Gonzaga vs. Baylor


Jim Rome
April 05, 2021 - 9:12 am
Gonzaga vs Baylor

USA Today


We’re a few hours away from the national championship game that everyone wanted. The one that everyone has been hoping for all season: Baylor-Gonzaga. The game that was actually scheduled back in December and had to be canceled. Turns out it wasn’t canceled, it was just postponed four months.  

And now we have it. And what we have is an undefeated Gonzaga team looking to make history and a Baylor team that is looking to make history of its own. Let me correct that, a Baylor team that looks like an absolute machine that is looking to make history of its own.

Because Houston-Baylor was the opener on Saturday night and THE BEARS PUT ON A HELLUVA SHOW.

That was a complete and total HOSPITAL job. As great as the UCLA-Gonzaga game was, the opener was the exact opposite.

Baylor took on a really good, really tough Houston team that plays great defense, and they went through them like they were NOTHING AT ALL. 

And the crazy thing is, the game started out really well for Houston. They had a block on Baylor’s first possession and forced a shot-clock violation.

Statistically, AND STYLISTICALLY, it might not be pretty, but it wins games. A lot of games. Doesn’t matter how poorly you shoot if you just keep getting rebounds and getting more shots. Eventually, you’ll start scoring.

And when you saw that possession, it was like, okay, this is pretty much what we expected: this is what the Cougs do: This is going to be a FIST FIGHT. But it wasn’t.

You never want your first possession to be your best possession, but it pretty much was for Houston. Because they ran into a buzz saw and that first possession was the high point of their night:

Because the bears were looking every bit the well-oiled machine they were before their pause, doing things like this:

And OTHER THINGS, like this

Crazy cross court pass and another Jared Butler three, this time from the corner.

That was as comprehensive a beating as there’s been in a Final Four game in a while. Honestly, it was PRETTY SCARY. Teams are not supposed to be that dominant in a Final Four game.

No one is supposed to go into a Final Four game and have a 25 point lead at the half. And speaking of that lead, here’s how they got to 25 right at the buzzer.

Talk about salt in the wound. That first half had already been brutal for Houston, but then Baylor hits that before half, that is a total kick in the PACKAGHE. 

There’s not a huge scoreboard difference between going into the halftime down 22 and down 25, but that still left a huge mark on the Cougars. Essentially, everything that could’ve gone wrong for them, did. And everything that could’ve gone right for Baylor, did.

And nobody would’ve blamed Houston if they just stayed in the locker room after halftime was over. It would’ve been fine if they PICKED UP THEIR MARKER AND SAID, “Nah, we’re good here, thanks.”

But they didn’t. They came back out and battled. And that’s a testament to them, to Kelvin Sampson, and to the culture. But it wasn’t enough. Because Baylor is just that good, at both ends.

If you’ve been sleeping on Baylor lately, I have one question: what’s wrong with you?

This is a team that was undefeated until February, and then had a three-week shutdown. They didn’t look quite themselves coming out of it and lost at Kansas and then in the Big 12 tournament to Oklahoma State. And then suddenly folks were thinking that they were vulnerable.

Wrong. They weren’t vulnerable, they weren’t shaky, and they were just getting their rhythm back. And on Saturday night, I’d say they found it at both ends. From the outside, it looked like they’d never lost their mojo on defense, but the offense was a little shaky at points after the shutdown.

But on Saturday night, that offense was lethal. And again, they were doing it against a very good defensive team. They made a really good defensive team look really bad on Saturday night. That’s how good Baylor was.

And now they get Gonzaga in a few hours. And the question is: was Saturday night the high-water mark for Baylor or is that who they are? Did they finally get back to being Baylor again?

Then again, Gonzaga didn’t go undefeated accidentally. They didn’t just stumble into this. And they’re going up against a Baylor team that doesn’t have the interior presence that UCLA did. So how does Baylor counteract Drew Timme and that stache?

And as long as we’re talking questions, how does Gonzaga respond to a 45-minute battle against UCLA that was a grind at both ends of the floor? How do they respond psychologically to what had to be an emotionally draining Saturday night?

I know both Baylor and Gonzaga played on Saturday night and that the Zags do this type of thing in conference, and the Bears probably only had about three hours more of rest than Gonzaga, but it sure seems like they’ll have had a lot more than that. Let me throw some numbers at you:

Corey Kispert: 44
Jaylen Suggs: 40

Those are the number of minutes they played on Saturday night. In fact, four of Gonzaga’s starter went 40 or more minutes against the Bruins. The only starter who didn’t was Drew Timme and he played 38. Gonzaga is a tough team, but they are going to need to dig really deep to come back and play at an elite level for 40 minutes again.

Then again, if you’re looking to make history and become the first undefeated team in nearly 50 years, it shouldn’t be easy. And if they do it, it won’t have been handed it them. They would’ve earned every bit of it. Bottom line, does Baylor’s best beat Gonzaga’s best.  Or maybe the question should be does Gonzaga’s best beat Baylor’s best? I’ll be honest, I’ve been going back and forth on this one since the Saturday night: the line is Gonzaga -4.5 so if you like Baylor, you love the points. But maybe you think Gonzaga is better just not four and a half points better. And then smash the money line. Or maybe it’s so close, you don’t’ smash anything. Maybe it’s so close and so good, you don’t even need any action, and you’re just hyped for the game by itself...  Hahahahahahhahahaha.  Yeah that pretty much went out the window the second walls against legalized gambling started to come down. Just know this, it’s so close, I haven’t hit it yet. And neither has the big head, James Kelly. What about you? Who you got?