Your Baylor Bears are NCAA National Champions after beating a historically great Gonzaga Bulldogs team 86-70! In the game that everyone had wanted all season, Baylor proved that there were two teams this year that should go down in the history books as all-time greats.
Baylor jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game. The Bears held Gonzaga at arm’s length the entire rest of the game. Baylor didn’t just win the national championship — they boat raced a historically great team en route to being, perhaps, the greatest college basketball team of all time.
This season was an affirmation of so much that has been building in Waco for nearly 20 years. Scott Drew is now in talks as a potential Hall of Fame coach after building up a championship contender from ruins. The University is moving forward with plans to build a brilliant basketball field house on the banks of the Brazos, which the Lariat correctly suggests should be named for Drew and Kim Mulkey (https://baylorlariat.com/2021/03/31/baylor-should-honor-mulkey-drew-with-new-arena-naming/). The recruiting trail, having gone tepid after some big hits earlier this past decade, is warming up again as recruits domestic and abroad recognize the culture of excellence that Baylor has established. Just as Mark Few has built a west coast powerhouse in a most unlikely place, Scott Drew seems on the cusp of enjoying the fruits of long labor. Texas is certainly a football state, but Baylor is now unquestionably the power of Texas basketball. That’s remarkable (https://www.ourdailybears.com/baylor-basketball/2021/3/2/22310503/one-word-for-these-baylor-bears-mens-basketball-big-xii-champions).
Now that is all crowned with an NCAA trophy, a banner that will eventually grace the new field house, and a memory that can never be erased for the coaches, players, and fans.
Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell were, in a word, brilliant. If Baylor was going to win tonight, it needed its two NBA prospects to dominate both sides of the ball. Jalen Suggs, the potential No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft and fresh off an all-time buzzer beater, was the biggest challenge those two faced all season. He has unparalleled athleticism and vision for his age and position, not to mention a steely will and determination. Tonight, Mitchell lived up to his “Off Night” nickname. Suggs wasn’t eliminated from the game — he was the only Bulldog who looked like he believed they could get back into the game — but his impact was limited enough to clog up the whirring Gonzaga death machine.
On the other side, the Bears just made shots. As a team, Baylor shot 10-22 from three, 45%. Everyone knew they had to if they were going to keep up with Gonzaga’s historic offense. Butler’s 22 points on 4-9 3FG. With his 7 assists, Butler is the first player to reach that stat line since Carmelo Anthony. Mitchell’s continuing audition as the Human Torch was too much for Gonzaga’s defense to handle. Baylor’s guards just presented too many questions that Gonzaga didn’t have the tools to answer. Mitchell finished the game with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Baylor’s bigs deserve a huge applause, as well. Drew Timme is the game’s most dominant inside scorer, and Flo Thamba, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and Mark Vital made things just about impossible for him. Timme, who had just 12 points and 5 rebounds, was a non-factor all game. Baylor’s bigs pushed him out of the paint, fronted him, and absolutely neutralized the game’s best big man.
Teague, Matthew Mayer, and Adam Flagler filled in around Butler and Mitchell perfectly. Teague dropped 19 points, and Flagler had 13. Both of those two guards played like national championship starters. Only one of them starts. For his part, Mayer only scored 2 points, but he pulled down 2 boards and a steal that felt momentous. His defense was just good enough. On defense, everyone was locked in on the rotations, denying passes that had been available to Gonzaga all season. Gonzaga had almost no clean opportunities on offense outside a few run outs. On offense, they capitalized on the opportunities they were given. Playing tentatively against Gonzaga will get you killed. These guys attacked with aggression at just about every opportunity. Anytime Timme came up to defend a screen, Baylor’s guards cooked him.
Plenty has already been said this season in praise of these Bears, both in the aggregate and as individuals. There will be plenty more to say in the coming days (and perhaps years!). Tonight, let’s celebrate this unbelievable championship!
Sic’em Bears, the undisputed national champions!