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2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Viewing Guide: The Final Four

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Typically, the national semifinals tip off a little after 6 p.m. Eastern. Thanks to the unique circumstances and requirements of 2021, they start one hour earlier this time around.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
UCLA has already knocked off the East region’s top two seeds. Can the Bruins defeat another No. 1 tonight?
Mykal McEldowney via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Historical matchup information is courtesy of College Basketball Reference’s Matchup Finder. Note that this data only goes back to the 1949-50 season.

Both of tonight’s games will air on CBS with Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, and Bill Raftery on the call and Tracy Wolfson reporting.

Midwest 2. Houston Cougars (28-3, 14-3 American Automatic) vs.
South 1. Baylor Bears (26-2, 13-1 Big 12 At-Large)

5:14 p.m. tip (March Madness Link game link)

There was no need for a hypothetical reseeding of the Final Four this year, as tonight’s first game features the No. 2 and 3 overall remaining seeds with the nightcap pairing No. 1 vs. No. 4.

Tonight’s matchup will be only the second between these two former Southwest Conference rivals since the league dissolved after the 1995-96 seasson. That was a 62-60 win for Baylor in a game played on November 30, 2002, when the Bears were still led by the disgraced Dave Bliss and Ray McCallum coached the Cougars. When the pair were conference rivals, Houston dominated the series as Baylor defeated the Cougs just 13 times during 23 seasons as SWC conference-mates.

With a win, Baylor will reach its first national final since 1948, when you only needed to win two games to get to the title game. The Bears lost that one to Kentucky, 58-42. Houston, on the other hand, has two title games on its record, 1983’s famous two-point loss to NC State and an 84-75 loss to Georgetown one season later. As for the current coaches, this is Scott Drew’s first Final Four, while Kelvin Sampson will look to improve upon 2002’s national semifinal loss with Oklahoma—a game the Sooners lost to his eventual employers from Indiana.

East 11. UCLA Bruins (22-9, 13-6 Pac-12 At-Large) vs.
West 1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (30-0, 15-0 WCC Automatic)

8:34 p.m. tip (March Madness Link game link)

The Bulldogs and Bruins have met just four times this millennium, but two of those matchups have come in the NCAA Tournament. The most famous of those contests is now in the semi-distant past, as UCLA’s 73-71 win over Gonzaga in the 2006 West regional semifinal was 15 years ago. I was lucky enough to get to see the pair’s last March meeting, the Zags’ 74-62 victory in the 2015 South semifinals in Houston. However, the two West Coast rivals played a home-and-home series in December of 2014 and 2015. Both teams were unable to defend their own floors, with Gonzaga winning at Pauley by 13 in the first game and UCLA recording a rare win at the Kennel, 71-65, one year later.

The Bruins’ 2006 win helped spur them to the national title game, which they lost to Florida. That’s UCLA’s last appearance in the season’s final game, as losses in the 2007 and 2008 national semifinals followed. Gonzaga, on the other hand, is 1-for-1 in Final Four appearances, as the Bulldogs defeated seventh-seeded South Carolina in the 2017 semifinals in Glendale, Arizona.