Out of every conceivable outcome in the 2021 National Championship game, this may have been the least likely.
As the Bears celebrate their first national championship, the Bulldogs head back to Spokane with a loss on the season’s final night for the second time in the last four NCAA Tournaments.
Baylor scored the first nine points of the game and never let this Zags team look like the juggernaut it had been all season. Gonzaga was the most efficient offensive team in the country, but couldn’t string baskets together. It was a 37 percent three-point shooting team, but went 5-17. It allowed 69 points per game but let Baylor eclipse that mark midway through the second half.
You’ll hear the narratives start pouring in soon: Gonzaga was drained from an emotional win over UCLA. The Bulldogs play in a mid-major conference and weren’t tested enough in the regular season.
Don’t believe that crap. This win had everything to do with Baylor and how it was able to take the best team in the country — all year, and still on KenPom — out of its game and dismantle it completely over 40 minutes.
Baylor made shots, going 10-23 from three, and controlled the glass to a 38-22 advantage. Jared Butler (22 points) and MaCio Teague (19) led the way for the Bears, but this was a full team effort, particularly on the defensive end, where Gonzaga could not use its size advantage to score inside and could not find open looks thanks to stifling on-ball defense.
Looking ahead, Gonzaga will be loaded again next year and will have realistic Final Four aspirations. Even with some roster turnover. Such has become commonplace in Spokane. That won’t take away the sting from this loss, but it’s something to look forward to.
We’ll have more from Indianapolis as the night goes on. Stay tuned on Twitter and on the site.