The top two teams in the country will meet in an inevitable showdown between undefeated Gonzaga and Baylor to determine tonight’s 2021 March Madness champion. Gonzaga (31-0) is attempting to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to punctuate an undefeated season with a national championship.
Gonzaga advanced to the championship game after surviving an overtime thriller against the #11 UCLA Bruins, who took on the role of Cinderella in this year’s March Madness college basketball tournament. Jalen Suggs knocked down a buzzer-beater from way behind NBA 3-point range to secure a spot in the championship game against Baylor.
A team west of the Rockies hasn’t won a March Madness championship since Arizona won the title in 1997. Gonzaga is seeking to win their first-ever championship and end the Western hex.
|#1 Baylor Bears (27-2) at #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-0)|
- Tip-off: 6:20 pm PT on CBS
- Point Spread: GON -4.5
- Total: 159.5 o/u
- Money Line: GON -200 / BAY +175
Baylor opened as a +5 underdog against Gonzaga in the March Madness championship game. The line is currently +4.5, with early money backing Baylor.
At the start of the Final Four, the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas listed Gonzaga at -250 odds to win 2021 March Madness. Baylor was +250 odds to win the championship on the SuperBook’s NCAA futures board.
JALEN SUGGS. UNBELIEVABLE! 🤯🚨@ZagMBB #FinalFour pic.twitter.com/QeEAjENYmG
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 4, 2021
Gonzaga on the Cusp of a Perfect Season
Since 1979, four other teams entered March Madness with a chance to finish the season with an undefeated record. Larry Bird guided the Indiana State Sycamores to a spot in the national championship game, but Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Wolverines picked off Bird’s Indiana State and thwarted their pursuit of a perfect season.
Since then, three other teams entered March Madness without a loss, but all three teams were knocked out of March Madness, including UNLY (1991), Wichita State (2014), and Kentucky (2015).
In the first round, Gonzaga missed hitting the century mark with 98 points in a 43-point blowout victory against #16 Norfolk State. In the Round of 32, the Zags didn’t break much of a sweat during a 16-point victory over #8 Oklahoma.
During the Sweet 16, #5 Creighton fell behind early and never recovered. Gonzaga won by 18 points.
In the Elite 8, Gonzaga shut down #6 USC and freshman Evan Mobley, who is projected to become the #2 pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft. Gonzaga won by 19 points and notched another double-digit victory.
In the Final Four, Gonzaga faced a second Pac-12 team against #11 UCLA. The Cinderella Bruins made history as the first First Four team to reach the Final Four.
For the first time in the tournament, Gonzaga didn’t play their best basketball. Their defense struggled to contain UCLA’s best shooter, Johnny Juzang. The Zags needed a break in overtime to end UCLA’s Cinderella run, and that’s when Suggs hit one of the greatest game-winners in NCAA history to lift Gonzaga to a 93-90 victory.
The Big 3: Timme, Kispert, Suggs
Gonzaga doesn’t rely on 3-point shooting, which is a bit surprising considering how many points they score. The Zags score in bunches and can unleash a quick 10-0 run. Gonzaga moves the ball well on offense. Mark Few’s squad is comprised of excellent passers and unselfish players who will look to pass first before shooting.
By now, you’ve seen Suggs’ viral buzzer-beater against UCLA. Now, Gonzaga’s fate and their undefeated season is in his hands. If Baylor shuts down Suggs (14.1 ppg), they’ll beat Gonzaga to win the championship.
“Stuff like this is something you dream of as a kid and that you practice on your mini-hoop,” said Suggs.
Like most freshmen, Suggs is turnover-prone but, when he’s playing with confidence, he’s demonstrated his ability to take over a game.
“He’s just got this magical aura about him,” said Few. “I knew when he shot it, it was going in.”
Drew Timme, (19.2 ppg) a 6-foot-10 sophomore, could pose match-up problems for Baylor’s big men. The highly efficient Timme hits 65.4% of his shots from the floor.
Senior Corey Kispert (18.8 ppg) is Gonzaga’s team captain and locker room leader. He’s also Gonzaga’s top sniper, hitting 44.5% of his 3-pointers this season. However, Kispert struggled in the last two games, shooting just 5-for-18 from downtown.
Don’t sleep on Joel Ayayi. The 6-foot-5 junior guard from France averages 12.2 ppg this season. He dropped 22 points against UCLA and carried Gonzaga during a few stretches when they went cold.