Author: Dawson Haywood
What a game! If you did not watch the National Championship you missed out! Baylor came out of the gate on fire starting the game off with nine unanswered points. It took Gonzaga a little bit over eight minutes and a few free throws to reach double digits and at that point, Baylor was still on a roll. Gonzaga would eventually start heatin’ up, shout out the Heatin’ Up Podcast, with about six and a half minutes left in the first half, and would end up scoring twenty-one points to end the half with only a ten-point deficit. We have a ballgame.
Unfortunately for Gonzaga the only time they would get within ten points of Baylor was at the fourteen and a half minute mark of the second half being down by just nine points. Still time for a comeback. Baylor would not let this phase them and ended up scoring twenty-seven more points to end the game while Gonzaga only scored twenty-one. Gonzaga tried to make a run to close the scoring gap but Baylor continued answering back. The final score of the game ended up being eighty-six to seventy.
What went wrong for Gonzaga? Had Gonzaga made all of their free throws the game would have only been a ten-point game but the biggest issue they seemed to have was their three-point shooting. They went less than thirty percent from the three which made up roughly twenty-five percent of their shooting. In a perfect world where Gonzaga did not allow any free throws, they would have tied the game. Baylor had sixteen points off free throws. The Zags ended up sending the Bears to the free-throw line more than they had sent any other team, except UCLA who also had twenty-one, to the free-throw line in the tournament.
Baylor was on point and played some of the best basketball they have played all season. Baylor went almost fifty percent from the three but they have consistently been a good three-point shooting team in the tournament. Their defense, especially in the first few minutes of the game, was likely the deciding factor. Offense sells tickets and defense wins championships as the saying goes and this is just proof of that.
Both teams have now made it to the national title twice. Baylor last reached this point in 1948 where they lost to Kentucky and Gonzaga had their shot at the title in 2017 where they lost to North Carolina. Had Gonzaga won this game they would have been the eighth team to go completely undefeated since 1939. UCLA did this four times in their run between 1964 and 1973 (1964, 1967, 1972, 1973). Gonzaga would have been the fifth program to do this. Indiana (1976), North Carolina (1957), and San Francisco (1956) are the only other programs to do accomplish this.
In the NBA draft, Gonzaga will likely lose Suggs, Kispert, and Ayayi and Baylor will likely lose Mitchell and Butler. This was Gonzaga’s year to win it all but they still have a lot of returning talent. In ESPN’s way-to-early rankings Gonzaga holds the #1 spot and Baylor is sitting pretty at the #11 spot. Gonzaga will be adding ESPN’s #13 player, Hunter Sallis, to their lineup and Baylor will be adding #20, Kendall Brown, and #23, Langston Love, to their lineup this upcoming season.
The future is still bright for both teams. The only thing that is concerning is the championship hangover that a lot of teams go through (Unless you have Tom Brady). The biggest thing is we finally have a new champion. A team that has never won it all before and is the second team from Texas (UTEP, 1966) to bring a title back to the state. This tournament was filled with great games and Cinderella stories. Maybe it’s just been too long since we’ve had a tournament but I could argue that this is one of the best that I have seen. To finish off the tournament I went 9-6 in my predictions that I started in the Sweet 16. Not too shabby for my first set of predictions.