Here we have it! After a tumultuous season for all personnel involved, we’re at the finishing point of the season–one more game to go, one more opportunity to cut down nets & hold up a trophy, all while achieving tasks that never were reached in the program history.
Neither Baylor nor Gonzaga ever won a national championship before today & one will finally get over the hump.
Gonzaga only reached the pinnacle one time, back in 2017, a Justin Jackson transition dunk ended the hopes of Nigel Williams-Goss & co hoisting the national title trophy. For the 2nd time in program history, Gonzaga’s back following their most arduous push of the season–facing a UCLA team, which gave the Zags nothing easy.
It’s been a long & bumpy road for Baylor to finally get to another championship game after not appearing in one since 1948. Scott Drew rebuilt a program with no direction or future prior to his arrival and made it a powerhouse, not an easy task.
Immediately following an all-time thriller, Mark Few had to flip on Baylor film & get his team ready for what could be an all-time championship game. Back in December, if you recall, we were supposed to get this game, but in the final hour, COVID nixed that happening. That day was December 5th. Four months to the day & we finally get the matchup we all waited for; thankfully, both coaches might remember some of the films they tuned into back then.
Gonzaga only had one game result in a single-digit victory ALL-SEASON long before beating UCLA, but maybe that’s for the best. Learning to handle an in-game end-of-game situation is beneficial.
When teams lose that game, UCLA nailed impossible shots & Gonzaga only went 7-21 from deep, a recipe for losing.
There’s no question the Zags need Corey Kispert to revert his play from deep to where it was a month or so ago. Kispert’s struggled mightily in the past two games, hitting only 5-18 shots from deep–not how effective Kispert usually is. I’d expect Kispert to rise to the occasion, but getting him looks early, finding him off a screen, could be in the cards to build confidence.
The country’s best defender will defend Jalen Suggs, Davion Mitchell in this one–a must-see matchup; Suggs could try & attack to see what happens. Undoubtedly, Mitchell’s going to play tight defense, but Suggs is an immense talent. Two lottery picks matchup against each other doesn’t get much better than this. In-fact, that’s only one of the notable matchups, ESPN’s Jared Berson dropped a tremendous stat on twitter earlier:
We know what Drew Timme is capable of, dropping 110 points in the last four NCAA Tournament games–Whoever occupies the five spot, whether it’s Flo Thamba, Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua or Mark Vital, those three cannot fall for Timme’s tremendous footwork. Throughout the entire tournament, Timme’s been a top player.
Baylor has to play physical, don’t let Gonzaga roam around the court & take the ball out of the basket following a make, and quickly run down the court to score in four seconds. It’s pretty incredible what Gonzaga’s able to do, Baylor cannot let that happen.
In Baylor’s route of Houston in the final four the Bears looked how they did prior to a COVID pause changing the team. Since that pause, Baylor struggled on defensive switches & also didn’t shoot the same way from deep. The Bears went 11-24 from deep in the final four victory. If Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler & MaCio Teague drill shots with ease similar to the win over Houston, things could be looking up for the Bears.
Mitchell & Butler are tremendous at getting to the basket, using a quick burst, look for Andrew Nembhard & Joel Ayayi not getting blown past for easy baskets–that’s not how Mark Few or Gonzaga does things.
Talented forward Matthew Mayer could end up proving to be the X-Factor in this one, a 6’9 athletic guy that can play 3-5 & create shots for himself. Despite not being a starter, Mayer is an energy guy that fills up the scoring quickly.
There’s a ton of talent, top-to-bottom, there’s no question we got the best teams in the country, facing each other. Following a year of no NCAA Tournament, we now get an all-timer. Get your popcorn out, and enjoy the finale of the madness.
PREDICTION: Gonzaga 91, Baylor 82
Look, I know Baylor looked phenomenal in the final four game, but at the end of the day, Gonzaga’s been the top dog all season–I don’t see that changing now, and they’ll be the first undefeated champions since 1976.