No matter what Baylor does in the next few hours, it’s all going to be about Gonzaga. As we hyped all the way at the beginning of the men’s tournament, the main story was whether any team could halt Gonzaga’s attempt to not just win their first NCAA Championship ever but pull off an undefeated season.
We, in fact, may have just witnessed the Gonzaga Bulldogs biggest challenge in the UCLA Bruins who managed to make the unprecedented journey from the First Four to the Final Four and then forced Gonzaga to play one overtime and almost forced thm to play a second one. Then, of course, Jalen Suggs made an instantly legendary three-pointer from nearly half-court to put them a game away from perfection.
It was a great game, to the point where the instant analysis ended up being “maybe that really was the Men’s Championship Game.” Well, the Baylor Bears might be hoping that everybody is overlooking them. After all, before Gonzaga proved to be vulnerable for the first time all tournament, struggling to put away a 11th-seeded upstart, Baylor absolutely ran over No. 2 Houston 78-59. If they are being overlooked as just being a footnote to the Gonzaga story, well maybe that will work for them.
That’s the flip side of this being all about the Bulldogs: the pressure is all on Mark Few’s team. Gonzaga spent most of their existence as the mid-major that couldn’t never win the big game, always faltering in the biggest moment. Until this run, their most memorable moment was Adam Morrison breaking down in tears on the court as they were crushed by (of all teams) UCLA. Literally unbeatable all season, there’s a very real chance that if they don’t win this final game, then the time will never come. They almost saw it all fall apart on Saturday and if they struggle at all today, well Baylor will start to smell blood. Maybe this will go as scripted, with Gonzaga easily handling Baylor or maybe… or maybe this goes down to who has the ball last.
That’s how this is supposed to go, of course, it all comes down to the players on the court. We talk about the programs, the coaches, the seedings, the brackets and everything that surrounds the tournament, but it comes down to the athletes on the court. They are the reason we watch and they ultimately control the outcome. Okay, that sounds a bit much, but that’s what college basketball does to even those of us who remain extremely cynical of everything going behind the scenes.
If you want to join today’s liveblog, feel free to email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @HunterFelt. It’s the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium. They say we’ll start around 9:20pm EST but we’ll be back here well before then.