Anna Bauer ’23
On Monday Apr. 5, the 2021 March Madness tournament came to end with the Baylor University Bears taking home the final win!
The Gonzaga University Bulldogs had played the perfect season. Out of the 32 games they played, they had won all 31 prior to the final championship game against Baylor. The Zags would have been the seventh team in March Madness history, and the first since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976, to go unbeaten throughout the entirety of the season if they could have taken home their first national title. However, tragically for them and any Bulldog fans, they lost in their final game.
Entering the game, the Bulldogs were the No. 1 seed while the Bears were in the No. 3 seed. Likewise, again in the leading spot was the Zags who were leading the nation in both scoring and shooting percentage. The William Hill Sportsbook even listed the Bulldogs as the 4.5-point favorite in the odds of Gonzaga vs. Baylor. However, the outcome was clearly not as anticipated.
On Saturday, Apr. 3, the NCAA tournament continued and the Final Four played their respective games. The Houston Cougars faced the Baylor Bears and lost 78 to 59, while the UCLA Bruins faced the Gonzaga Bulldogs and lost 93 to 90. The latter game was evidently much closer, and the Zags pulled that win off with a miraculous three-point buzzer-beating shot by Jalen Suggs, sending the Bulldogs to the National Championship Game of the March Madness tournament!
On Monday, Apr. 5, Baylor, after not appearing in the championship game for 73 years, celebrated its first-ever men’s basketball title. Starting out the game strong, Baylor gained the lead, 9-0, then 11-1, then, less than 10 minutes into the game, the Bears were leading 29-10, marking the largest deficit the Zags had faced all season.
Despite the setback, Gonzaga was able to cut the Bears lead to 10 by halftime, and to 9 points by the second half. However, this still was not enough as throughout the game, Baylor was simply able to run the ball more, successfully scoring 10 more three-pointers and attempting 18 more shots than the Zags did in the entire game. In the second half, the game only worsened for the Zags as Baylor’s lead, which they had cut down to single digits, managed to reach 20. In the end, Baylor won, 86-70.
Baylor’s guards were a large reason for the rather soul-crushing defeat of Gonzaga. Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davio Mitchell paved the path for the Bears with a combined 56 points and 12 assists. No surprise here, but Butler was the driving force for the sharpshooting effort that did not stop as he scored 22 points, including four three-pointers, and completed seven assists. This game record made Butler the first player to score at least 20 points and make seven assists in a men’s national championship game since Carmelo Anthony did in 2003 for Syracuse.
Regardless of Gonzaga’s almost flawless season, the team still made history as they became the first undefeated team to enter the national title game and then lose since Indiana State in 1979. Now, the Zags have joined many other great teams that were powerful and undefeated until, in their championship game, they unfortunately could not maintain their perfect winning streak.
The 2021 March Madness tournament was certainly very eventful and shocking as a relative underdog rose up and defeated the undefeated. Congratulations to the Baylor Bears and all those who bet on them!
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