By Alex Burr | @alexburr4
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – The confrontation between Gonzaga and Baylor has the potential to be one of the best NCAA championship games of all time. The Bulldogs come in at 31-0 with the hope of matching the 32-0 record of the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, the last undefeated national champion. Baylor, with a record of 27-2, will play for its first championship. The Bears are finally back to their form from before their hiatus, when their defense was elite.
For Baylor, the key to this game is making sure its guards go off, and that is looking much more likely after UCLA’s Johnny Juzang went off against Gonzaga in the Final Four. Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and MaCio Teague are all capable of lighting up the scoreboard from inside and out. On the defensive end they move on a string, an overused phrase sure, but the only offense Houston was able to muster for the first 20 minutes of the game was Marcus Sasser getting hot from 3-point range and going 5 for 9 from behind the arc. Against a team like Gonzaga, with guards like Jalen Suggs, Andrew Nembhard and Joel Ayayi, being able to shut them down will be a big factor for the Baylor squad.
For Gonzaga, Suggs is on the top of the college basketball world now after he hit that game-winning shot in the overtime semifinal against UCLA, but he also finished the game with 16 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Gonzaga also has Drew Timme, their sophomore big man who has been the driving factor of success for Gonzaga in the tournament by scoring 20 or more in every single tournament game, including 17 second half points to help get Gonzaga in position to win. This could be also be a good game for Corey Kispert, who UCLA held in check. But if Timme draws a lot of attention inside, Kispert could be open outside and bomb threes, which he has made at a 44.5% clip.
I think this is going to be a remarkably close game, but I think Timme gives Gonzaga a slight edge. Baylor’s frontcourt personnel is not bad by any means, but Timme is 6-feet-10 and 235 pounds and very skilled.
If the Bears have to double Timme, he will kick it out to the perimeter and Gonzaga will make them pay.
If Baylor can contain Timme with one man, then I can see them winning.
I just don’t think Baylor has anyone as good as Cody Riley in their big spot.
Gonzaga 81, Baylor 76.