Baylor Routs Gonzaga for First N.C.A.A. Men’s Basketball Title
Baylor, with an 86-70 win, ended the Zags’ bid to be the first undefeated champion since 1976. Here’s the latest on the title game.,
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Seventy-three years after it last played for a national title, Baylor ostentatiously ascended as a modern power of men’s college basketball on Monday night, winning the championship of a pandemic-disrupted season and extinguishing Gonzaga’s ambitions for end-to-end perfection.
The outcome was settled well before the scoreboard read 86-70 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In fact, it was clear in the opening four minutes, which nearly passed before Gonzaga scored even a point. By then, Baylor had 9 — an offensive onslaught that ultimately intensified and had Baylor with a 20-point advantage midway through the second half.
Just two nights before the title showdown, Gonzaga had prevailed in one of the most sensational games in the history of the N.C.A.A.’s men’s tournament, a 93-90 thriller against U.C.L.A. But on Monday, the Bears openly overpowered the Bulldogs, who started to rally a modest defense once they switched to zone.
It was still far too much.
Baylor seized rebounds. Especially early, it seemed to score on command and control the game’s flow and capitalize on one turnover after the next by Gonzaga, which entered Monday night hoping to become the first men’s Division I team since 1976 to cap an undefeated campaign with a national title.
There were moments when Gonzaga seemed to inch back into the game. In the second half, for instance, the Bulldogs narrowed the gap to 9. Two layups, two free-throws, a 3-pointer and 94 seconds later, the Baylor lead had vaulted to 16.
Baylor’s shooting was imperfect — indeed, Gonzaga made a greater share of its shots. But it spread its scoring around. Jared Butler, a junior guard, led Baylor with 22 points, his record for this year’s tournament. MaCio Teague added 19 of his own. Baylor had 16 second-chance points and 21 from its bench.
Gonzaga, whose season-leading scorer Drew Timme became enveloped in foul trouble with more than 11 minutes to play in the game, did much of its scoring in the paint and struggled mightily with 3-pointers, making just 29 percent. Jalen Suggs, the star of Saturday’s victory, finished with 22 points, the most of any Bulldog on Monday.
Across 18 seasons under Coach Scott Drew, Baylor has risen into a juggernaut of the sport. The Bears had reached the round of 16 five times since 2010, and the round of 8 three times. It was not until this season, though, that Baylor stormed into the Final Four for the first time since 1950. And when it last played for a championship, in 1948, Kentucky set down a shellacking, 58-42, in the title game.
“Since 2008, we’ve won 18 or more,” Drew said on Saturday. “And us and Kansas are the only two Power Fives to do that. We’ve been consistently good. We just haven’t been able to get to a Final Four or national championship.”
Then they made the grandest stage of all and routed a team that had not lost since Feb. 22, 2020.
Baylor romped past Gonzaga with ease to win the N.C.A.A. men’s national championship, 86-70.
The Bears never trailed in stopping the Zags’ bid to be the first undefeated champion since 1976.
Barring an enormous comeback, it’s looking like a good year for contrarians in men’s tournament pools. Baylor was taken as champion in just 10.4 percent of ESPN bracket entries and 8.6 percent of Yahoo entries. Gonzaga was a massive favorite on both platforms.
This feels just about over as Joel Ayayi limps to the bench with an injury. It’s amazing that Gonzaga, a team that hasn’t lost since Feb. 22, 2020, is getting crushed in the championship game.
With under five minutes left in this one and Gonzaga down 17, it would be a history-making comeback. The biggest deficit to ever be overcome in an N.C.A.A. men’s championship game was 15 points in 1963 when Loyola-Chicago came back to beat Cincinnati.
Jared Butler is leading Baylor with 20 points tonight, the most for him in any game this tournament.
Baylor transfers MaCio Teague (U.N.C.-Asheville) and Davion Mitchell (Auburn) have a combined 25 points. If Baylor wins, it will be the third straight national champion with transfers playing key roles.
Gonzaga was within 9 for about half a second and is now back down 16. The Bears have made their last three shots.
Two of Baylor’s frontcourt guys now have four fouls in Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Drew Timme must exploit that now and take over down low.
Corey Kispert grabbed his left shoulder there after trying to defend big Flo Thamba. Kispert comes out of the game. He’s shooting 3 of 7 for 7 points. Another bad sign for Gonzaga.
Gonzaga’s bench has just 2 points at the half — something that could become an issue as the second half gets going. Baylor’s bench had a lot of success against Houston, and it is helping the Bears again tonight with 12 points.
The first half of the national championship game unfolded as a dream scenario for Baylor and a nightmare for Gonzaga, which is one half from seeing its goal of a perfect season blown out of the water.
Gonzaga’s star freshman Jalen Suggs got two quick fouls but the Bulldogs survived a potential early knockout and trailed 47-37 at the break thanks to a 21-12 run to close the half.
“We knew they’d make a run, this is a 40-minute game,” Baylor Coach Scott Drew said in a television interview. “We got to do a good job of guarding without fouling and then we got to get some free throws.”
The Bears were everywhere early on defense, contesting every pass and shot attempt. Baylor led 9-0, 16-4, 23-8, 29-10 and 35-16.
After going to the zone late in the first half, Gonzaga closed the half on a 21-12 spurt after trailing by as many as 19 points. Baylor forced eight turnovers — and scored 13 points from those turnovers.
To what degree Gonzaga is feeling a hangover from Saturday’s 93-90 victory over U.C.L.A. in the national semifinal? Are the Bulldogs tired? Or is it all about Baylor’s defense? Maybe all of the above?
Gonzaga shot just 12 of 22 and 1 of 6 from deep as stars Drew Timme, Corey Kispert and Suggs combined for 24 points.
On offense, Baylor shot 19 of 38 and 7 of 13 on 3-pointers. MaCio Teague led the way with 14 points and Jared Butler had 10.
Gonzaga is seeking to become the first team since Bob Knight’s Indiana club in 1976 to finish undefeated while winning the national championship.
This is just the fifth time since the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll began in the early 1960s that the teams ranked No. 1 (Gonzaga) and No. 2 (Baylor) met in the title game. Each of the previous four games were won by the team ranked second: Cincinnati over Ohio State in 1962, U.C.L.A. over Michigan in 1965, UConn over Duke in 1999 and Duke over Arizona in 2001.
Baylor is now one half from continuing that trend.
Baylor Coach Scott Drew said he is hoping his team can get to the free throw line more and defend without racking up fouls in the second half. The Bears are 2 for 2 on free throws while Gonzaga is 12 for 13.
Good news for Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have narrowed the deficit. Bad news: They trail by 10 at halftime. A sliver of hope: One team has overcome a 10-point deficit in a men’s tournament title game. Kentucky managed it against Utah in 1998.
File under “numbers your gut told you would be much bigger,” but Baylor’s largest run of the night so far was for 9 points.
An issue for Gonzaga is being highlighted tonight: turnovers. The Bulldogs have averaged 12 a game this season and they already have eight tonight.
It might wind up being another one of those nights where we’re checking the record book. So here’s one bit of history: North Carolina was up by 21 at the intermission in 2009, the biggest halftime lead in the history of the men’s tournament. Baylor leads by 17 with 7:50 to go in the half.
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“This was not a fluke tonight. We would not have gotten blown out Monday night.” This quote from U.C.L.A. Coach Mick Cronin on Saturday night is ringing in my ears right now.
Just tuning in and wondering why Baylor, with a double-digit lead on undefeated Gonzaga, is a two-loss team this season? The Bears went on a three-week break because of coronavirus protocols in February. Their first game back, they barely beat Iowa State, which ranked last in the Big 12, then lost to Kansas while finding their defensive footing. Oklahoma State, behind the shooting power of Cade Cunningham, delivered Baylor its second loss during the Big 12 tournament. Baylor’s tightest win in this N.C.A.A. tournament had a margin of 9 points.
Baylor doing what it does best: make 3-pointers. The Bears are 5-5 from behind the arc.
This is feeling a lot like U.N.L.V.-Duke. And not the 1991 thriller, the blowout in the 1990 championship game.
A little more than 7 minutes in, Gonzaga is already facing its biggest deficit of the season at 15 points.
Two telling stats with zeroes for Gonzaga: bench points and points off turnovers. Baylor has 9 bench points and 8 off turnovers. 23-8, Baylor, with 11:42 to go in the first half.
With the exception of one canceled game, competitors in the N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments were largely not disrupted by the coronavirus.
But the wider impact of the championships, which welcomed a limited number of in-person spectators, is yet to be seen. If there are implications, they could be hard to detect, infectious disease experts warn.
“The protocols for the athletes and coaches were good and so they probably won’t have a problem with them,” Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor emeritus from the University of California, Berkeley, said on Monday. “Having fans in the stands, it’s not a good idea and there could be a problem from that.”
Spectators were permitted to attend all of the men’s games in Indiana, so long as they wore masks and stadiums mostly stayed below 22 percent capacity. Paying spectators who wore masks were allowed to watch the women’s games in the Alamodome beginning with the round of 16, with the Alamodome held below 17 percent capacity.
Many states, including Indiana and Texas, have done away with quarantine requirements for travelers, meaning that some spectators could have flown in for the games and flown out without restriction on either end.
“Any cross-state mobility introduces the risk of increasing the spread of different variants,” said Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a global health researcher at Harvard Medical School.
Cases of the coronavirus in Indiana have increased 29 percent compared with 14 days ago, however the numbers are still significantly lower than they were two months ago, according to a New York Times database. The average number of new cases per day in the past week was 986. On Feb. 4, the average over the past week was 1,962 new cases per day. At least 18 percent of the state is fully vaccinated, according to The Times.
In Marion County, where Indianapolis is, there was an average of 113 cases per day in the past week, a 39 percent increase from two weeks ago when the tournament tipped off.
Cases have trended downward over the past two weeks in Texas — a decrease of 24 percent on average. There were about 2,943 new coronavirus cases per day in the last week, according to The Times. At least 16 percent of Texas’ population is fully vaccinated. In Bexar County, where San Antonio is, there has been an average of 231 cases per day over the past week, a 64 percent decrease from the average two weeks ago.
San Antonio health officials said in an email to The Times on Monday that they were not concerned about a spike following the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball tournament, which Stanford won yesterday, but did not elaborate. Marion County and Indiana state health officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Stanford celebrated with a parade on its campus and neighboring Palo Alto, Calif., on Monday after flying back from the tournament.
Huge spot here for Gonzaga redshirt freshman guard Aaron Cook as he fills in for Jalen Suggs. Down 23-8, the Zags have to get offense from Corey Kispert and Drew Timme.
Davion Mitchell has seven of Gonzaga’s 11 points so far. This is the best start Baylor could have asked for against the Bulldogs’ elite offense.
Gonzaga scored! Can’t believe a made free-throw in the first half became newsworthy. It’s 11-1, Baylor, at the first media timeout.
Baylor’s physical strength is apparent at every position. Gonzaga is getting manhandled on its defensive end.
Baylor is starting out this game completely dominating Gonzaga on the glass with six rebounds.
More than three minutes into the game, but Gonzaga hasn’t scored. In Saturday’s epic game against U.C.L.A., the Zags scored — and took a lead — after just 33 seconds of play.
The numbers may have shifted a bit over the last several days, but Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, said on Thursday that just 15 people had tested positive for the coronavirus across the men’s and women’s tournaments. Officials administered some 41,000 tests to players, coaches and others with close ties to the competitions.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Baylor coach Scott Drew are widely regarded as two of the best coaches in men’s college basketball.
Few, 58, has won 630 games in 22 seasons at Gonzaga, an average of almost 29 games per season. He has led the Bulldogs into their second N.C.A.A. championship game after losing to North Carolina in 2017.
Drew, 50, has won 390 career games spanning 18 seasons at Baylor and one at Valparaiso, the school where his father, Homer Drew, coached for more than two decades. Scott Drew guided the Bears to two round of 8 appearances and an N.I.T. championship in the early 2010s, and now has the program in the title game for the first time since 1948.
Yet for all their accomplishments, neither Few nor Drew has won an N.C.A.A. championship. That will change for one of them on Monday night.
At that point, one of the coaches will join an elite fraternity, becoming the 11th active coach with at least one ring. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski leads all active coaches with five titles, while Jim Calhoun, now coaching in Division III at the University of Saint Joseph, has three from his time at UConn.
Gonzaga walk-on Will Graves, a junior guard, is the son of Oregon’s women’s coach, Kelly Graves, who arrived in Indianapolis last week after the Ducks were eliminated in the round of 16 in San Antonio. On sitting through the Zags’ thriller over U.C.L.A., Graves said: “it’s a lot easier to coach in a game like that than watch from the stands.”
Gonzaga’s most famous player is in attendance and he never played in the N.C.A.A. tournament: Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton.
Baylor is seeking its first N.C.A.A. championship, and second for the state of Texas after Texas Western won the title in 1966. “The state of Texas, we’ve only had one national champion so I would love to see everybody have a chance to celebrate like that,” Baylor Coach Scott Drew said during the pregame on CBS. “At the same time there are two great teams, both teams want to win so it’s going to be a hard-fought game.”
According to KenPom, Gonzaga and Baylor are the No. 1 and No. 2 most efficient offenses in N.C.A.A. men’s basketball, respectively. The expectation is that this will be a fast paced game, but Baylor’s bench proved its depth in its win over Houston, finishing with 32 points.
“I think that’s the key to our success all year,” Davion Mitchell told reporters on Sunday. “Those guys are a tremendous spark off the bench. They can score the ball, they play defense, they kind of do everything the starters do. I mean, it’s kind of like if one man is having an off night, the bench usually picks us up.”
The Bulldogs bench averages 23 points per game, while the Bears average 24.6, so the margin is not large. The difference maker here will be which of these benches can make the biggest impact, especially considering how quick the offensive pace is for both of these teams.
One critical matchup to keep an eye on in the championship game will involve Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs and Baylor’s Davion Mitchell.
The 6-foot-4 Suggs has accounted for 34 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists in last two games. And his game-winning 3-pointer against U.C.L.A. is already being hailed as one of the most clutch and important shots in tournament history. The Minnesota native is expected to be among the top three picks in this year’s N.B.A. draft.
Suggs figures to be guarded by the 6-2 Mitchell, a Georgia native who averages nearly 2 steals a game along with 14 points and 5.5 assists. Mitchell was named the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and also was honored as the Most Outstanding Player of the South Region.
“He’s a really good player, he’s really fast. He’s really quick,” Mitchell said. “I’ve just got to know when to pick my spots, and when I can pressure him and when not to pressure him, so I can’t put my teammates in a position where they’ve got to help me out and then leave somebody else open because they can hurt us like that, so my job is just to stay in front of him and make it hard for him.”
Baylor Coach Scott Drew, who is coaching for the program’s first national championship, said he’s looking forward to watching the two go at it.
“It’s a blessing because I get a great seat and watch it,” he said. “And hopefully neither gets in foul trouble because that’s going to be a matchup that everyone will want to watch. Both of them are extremely competitive, both of them are so talented and both of them, the bigger the moment, the better they play.”
Gonzaga faced one of its first real threats of the season in its matchup against U.C.L.A. The Bruins took the Bulldogs into overtime, and their 3-point shooting helped keep them in the game — U.C.L.A. shot 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Gonzaga was scheduled to face Baylor in December before the game was canceled because of two positive tests from Gonzaga’s program, including one player. Since then, Coach Mark Few has said the Bulldogs had been prepared to face the Bears at some point in this tournament. The Bears have widely been considered the second best team in men’s basketball for much of the season.
“The way they shoot the ball — I think they’re hitting the 3 better collectively than anyone in the country — and they play off each other so well,” Few said. “They’re just complete.”
This is an area that Baylor can capitalize on tonight as it faces the undefeated Bulldogs. The Bears shoot 3-pointers better than any other team in the country — 41.2 percent — but can’t afford an off night if it expects to challenge Gonzaga the way the Bruins did.
The lawyer overseeing an inquiry into gender inequities at N.C.A.A. championship events insisted Monday that she would act independently of the college sports executives who hired her last month.
The lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, has a reputation for pathbreaking legal work — she, for instance, litigated a seminal case against a federal law that excluded same-sex couples in its definition of marriage. But some of women’s basketball’s leading figures have voiced misgivings about her appointment by the N.C.A.A., which has spent the last few weeks responding to a public furor over disparities between its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“We have a reputation for calling them as we see them,” Kaplan said in an interview on Monday, when she described her firm’s inquiry as “completely independent.”
Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, said last week that neither he nor the association had any prior history with Kaplan or her firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink. But he has so far resisted calls, most notably from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, for a review led by a commission or a lawyer selected by someone outside of N.C.A.A. leadership.
“I’ve got my lawyer in my back pocket, and I know he’s going to do what he needs to do to make me look good,” Dawn Staley, South Carolina’s women’s basketball coach, told Emmert during a videoconference last week. “And I’m not saying that is the case, but whoever is paying the piper, more than likely they’re going to give you what you want to hear.”
Emmert replied that he had confidence in Kaplan’s firm, but that he understood that there was “a perceptional issue.” He did not announce specific steps to try to ease those concerns.
In Monday’s interview, Kaplan declined to detail her financial arrangement with the N.C.A.A., but she said that the association, which has spent tens of millions of dollars on lawyers in recent years, had not capped her firm’s fees. She said the firm is early in its fact-finding stage, and she urged current and former athletes and coaches to contact investigators, who she said would be conducting interviews and town hall meetings in the coming weeks. She said some former coaches had already spoken to people involved in the review.
“The N.C.A.A. itself admits there clearly was a screw-up,” Kaplan said. But, she added, she wanted to review whether the disparities at the basketball tournaments were “just a symptom of a broader problem, which may not even be intentional.”
“It may,” she said, “just be decades-old assumptions about how things operate.”
Kaplan said that she expected her inquiry would be effectively conducted in two phases: the first, which has already begun, will focus on women’s basketball, while the second will examine other championships in other N.C.A.A.-sanctioned sports. She said that she expected the review to conclude by the end of the summer, but she left open the possibility that her inquiry into other sports could take longer.
Her findings and recommendations are expected to be made public.
The N.C.A.A. repeatedly apologized for shortcomings at its women’s tournament in Texas, like a weight room that was lightly stocked in comparison to workout facilities that were made available for the men’s competition. But women’s basketball officials said that the troubles of the last few weeks were part of a sustained history of men’s basketball, which is the N.C.A.A.’s financial lifeblood, being favored over their sport.
[Baylor vs Gonzaga live score: Latest updates.]
When Roy Williams retired last week after 33 seasons as the head coach at North Carolina, there was widespread speculation about who would fill the shoes of a man who won three N.C.A.A. championships at one of the top programs in the country.
That speculation ended Monday, hours before the national championship game, when the school named Hubert Davis, 50, as Williams’s successor. Davis, who helped lead the Tar Heels to the 1991 Final Four and most recently served as Williams’s associate head coach, becomes the first Black head coach in the program’s history.
Davis was set to be formally introduced during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead this program,” Davis said in a statement.
“I love this University. I played here, I earned my degree here, I fell in love with my wife here, I got married here, I moved here after I retired from the N.B.A. and I have raised my family here,” he added. “I am proud to lead this team, and I can’t wait for all that comes next.”
Several teams in the Big 12 have also been busy on the coaching carousel. Oklahoma on Friday named former Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser as the successor to Lon Krueger, who retired at 68. Krueger was one of just three coaches (along with Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino) to lead five universities to the N.C.A.A. tournament. Moser, 52, went 188-140 (.573) in 10 seasons at Loyola and led the Ramblers on a surprise run to the Final Four in 2018, with an assist from Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, and then a round of 16 appearance this season.
The Moser news came on the same day Kansas signed Bill Self to a lifetime contract and one day after Texas hired Chris Beard away from Big 12 rival Texas Tech.
Self won a championship in 2008, but Kansas has recently been under N.C.A.A. scrutiny in the wake of the federal government’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. Self’s contract contains a clause that the university will not fire him for cause “due to any infractions matter that involves conduct that occurred on or prior to the date of full execution of this agreement.”
Beard led Texas Tech to the 2019 championship game, where the Red Raiders lost to Virginia. He began his career as a graduate assistant at Texas.
Texas Tech has had several players enter the transfer portal, and it’s possible some of them could follow Beard to Texas.
In the Big East, Marquette replaced the fired Steve Wojciechowski with Shaka Smart, who grew up in Madison, Wis., and has ties to the area. In six seasons at Texas, Smart failed to win an N.C.A.A. tournament game, and this year the No. 3-seeded Longhorns were stunned in the first round by No. 14 seed Abilene Christian.
At DePaul, the school is replacing Dave Leitao with longtime Oregon associate head coach Tony Stubblefield. The Big East will now have six Black head coaches among 11 men’s basketball teams.
Gonzaga is seeking to become the first men’s team to finish unbeaten since Bob Knight’s Indiana club went 32-0 on the way to the 1976 national championship. The Bulldogs are also seeking their first N.C.A.A. title, though they have had plenty of deep tournament runs. They lost in the 2017 title game to a North Carolina team coached by Roy Williams, who announced his retirement on Friday and had three titles in his career.
Coach Scott Drew and Baylor are also seeking their program’s first national championship. The Bears are appearing in the title game for the first time since 1948.
“Amazing, we’ve worked hard through this struggle of a season but we stayed together,” guard Jalen Suggs, a Gonzaga freshman, said in a television interview after draining the game-winning shot in a 93-90 victory over U.C.L.A. late Saturday night.
“I can’t put this one into words, turning dreams into reality and now we get ready for Baylor,” Suggs said. “They’re a tough team.”
Even though Gonzaga has not lost since Feb. 22, 2020, against Brigham Young, the Bears have history on their side. This is just the fifth time since the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll began in the early 1960s that the teams ranked No. 1 (Gonzaga) and No. 2 (Baylor) will meet in the title game. Each of the previous four games were won by the team ranked second: Cincinnati over Ohio State in 1962, U.C.L.A. over Michigan in 1965, UConn over Duke in 1999 and Duke over Arizona in 2001.
Led by Drew Timme’s 25 points, Gonzaga put up 56 points in the paint against U.C.L.A., and the Bears will have to have an answer for that. Baylor is led by experienced guards and wings, and its frontcourt players Mark Vital and Flo Thamba are solid if not spectacular.
Baylor is led by an all-American junior guard, Jared Butler, who had 17 points in the semifinal rout of Houston, and another junior guard, Davion Mitchell, who dished out 12 assists with 11 points as the Bears won, 78-59. After last year’s tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, both Butler and the senior guard MaCio Teague tested the N.B.A. draft waters but opted to come back for another shot at the title.
“That was one of my goals, and I know some of my teammates’ goals, just to leave a legacy at Baylor, create Baylor as a blue blood,” Butler said.
Larry Bird’s Indiana State team was 33-0 entering the 1979 title game against Magic Johnson and Michigan State.
Michigan State featured not only Johnson, then a sophomore, but also Greg Kelser, a 6-foot-7 forward who was later chosen in the first round of the N.B.A. draft.
“We felt that our zone could affect them,” Johnson said on CBS before the semifinal games. “We double-teamed Larry every chance we got and we were able to pull off the victory,” 75-64.
Bird averaged 28.6 points, 14.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game during his junior season after averaging 30 points as a sophomore and nearly 33 as a freshman. In the national semifinal against DePaul, he made 16 of 19 field-goal attempts and had 16 rebounds and nine assists.
Johnson, like many others in the basketball world, was hoping for a Gonzaga-Baylor final entering the Final Four.
“Gonzaga is such a well-balanced team, they can shoot from the outside, they got great inside players,” he said. “And that’s what we say with Baylor, they were dominant inside as well as outside.
“The best two teams in college basketball were Baylor and Gonzaga all season long.”
Jalen Suggs is expected to be among the top three picks in this year’s draft on July 29.
Only one player in the last decade has won an N.C.A.A. championship and gone on to become the No. 1 pick over all: Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in 2012.
The Oklahoma State freshman point guard Cade Cunningham and the Southern California freshman 7-footer Evan Mobley are expected to be among the top picks along with Suggs, with many mock drafts projecting Cunningham at No. 1.
But Brian Sandifer, the director of the Grassroots Sizzle program for which Suggs played, believes the Minnesota native, 6-foot-4, deserves to be the top pick in part because of his history of winning. As a quarterback for Minnehaha Academy, Suggs’s team went 25-1 and appeared in two state championships, winning one. He was recruited by Ohio State and Notre Dame, among others, to play football.
“Jalen Suggs is the best player in the draft, period,” Sandifer said in a phone interview. “I’ve never wavered from that. If you watch how they play and you do the resume checks on all the kids, Jalen Suggs has won at every level that he’s played, football, basketball, whatever.”