never won that Big One.

Houston pulled away in the second half of its first-round match against the Vikings and covered at -20.5. The Cougars then had to rally late to beat the Scarlet Knights and couldn't cover at -7.5. Houston then covered easily against the Orange at -6.5 but pissed away the cover against the Beavers at -8, after blowing all of a 17-point halftime lead.

The Cougars are only shooting 39 percent from the floor in this NCAA tournament but they're holding opponents to just 39 percent FG shooting and out-rebounding foes by a per-game margin of 35-24.

The Bears, meanwhile, played 13-1 to win the Big 12's regular-season title this year, then lost to Oklahoma State in the semis of the conference tournament. Sagarin ranks the Big 12 as the No. 2 conference in college hoops this season. Baylor then, as a No. 1 seed, advanced through this Dance by beating 16th-seeded Hartford 79-55, ninth-seeded Wisconsin 76-63, fifth-seeded Villanova 62-51 and third-seeded Arkansas 81-72.

So the Bears are making their first Final Four appearance since 1950!

Baylor just missed covering the spread in that first-round match-up against Hartford, allowing a meaningless bucket with 20 seconds left to lose ATS at -25.5. The Bears then covered at -6.5 against the Badgers, at -7.5 against the Wildcats and at -7.5 against the Razorbacks.

Baylor is shooting 45 percent from the floor in this NCAA tournament while holding foes to 43 percent shooting. But the Bears have actually been out-rebounded by each of their last three opponents.

NCAA Basketball Betting Trends

  • Favorites are 40-23 SU, 29-34 ATS through the first four rounds of this NCAA tournament.
  • Higher seeds are 40-19 SU, 30-29 ATS through the first four rounds of this NCAA tournament.
  • Baylor is 12-2 SU, 9-5 ATS this season against teams that made this NCAA tournament.
  • Baylor is 8-1 ATS when favored by eight points or less this season.
  • Houston is 6-1 SU, 3-4 ATS vs. teams that made this Dance this season.

Totals Report

Unders are 16-14 in Cougars games this season, which are averaging 135 total points.

Overs are 17-11 in Bears games this season, which are averaging 151 points.

Unders are 38-25 through the first four rounds of this NCAA tournament, and three games that played over needed overtime to do it. So unders are actually 41-23 through regulation time in this tournament.

Houston vs. Baylor Prediction

Baylor is the better team here, from the tougher conference, playing the tougher slate of opponents to reach this point. The Bears also own the edge offensively, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field on the season. But Houston owns an edge on defense, holding foes to just 37 percent FG shooting, does a great job on the boards and seems perfectly capable of turning this game into a grinder. And if that happens five points might mean a lot. We gotta agree with Sagarin here; this game should play closer than the spread might indicate. We'll take Houston here, plus the points.  

Free Pick: 
Take Houston +5