Baylor and Houston made their first Final Four in over thirty years this year. The two will battle for a chance to play in the national championship game. Houston touts a lockdown defense in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Baylor has a offense capable of blitzing opponents. Some keys to this Final Four showdown includes offensive rebounding and turnovers.
First off, Baylor did not rebound well in their Elite Eight clash with Arkansas. Baylor was outrebounded by five and gave up 11 offensive rebounds. However, Baylor did corral 11 offensive rebounds as well. Houston is coming off a 19 offensive rebound performance against Oregon State. Certainly, Baylor must keep Houston off the offensive glass. Houston leads the country with an offensive rebounding percentage of 40.1%. Also, Houston has not been efficient on the offensive end. They had more field goal attempts than every opponent in the NCAA Tournament, this is carrying them to victory. For example, Houston only shot 32.3% compared to Oregon State’s 46.8%, but Houston still won due to 15 more shot attempts. Baylor has to rebound very well on the defensive end to limit Houston’s shot attempts.
Furthermore, Baylor’s star player Jared Butler averaging 16.5 points has not been himself the last two games. Butler is an efficient 46.7% shooter this year. However, he shot 4/11 versus Arkansas in the Elite Eight. Also, Butler shot 4/14 against Villanova in the Sweet Sixteen. Houston has been menacing on the defensive end, it could be a challenge to score. Therefore, Baylor needs all the scoring they can get. Butler, the First Team All-American, needs to step up on the offensive end.
Baylor creates chaos forcing 17.3 turnovers per game, which ranks sixth. In the NCAA Tournament, Baylor has forced 14+ turnovers in every game. In the Elite Eight, Baylor created havoc forcing 15 Arkansas turnovers. By result Baylor has won the turnover battle in every March Madness game. Houston needs to win the turnover battle, so they get more shot attempts yet again. This will be a tall task against a hounding Baylor defense, but Houston cannot afford to turn the ball over.
Lastly, Houston has struggled shooting in the NCAA Tournament. Against Oregon State, the Cougars only shot 32.3%. Marcus Sasser was Houston’s lead-scorer versus Oregon State with 20 points. However, Sasser shot only 26.3%. In addition, Houston’s second lead-scorer was Quentin Grimes with 18 points. Grimes also struggled shooting only 33% from the floor. Inefficient shooting has been a common theme for Houston in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has a terrific defense, but Baylor’s offense is deadly. Houston needs some offensive production against Baylor to win. If the Cougars could shoot any better than 40% they have a good chance of winning.
Players to Watch
For Baylor, the guard Davion Mitchell has been a force this March. Mitchell averages 14 points per game, but had only 12 against Arkansas in the Elite Eight. These 12 points felt like a lot more though. For awhile, Mitchell consistently ran right past the Arkansas defense. Mitchell can shoot the three at 45% and has a sudden burst that is almost unstoppable when he drives. Ogoogn the other hand, Mitchell is also Baylor’s best on-ball defender. He is a key piece for Baylor.
Two players to watch in the rebounding battle is Baylor’s Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Houston’s Justin Gorham. Tchamwa Tchatchoua is coming off probably his best game of the tournament against Arkansas. He has the physical stature to challenge Gorham on the glass. In addition, Houston’s Gorham had 10 rebounds in his last two games. Gorham had four offensive rebounds in the Sweet Sixteen and five offensive rebounds in the Elite Eight. Gorham is Houston’s best rebounder, and Tchamwa Tchatchoua will try to slow him down.
Houston’s lockdown defender Dejon Jarreau will be key. Jarreau has almost erased Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim and Oregon State’s Ethan Thompson in the past two games. He will likely guard Baylor’s Butler. As previously mentioned, Butler has struggled recently. If Butler struggles again, it should be due to Jarreau’s defense.
Both teams have played great defense as of recent. Houston is making offenses inefficient while Baylor is forcing turnovers in bunches. However, Baylor will be harder to stop as they average 83 points per game and lead the country shooting 41.1% from three. Also, Baylor has not shot the three well this tournament, but might have found their groove after a 8/15 shooting performance versus Arkansas. This could spell trouble for Houston.
Houston does have some talented scorers in Grimes, Sasser and Jarreau. However, Baylor’s guards could be too much. They have five legit guards capable of 15+ point outings in Butler, Mitchell, MaCio Teague, Matthew Mayer and Adam Flagler. The guard play in this game will be fantastic and should decide the game.
Ultimately, Baylor is more balanced than Houston is. If Houston does not step up on the offensive end, their March Madness run could be over. Baylor and Houston’s Final Four battle tips Saturday at 5:14 p.m. on CBS.
Prediction: 75-69 Baylor
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Team Rankings.