A Different Night of Firsts for Baylor and Gonzaga by Ari F.
This March Madness was worth the wait for many basketball fans. After a one-year hiatus, March Madness returned in an exciting fashion. Top teams were upset early in the tournament, and there were some incredible Cinderella stories such as Oral Roberts and Oregon State. With 62 games done, the Championship was set between undefeated Gonzaga and Baylor, both seeking to make history.
Gonzaga had just edged past UCLA, a First Four In team who surprised everyone after defeating title favorite Michigan in the Elite Eight. Gonzaga was saved from another upset by freshman Jalen Suggs on a near half court heave as the buzzer sounded. On the other hand, Baylor dominated versus Final Four newcomer, Houston, which made people question if they deserved to be there. Houston was the first team to defeat only double digit teams to make the Final Four.
The championship game started off strong, with Baylor jumping out to a 20-point lead over the Zags, Gonzaga’s largest deficit the whole season. Gonzaga was able to cut the lead to 10 at halftime, going on a late run. This match-up was all about runs, but Baylor just had bigger ones. They made 10 threes, most coming from second-chance points as they had 18 more offensive rebounds than Gonzaga. Baylor kept the pressure on the Zags the entire game. They out-rebounded Gonzaga on both the offensive and defensive board.
Jared Butler led Baylor with 22 points and 7 assists, shooting 4-9 from behind the arc. Davion Mitchell and Macio Teague were also a big part in securing Baylor their first championship. Mitchell finished with 15 points and 5 assists, Teague had 19 points, but shot 53% from the field, and 2-3 behind the arc.
On the other hand, Gonzaga’s number one offense faltered on the biggest stage of the season. They only made 5 threes, while averaging 7.5 throughout the season. Jalen Suggs, a projected lottery pick, finished the game with 22 points. Drew Timme, who was monumental in the win against UCLA, only had 12 points, and 5 rebounds. Between Suggs, Timme, and other forward Corey Kispert, they scored half of Gonzaga’s points. No other players on Gonzaga had double digits. The Zags didn’t even have a lead against Baylor.
After a thrilling three weeks of March Madness, where a 15 seed made the Sweet Sixteen, it was only right that Baylor upset Gonzaga. Coach Scott completed a historic rebuild after the devastating demise of Baylor's basketball team in 2003. April 5 was a tale of two firsts for the best two teams in college basketball this year--Baylor finally was the king of the dance, and Gonzaga will just have to wait another year.