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Big 12 Basketball Preview: National Championship

This one’s for all the marbles.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Houston at Baylor IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Baylor vs. #1 Gonzaga

Monday, April 5th 8:20 PM CT, CBS

Well folks, here we are. 1 seed Baylor (27-2) is once again the only Big 12 team to preview since they have advanced all the way to the national championship. They will be facing off against undefeated, 1 seed Gonzaga (31-0). I’m writing this preview from my hotel in Indianapolis so it’s going to be relatively short. Kendall has once again provided some expert analysis in his preview here. Here are some intangibles I’ve noted in Indianapolis and with these two teams:

  1. At the hotels near the stadium, there certainly seems to be more Baylor fans hanging around than Gonzaga fans. That makes sense considering Gonzaga is a significantly smaller school than Baylor (Gonzaga has around a 5,000 student enrollment while Baylor is just over 18,000). Plus, the Baylor fans that are here certainly seem as amped up as possible (shout out to Tony who I rode in with). I expect the crowd advantage will be in Baylor’s favor, maybe 60-40 if I were to guess? But with limited attendance in a massive arena we’ll see what significance that holds for the game.
  2. Baylor should be well rested after their relatively easy win over Houston. Gonzaga had an emotional, overtime win over UCLA. Gonzaga’s offense was firing, but their defense looked supremely sus (although I will grant that UCLA was hitting some absurd shots). I expect Baylor’s offense to be clicking and Gonzaga will have to overcome a stronger, Baylor defense. Baylor should have the “legs” advantage down the later stretch of this game thanks to their easier game.
  3. A lot of pressure is on Gonzaga. An undefeated national championship would put them in historic company. No doubt, Baylor has a lot of pressure too. Baylor is looking to do something that no Big 12 team has done since over a decade ago: win a national championship. However, Baylor clearly didn’t let the pressure of the big stage get to them in their Final Four game. Neither Baylor nor Gonzaga have ever won a national championship. I expect the Bears to be locked in.

I like Baylor in this game. They’ve got a strong enough defense to test Gonzaga’s potent offense and enough shooters to form a small militia. As long as Baylor doesn’t have one of its rare off nights, I think a national championship is coming to Waco.

81-79 Baylor