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Friends Mark Few and Scott Drew will compete against each other in the national championship game

The coaches would say prayers for each others’ teams before each game. Until tonight.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Creighton at Gonzaga IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Few and Scott Drew have already gone head-to-head in the Indianapolis bubble. On the pickleball court. The stakes are going to be a little higher on Monday night when the two square off for the national championship, and while it won’t be a friendly competition, the two friends have cheered each other on from the start of the tournament.

“So much respect, admiration and friendship with their staff,” Drew said. “Coach Few, I consider him a great friend.”

This will be the sixth time that the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Baylor Bears will face each other in their histories. Gonzaga has won all five previous matches, but this doesn’t guarantee anything. Drew compared their current situation to the Lakers/Celtics rivalry in the 90s because Gonzaga and Baylor have watched each other closely this season.

Few looked at it in a similar way and described Baylor as a powerhouse.

“We’ve always had Baylor in the rearview mirror,” he said. “If we are going to win this thing we’re probably at some point going to have to play them because I always thought we were the two best teams.”

Earlier this season, Drew and Few tried to put together a pod with the top four preseason teams, which were Baylor, Gonzaga, Virginia and Villanova. This didn’t happen, but Drew said he always looks forward to scheduling the Zags because he thinks the competition is good for both sides.

The two teams were officially set to face each other early December. That game got canceled due to COVID-19 protocols and the coaches were not able to reschedule. Drew admitted he and Few talked about the possibility of meeting on a bigger stage.

“Coach Few and I, when we were together on Dec. 5 and the game got canceled, we said how neat it would be to play this game on April 5,” Drew said. “God always has a plan and you got a great game in store, hopefully.”

It wasn’t just the coaches who wanted this game to happen; the entire world of college basketball craved it. Gonzaga had the best offense in the nation while Baylor had the best defense. Even after the Bears looked somewhat rusty in late February after a three-week pause due to COVID-19 issues.

Baylor picked up its first loss of the season on Feb. 27 and then another one on Mar 12 during the Big 12 conference semifinals. This was not ideal, but Baylor is back to full strength and Drew is excited to face the No. 1 Zags.

“In a perfect world we wouldn’t have lost this year,” Drew said. “They wouldn’t have lost this year and then we’d play right now. If I was God I think I would’ve done that script. But there’s something about the first time you play.”

Winning the trophy will be a challenge for both teams, but at least the opponents know each other well. Few said their meeting rooms are next to each other so they get to hang out a lot.

Few is a pickleball enthusiast, or as Gonzaga senior Corey Kispert described him, a pickleball master. Drew teamed up with him, which means the Baylor coach must be skilled, since Few doesn’t play with just anyone. Kispert didn’t even want to visit the court, which is located in a hotel ballroom. He said Few definitely likes to do some talking.

“He said I’m not allowed to play him until I get my game a little bit better,” junior guard Andrew Nembhard said.

Drew seems to be as competitive as Few. He said another shared activity is fishing, which is something he looks forward to doing at Few’s lake house this summer.

“He loves fishing, I love fishing,” Drew said. “He’s the king of the fly fishing, I think I’m the king of the bass fishing.”

The Baylor coach said he and Few have been texting before games and saying a prayer for each other’s teams during the tournament. They said they would do it all the way up to the championship game, so things might be a little different now.

“I guess he won’t get that prayer text before this one,” Drew joked.