Baylor > Gonzaga: How The Bears Knocked Off The Unbeatable ‘Zags

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

     31-0. That was Gonzaga’s record going into Monday night’s national championship game against Baylor. Could they be the first team to go undefeated since Indiana back in 1975-76? Nope. Instead, it was Baylor taking home the championship title for the first time in school history with a demanding 86-70 victory. The game was never really close, with Baylor leading by 10 or more pretty much the whole way. So how did this happen? How did Gonzaga, a team that hadn’t lost all season, lose in blowout fashion in the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP game!? 


Let’s break it down.


Factor #1: 


     Gone are the days of low-scoring, back to the basket, slow-tempo basketball. In are the days of shifty guards, fast-paced offenses, and knockdown three-point shooters. Pretty much every great college team nowadays has good guards. Look at Johnny Juzang of UCLA. Or Max Abmas of Oral Roberts. Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State. Ethan Thompson of Oregon State. Buddy Boeheim of Syracuse. The list goes on. But Baylor, they have not one, not two, but three great guards on their team in MaCio Teague, Jared Butler, and Davion Mitchell! These guys can do it all. Shoot it? Yup. Put it on the deck? You bet. Share the sugar? Uh-huh. Defend? That too. And that’s pretty much unbeatable. It’s hard enough for a team to defeat one great guard, let alone three of the nation’s best. Therefore, pretty much every team that’s faced Baylor this year has had trouble stopping them. And Gonzaga was one of them. Even with Joel Ayayi, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs, all great defenders, the Zags could not stop the Bears’ trio on Monday night. This was one of the factors in the Bears’ victory, but not the only one.


Factor #2:


     Alongside Butler, Mitchell, and Teague, the Bears also have an assortment of strong big men in Mark Vital, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and Flo Thamba. Oh yeah! Did I forget? They also have two great role players in Matthew Mayer and Adam Flagler! That’s a pretty good team, don’t you think? And there’s yet another reason why Baylor was able to drill the Zags on Monday night.


Factor #3:


     Gonzaga was tired. If you didn’t know, they played 11th seeded Cinderella UCLA in the semifinals, barely winning in overtime, 93-90, on a 40-foot buzzer-beater by Jalen Suggs. Yes, they won. But at a cost. The game was a long and tiring one, which put the Zags at a disadvantage in the championship game. On the other side, Baylor cruised through their semifinal game against Houston, winning 78-59. Therefore, they were fresh, and Gonzaga was not. Ultimately, that played a big role in the outcome of the game. And this isn’t just a theory. You could tell. Gonzaga’s players had their heads down and shoulders slouched during stops in the action, while Baylor looked the exact opposite. Fired up, ready to go, and fresh.


Factor #4:


     And the final factor? Adversity. As you now know, Gonzaga was undefeated all the way up until facing Baylor. Before that, they’d never lost. Not once. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s better to lose a couple of games than to win every single one. Seriously. If you go the whole year without losing a single game, you’re more vulnerable to then lose in the tournament because you’ve never experienced losing. And that’s why I think Baylor won this game. They’d faced adversity this year. They were undefeated up until COVID-19 caused a three-week stoppage for the program. Once cleared to play again, they lost. This meant no undefeated season, but they kept on fighting. And now? They’re national champions. Talk about facing, then conquering adversity! Gonzaga, on the other hand, pretty much never faced adversity up until their semifinal game versus UCLA, which they almost lost! Then, they faced the Bears, and they found themselves in uncharted territory down 15 points. Since they’d never faced adversity this year, they didn’t know how to climb out of that 15-point hole. And so, Baylor won. Easily.


     So there you have it. The four factors, in my opinion, that determined the outcome of this game. And whether you agree or disagree with me on those four, one thing’s for sure: Baylor was the better team on Monday night. They deserved to be the champs.