The Zags’ breezed through this year’s NCAA tournament facing little to no adversity on their way to the championship game. However, the seemingly invincible Gonzaga Bulldogs took their first loss of the season, losing 86-70 to No. 1 seed Baylor on April 5 in the NCAA March Madness championship game.
In what was a surprisingly one-sided game, where Gonzaga never once led, Baylor put an end to their perfect record and celebrated their first-ever men’s basketball title.
Baylor dominated the game, jumping out to a 9-0 lead early on. Less than ten minutes into the contest, the score was 29-10. It was Gonzaga’s biggest deficit of the season and one they failed to come back from.
“When Gonzaga went down early on you could see that they had little to no fight in them,” said SM basketball player TJ Robinson.
Despite this, Gonzaga continued to fight and went on its share of runs; by halftime, the lead had shrunk to ten points, and by the second half, it had shortened to nine points. However, this was short lived as the Bears maintained control over the game and had a larger share of runs, led by 10 made 3-pointers and a strong showing on the offensive glass which led to 18 more shot attempts. Their lead, which dipped to single digits, exploded to as many as 20 in the second half.
“They came out and they fed off of each other. We got off to a great start,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “And then defensively, we’re pretty good.”
In 2003, Baylor was at an all-time low, coming off an unprecedented scandal and having only made one NCAA tournament appearance in the previous 50 years. But within the span of five years, Drew had the Bears in the AP Top 25 within five years, where they have spent at least one week in 13 of the last 14 seasons. In spite of that, there remained fans who didn’t think he could coach. When last year’s tournament was cancelled it appeared as if Coach Drew and Baylor were robbed of their best chance at winning a title. But Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler, two major contributors to their national title, decided to return for another year. Baylor became a powerhouse.
Throughout the season they faced some adversity, a 21-day suspension due to COVID-19 problems within the program followed by a loss, which many believed prepared them for the big stage unlike Gonzaga who breezed through their season.
“We came with a chance to win the national championship,” Drew said.
When he said that, it was merely fantasy. Just a few months prior to his hire, a player had murdered another player. In the previous two seasons, the team had not had a winning record. And yet he persisted. With an NCAA Tournament appearance in his fifth year followed by two Elite Eight appearances in 2010 and 2012 things began to look up. And at last, a Final Four and National Championship in 2021. That mere pipe dream had come to fruition, and what he began nearly two decades ago resulted in one of the most successful, and unlikely, rebuilds in all of college athletics.
Jaden is a junior at San Marcos High School…